Content creators turn movie marketing stars

Creators have become essential for movie promotions because everyone realizes now that they have a cultish following and guarantee not just visibility but an engaged audience, said Vijay Subramaniam, founder Collective Artists Network

Shephali Bhatt
Updated22 Aug 2022
Over the past few months, content creators have been pushing for—and getting—a meatier role in movie marketing campaigns—and on their own terms. (Picture courtesy: Screengrabs from Niharika NM's Instagram account.)
Over the past few months, content creators have been pushing for—and getting—a meatier role in movie marketing campaigns—and on their own terms. (Picture courtesy: Screengrabs from Niharika NM’s Instagram account.)

Not too long ago, A-list content creators had a bit role to play in big-budget film promotions—they might lip-sync a key dialogue or groove to a hook step of the movie’s definitive song with the film’s actors for social media content. In the past few months, however, content creators have been pushing for—and getting—a meatier role in movie marketing campaigns—and on their own terms.

Take creator Niharika N.M., for instance. While promoting Laal Singh Chaddha with Aamir Khan, Shamshera with Ranbir Kapoor, or Sita Ramam (Telugu) with Dulquer Salmaan on Instagram reels, Niharika, who has close to 3 million Instagram followers, plays her onscreen avatar of an overenthusiastic (and often grumpy) character. In each of these videos, she is seen as an equal to the actor and not a fangirl—in one reel, she can be seen going from friendly to frustrated as Aamir Khan, who plays her loose-lipped friend, spills all her secrets out loud. In another, she misinterprets Ranbir Kapoor talking about his upcoming movie’s ‘release date’ to be a ‘movie date’ with her and is then displeased over getting friend-zoned by the actor. Some of these reels are also posted as collaboration posts—they are cross-posted on the actor’s and her feed simultaneously, giving her direct exposure to the actor’s following and the other way around. Collaboration posts with film stars and movie promotion campaigns that are conceptualized keeping a creator’s content style in mind are slowly becoming the norm. In some ways, this signals that content creators are dealing with showbiz celebrities on more of an equal footing than before.

“We’ve been fighting for this equal footing for creators in this domain (of movie marketing) because there is an equal gain for both parties involved here,” says Viraj Sheth, co-founder of Monk Entertainment (Monk-E), a talent management and influencer marketing firm that represents Niharika, among other creators.

This change is evident in the tiniest of ways that actors acknowledge and accommodate the ethos of the content creator approached to promote their movie, he adds. “When Kartik Aaryan was promoting Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Ranveer Allahbadia (creator and Monk-E’s co-founder) invited the actor to his studio to record a podcast. Normally, actors line up all interactions with media as well as creators in a hotel ballroom, but Kartik agreed to come to Ranveer’s studio, and that made all the difference,” says Sheth. He points out that “all movies now want to leverage creators to promote their releases as opposed to only some movies that were doing this earlier.”

Today, the difference between an actor and a content creator is that of “perceived stardom,” says Vijay Subramaniam, group chief executive and founder of Collective Artists Network (previously known as Kwan).

“Creators have become essential for movie promotions because everyone realizes now that they have a cultish following and guarantee not just visibility but an engaged audience,” he adds.

To the extent that a content creator is effectively acting as an agency, he says. “They perform the role of a creative head (conceptualizing the campaign) as well as the media planner (as they analyze their data to decide when to post to get maximum traction).”

“When we started out, I remember that movie promotions were strictly a barter affair (where the client compensates the creator in kind, by giving them freebies, including movie merchandise and free tickets, for instance),” says Aman Sharma, vice-president of influencer network at Qyuki Digital Media, the creator management company that represents some of the most-followed digital celebs.

“Now, barring a few high-production-value films with Bollywood legends, most movie marketing campaigns are designed with decent funds for influencer marketing campaigns.”

Influencer marketing professionals said it was hard to give an accurate estimate of the rise in budgets because there are too many variables at play, like the creator’s rate card and the deliverables—the number of social media posts across different platforms, and the promise of an estimated reach, among other things. Creators do give a “healthy discount” if the actor does a collaborative post, says Sharma.

Creator involvement in movie marketing is also a lot more structured now, notes Sameeksha Sud, a creator with over 10 million Instagram followers. “The marketing agencies approach us with a better understanding of how a creator can add value. So, the songs, the dance steps, the dialogues and other elements are created with social media in mind,” says Sud, who is represented by Qyuki. For Brad Pitt-starrer American film Bullet Train, the team at Qyuki came up with a promotional idea that featured many of its creators in a single reel, which was eventually posted on their individual accounts with minor tweaks for personalisation.

“Today, the definition of a creator itself has broadened. Even meme pages are included for movie promotions,” says Subramaniam of Collective Artists Network. The process still needs a lot more fine-tuning to make it a more qualitative exercise, he adds. “Right now, budgets are up. But the influencer selection for campaigns will have to be far better curated so that the strategy doesn’t lose its charm,” he says.

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