Thursday, 29 October 2015

7. Marketing a web series - easy tips

Here's the thing. Get ten people in a room and you will have ten different versions on how to market. Just the same as if you got ten people in a room and asked them about a script. They should hold creative marketing lessons for anyone studying creative writing, or any form of art including acting. If you want to do any art, someone has to pay, and that requires an audience. If you work in the arts, by default, you work in marketing. let's face it, it is not always art, but it is always marketing!

So, this is just my view.... and who am I? What do I know? As my son often asks and he was mocking me just last week. Let me tell you this story first..... I was telling him that I went to Sussex University to study Physics and Maths under parental pressure, but I wanted to be a DJ on the pirate radio ships of the late sixties early seventies..... the ships were being closed, Radio 1 had just started and there was 208, Radio Luxembourg. I was hammering on all doors - marketing. I was then the DJ at the Lyceum Ballroom (now theatre) in The Strand and The Empire Leicester Sq, probably the two biggest ballrooms in the country, and I only played band breaks for the first few years as live music was still the key. I spent almost no time an Uni and I wrote to every music label, sound studio and record producer to try and get a job as a sound mixer or record producer as a fall back. I was interviewed by Phillips in London, it was very secretive, I was the only applicant as there was no job advert. My letter, my technical credentials and music background, and shear push had blown some dust of a suited team's desk. They had a new invention which was a new disc format that would not scratch, could not be destructed like vinyl. It was to be, many years later the CD / DVD. They wanted me as a conduit between tech and sales - a go between. An imagination to what was the then unknown. So my son laughs .... but yes, it is true, I was a marketeer, just like he is now at his tech company Nudge Digital.

..... He laughs that I could have even been at the start of the CD, but I was nearly. However, it was not my dream and I got offered positions at both Radio Luxembourg and BBC Radio at Radio 1 and 2. Luxembourg I would have got on the air, at the BBC, I was on the bench training and waiting and I might get through. It is like being offered to play for Arsenal and Walsall, I took the big name and never really got off the bench. Wrong choice one might suggest. I spent three years assisting, being posted to a radio station in Beirut and back again, to radio London and back again, I started the old Radio 1 Roadshows before they were roadshows, and then left in sheer frustration as I knew, now 1978, I stood more chance in commercial radio. So to get there I joined EMI as a record plugger in their marketing department. The small world continues and I made life long friends with Vic Bateman who when I was a producer years later at Fugitive Films and we made The Krays, and his United Media had just gone bust, we brought him in as our in-house sales.

So, having been to Cannes, AFM and Berlin Markets for over 25 years, and walked the red carpet at
Verona, Cabourg, Porto, Breckenridge (actually won Best Director) ... and many others, I have been in marketing for years. I still have a huge connection in music which explains the Kemps in The Krays and Status Quo in Bula Quo and work with many music marketeers as well as have released with Universal and Icon as well as various sales agents.

You learn it is hard. - No it is not!

Marketing is EASY. Getting a response to it is HARD. Differentiate between the two. Now.

For example let me explain a record label. Each week I got two new singles to promote. Why two a week? Because that figure fitted everything from factory reproduction, to distribution. So, each Monday I would listen, realise they needed all the help they could get, and I would make a plan for each. Even if all I had was the close down music at ITV before it was 24/7. My first hit was taking the forgotten and unplayed Mink Deville, Spansh Stroll and getting it as my colleague Paul Burnett's record of the week. The rest is history, Willy Deville remained a friend until he died.

Each week many of the major distributors release two films. Some only one a week. Smaller one a month. To be taken on, you need to take a slot from another film. There are only so many slots. When they have wined you and dined you, promised you the world, got you to sign, they move on, away from you to sign the next people. You now have a contact, or a label manager. They automatically outsource your trailer, your poster, your magazine screenings, your press screenings and they all happen at trigger points in a calendar. So the poster designer is getting two a week, the press screenings are getting two a week. It is a simple format lead business and the bus posters, tube posters and adverts are all outsourced. Once outsource, another person looks after you. Eventually you only talk to accounts. It is easy, it is transparent, it is formulaic though budget and style effect decisions trust me little is new.

These are machines. there is no machine for a web series. Worse still, it is timeless television, it has no date. Even if you have a release date it means nothing. You are not the next James Bond, no one will care.

