Netflix’s approach shifts, pushing content that can ‘pop’

A scene from “Murder Mystery 2” staring Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler. (Photo: Twitter)
Netflix made sure viewers had ample opportunity to hear about “Wednesday”, its macabre hit starring Jenna Ortega.اضافة اعلان

They could come across it in an airport security line when plopping their belongings into a tray that asked “What would Wednesday do?” Or see the title character in the Uber app when they ordered a ride. Or they could encounter it on TikTok, where seemingly everyone from Ukrainian soldiers to hip grannies were performing the title character’s arm-jolting, addictive dance set to the Lady Gaga song “Bloody Mary”.

Either way, the marketing resources Netflix dedicated to the show helped to make it a global sensation. The push included Netflix shifting its social media resources from sites like Twitter and Instagram to TikTok after the amateur dance videos went viral. There was also a campaign in which local markets around the world adapted the slogan “What would Wednesday do?” to their country’s taste and culture.

The streaming service said the show’s eight episodes were viewed 1.24 billion hours in the first 28 days they were available, making it the second most-watched English-language series on the service, just behind the fourth season of “Stranger Things”.

For the movie “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”, there was a widely publicized (including TV commercials) one-week theatrical release on Thanksgiving that generated a reported $15 million in ticket sales. After that, a Los Angeles-based escape room and a handful of murder mystery dinners across the country — and more commercials — helped to keep the word-of-mouth alive until the expensive star-studded sequel debuted on the service at Christmastime. It racked up 279.7 million hours watched in the first 28 days, which Netflix said made it the fourth most-watched English-language film on the service.

Marketing titlesNetflix’s marketing tactics are indicative of an evolving strategy for a company that is facing a much more competitive streaming marketplace — and trying to serve an increasingly fickle audience. The new tactics also come as Netflix has introduced an advertising tier and is cracking down on password sharing as it contends with a maturing US market. It has also essentially replaced its original creative team, opting for executives with broader tastes to serve a global marketplace. To sell this evolution of the world’s largest streaming service, the company is relying on Marian Lee, its third chief marketing officer in three years.

“I’m trying to enable creativity, because I want to bring all of this content to more people around the world,” Lee said in an interview at Netflix’s headquarters in Los Angeles. “I also want the rest of Netflix to understand what the marketing strategy is: We support the content organization.”

She spent the previous night staying up late to finish the reality show “Full Swing”, saying she cried in her bathroom when it was over.

“I’m watching everything, and I’m going to tell you where I think this is really going to pop,” she said.
“I’m trying to enable creativity, because I want to bring all of this content to more people around the world.”
For all of Netflix’s success over the years, the company has never quite found its footing in marketing. That is primarily because the company’s core tenet is that the streaming service itself is its greatest marketer, and spending on expensive commercials or advertisements does not always improve viewer engagement.

Netflix’s marketing budget has remained fairly consistent, increasing to $2.5 billion in 2022 from $2.2 billion in 2020. But Lee’s 400-plus global team has enacted a subtle change in strategy, in which many of those dollars have been shifted to focus on individual titles as opposed to the branding of the streaming service itself.

Budget too small?Still, the amount of money set aside for marketing remains relatively small, considering Netflix spends $17 billion a year on its programming. And when filmmakers and showrunners grouse about working with Netflix, the complaints are often aimed at the marketing department, which they feel can be limited by its budget. It is an issue traditional studios have tried to capitalize on, arguing that they may pay less upfront for a project but that they will spend more in marketing to let people know when it is coming out.

“The legacy studios spend more on marketing,” said Tripp Vinson, a producer of the Netflix “Murder Mystery” films starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. The first movie came out in 2019 and the second became available to Netflix subscribers on Friday. “But as a producer, what do I care about? You’re implying that the more you spend, the greater chance you have of getting your audience in that legacy, traditional marketing way. Well, I know from ‘Murder Mystery’ 1, whatever Netflix did to market this movie, the amount of viewers that I got, that’s what I care about. And they were astounding numbers.”
“The legacy studios spend more on marketing. But as a producer, what do I care about? You’re implying that the more you spend, the greater chance you have of getting your audience in that legacy, traditional marketing way.”
For “Murder Mystery 2”, the streaming service added a second premiere at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, international billboards, and commercials during the NFL’s divisional playoffs. It also partnered with the social media star Mr Beast to offer an unwitting couple a surprise trip to the Paris premiere. The first movie landed back on Netflix’s Top 10 list a week before the release, and expectations inside the company for the sequel are high.

Rewriting the rulesNetflix’s chief content officer, Bela Bajaria, pushes against the notion that the company had not aggressively marketed specific shows and movies in the past.

“I think the tension may be with people feeling like there is only the traditional way to do it, and they don’t realize we market in so many different ways,” she said, noting the service’s social media channels reach 800 million people globally.

Netflix’s film chair, Scott Stuber, said the marketing department under Lee was more in tune with the content side of the company. He noted that he was particularly impressed by her nimble approach, like her ability to maintain buzz for “Glass Onion” after its theatrical release.

“I like someone who actually knows the old playbook, but also is very interested in how to rewrite the rules for the new playbook,” he said.

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