How can a studio to interest young moviegoers in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," a supernatural thriller in which the 16th president tackles slavery as well as the undead?
YouTube is a good place to start.
Twentieth Century Fox commissioned two YouTube filmmakers -- Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch -- to create a promotion for the film that would grab the attention of Wong and Laatsch’s YouTube channel’s 3.3 million viewers. The result was “8-Bitham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” a video that blends the film’s premise with a classic, side-scrolling video game setup.
The clip -- which is broken into game-like “levels,” depicts a villainous, vampiric John Wilkes Booth kidnapping Mary Lincoln. Lincoln hacks through waves of vampires with his silver-tipped ax, and ultimately confronts Booth in the infamous Ford’s Theatre (where the real-life Booth fatally shot Lincoln) to rescue his wife.
Hollywood studios have begun drafting YouTube “stars” as part of their marketing strategies in a bid to reach millennial audiences.
This generation -- now roughly ages 12 to 34 -- has dramatically different media consumption habits from older generations. They’re less likely to watch live television, making them an elusive target for marketers seeking to build awareness for a new movie.
That’s why film marketers are exploring new ways to reach this audience.
“If you were to talk to anyone who is under 25, these people on YouTube -- the Jenna Marbles, FreddieW’s -- they are this generation’s Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman,” said Ira Rubenstein, Fox’s executive vice president of domestic theatrical marketing.
Rubenstein said Fox identified a group of influential YouTubers to watch footage of last summer’s sci-fi hit “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and blog about the event -- helping bring attention to the studio’s trailers and other online footage.
With "Chronicle," a sci-fi thriller in which high school friends gain superpowers, Fox worked with two other YouTube notables, DeStorm and MysteryGuitarMan, to create a humorous original video in which they imagined they possessed telekinesis.
On "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," the FreddieW-channel clip has attracted nearly 1 million views and 27,000 likes on YouTube -- one measure that the original video is connecting with online viewers.
Marketing expert Peter Sealey said the days are long past when studios could rely solely on ad buys in major newspapers or television networks.
“The Internet is getting so much eyeball time, and so little a percentage of ad dollars. It is the greatest discrepancy in media today,” Sealey said. “What’s going to happen is the movie guys will be the first to break that.”