So, how did I treat my idea of web series promotion? I decided that I could not shout about the unknown, unless I shouted into the unknown. I felt I needed a product base to say look, here is a series. I figured we would target 80 episodes, load one a week and that would be about 18 months to 2 years. I figured that until series one was up, we should do nothing that cost time or money. No marketing, just get a base, get a product up, and gain a few views and more than it being new, zero.

We released in June and I knew that was a time no one watched because of summer, Wimbledon and The Scarlet Tunic during a world cup as the audience was not clashing, no, wrong. So I knew the first episodes were about joining the dots and having the first viewers show us what they expected.
football competitions, I have tried to release through them all. I even release

I figure that in 20 weeks I would have a series, a web site, a bunch of blogs, be on Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Zooli, Facebook and have character accounts and reading and support material. None of this was easy and as we got up a head of steam and hit the charts in the USA which we never knew existed, we got hacked and sabotaged. The YouTube channel came down overnight, it took nearly 4 weeks to get back and we had lost all the momentum and much of the audience. It did make us work harder and complete other platforms like Daily Motion and Vimeo and Zooli.TV as well as start with Disney's Maker Studios.

So, we focussed on some tent poles. Tent poles came too late because Halloween and Christmas were not planned when writing. We had not charted each episode with a release date. The episodes were juggled a little and re - written slightly but it made us focus. We are now shooting with Derek Redmond who is an Olympian, and a celebrity, and his episodes will be out just before the Rio Olympics.

So at Halloween, episode 24 this weekend we are just starting to think about marketing having got a few connected ducks in a row. our sites link to each other, the videos have annotations, and because web series has no established route to viewer other than Netflix etc we have developed one. We have written the first 40 episodes into a book and Kindle for this Christmas market, WHO DIES TODAY, and paid and appointed a world press agent for books. After each chapter it takes you to the episodes on the web to show you what the director and cast did. The second book will be done next summer and be the next 40 episodes.

A stage play Shades Of Bad has been done, and that is three different treatments and formats of the same material, and that is with a publisher for early 2016 release.

So apart from a little spend here and there, and I mean little, on a Facebook blog, we do not market. A small spend has been done on Doris looking back at season one, it is a 15 minute special of her chatting about the season with clips from 20 episodes and is very different and aimed at a different market.

So, our charts, analysis and viewers show we are not as female heavy as we might expect even though we are a female lead show with three women. The audience is age mature heavy, but not overly, and every 25 it kicks in on both sexes. So, we are not quite The Golden Girls. That said I do not think we know enough to have a target to focus on so the plan is to just bide time until after the Boxing Day episode with TV and Radio celeb James Whale who comes in as a detective. We will see the effect that has.

As for awards and festivals, for the moment I think they are all apart from the established Indie Series Awards in Hollywood, a bit of a waste of time. It appears everyone who makes a web series tries to hold a festival and focus on promoting their own series or stars.

So for me, to go to all this work you need a long term plan. You need a product base. It will take time. You need stars and anchors.

Our long term plan was always to make enough product to cut at least 8 x 30 minute TV slots, which with lengthened advertising allowances is not no more than 21 minutes 30 seconds for a half hour TV slot. We have already got more than that. So, in 2016 we will start to cut long form, and continue to grow. As for marketing, it is routine, it is obvious, it is not rocket science. You can buy views, you can buy fans, but they are worthless.

Plan before you start, market before you start. By that I mean start the web site, the Twitter sites, etc, Establishing a working method to handle all these. The film making is easy by comparison. If you are just doing it to sell your self or try and make the big movie, put your efforts into the movie, for you are not making a series. You are making a short film or two.

Look at the chart, series now means many episodes. Most series in the chart run almost continuously. Here is episode 33 .....

And remember this is timeless TV. People will show you success stories of shows that started in 2012, 2013..... get them to show you an instant success. It is not instant. Series means long term. Series means can you afford what you are doing. We budgeted 80 episodes, we have so far shot nearly 50.

here is the 15 minute special - Doris review of season 1

here is the first ever episode of Shades Of Bad.

here is the Shades Of Bad web site.

Amazon Author biog

Tips on making a web series start here.