Over the last several years, Netflix has gone from being one of the go-to aggregators for television and film content to an award-winning content creator in its own right, and a major part of the Hollywood sphere. But the streaming platform is not just changing how people make and watch TV and movies—it’s also changing how they’re marketed.
There’s perhaps no better example of Netflix’s unique marketing efforts than the recent movie Bright, which stars Will Smith.
Bright centers on a Los Angeles Police Department officer (Smith) who lives in a world in which fairies and other types of magical creatures are common in everyday society. His partner is an orc (Joel Edgerton), who is something of a misfit among orcs and humans alike.
Netflix landed the rights to make the movie by beating out other, more conventional studios like MGM and Warner Bros. These conventional studios all generally follow the same playbook when it comes to advertising their movies, but Netflix is anything but conventional.
Netflix has access to profiles of all its films and television shows that have been generated through a series of algorithms. Before the algorithms form these profiles, they need to be taught how to categorize the films. Netflix’s content team watches and catalogues all movies based on several hundred elements, then feeds that information into the algorithm so it can develop an accurate profile. Once the profile is developed, it is able to determine which users are more likely to be interested in the movie.
What follows is a much more targeted (yet also effective) approach to marketing. While many film studios use conventional advertising methods such as billboards, bus stop ads, television commercials and partnerships with other companies, Netflix is able to use its own service for advertising.
Last March, Netflix began providing clips for specifically targeted users who were considered most likely to be interested in the film. A few weeks before release, the film began to be mentioned in the Netflix browsers of users determined most likely to enjoy the movie. This includes the moving top-page promotional banners and actual video clips that appear between rows of recommended films.
This type of advertising costs less for Netflix, because it already owns all of the infrastructure to make it happen, but it is also highly effective, because rather than casting a broad net, it focuses only on people who are actually able to watch the movie.
So what does this mean for the future of film advertising?
The biggest takeaway is that it could make it easier for independent filmmakers to get their movies seen. Netflix can advertise these films for less money than standard studios, giving them the luxury to take a chance on independent producers who might otherwise be rejected by big-name studios.
It also shows an increased use of big data in the film marketing industry, which could become influential on a broader scale outside of Netflix.
It’s certainly something to watch, as Netflix continues to gain power as a content producer.