This past October, my feature film Shadows On The Road launched on the iTunes Store, where we broke the top 100 pre-orders almost immediately. All our initial success was thanks to word of mouth and a few mentions here on my blog, podcast, and newsletter.
Originally, I had planned to roll out paid video advertisements for the film immediately after it launched, but in the end it couldn’t happen due to scheduling issues. Pre-production on my next feature (White Crow) began the exact day Shadows On The Road went live on iTunes, so I had a lot on my plate at the time… I wanted to give White Crow my 100% undivided attention, so I put a pin in my plans to advertise Shadows on social media until now.
But as of yesterday, I jumped back into marketing seat and started experimenting with different types of paid social media ads. As I measure the results over the coming weeks, I will definitely share details on exactly what worked, what didn’t, and what kind of profit margins we saw as a result. This is a topic I know many of you have been asking to hear more about, so I’ll be sure to cover it as soon as I can.
In the mean time though, I thought I would talk about (and share) our first 15 second social media trailer, which rolled out today…
This was the first time I had actually edited a social media ad for any of my work, and it called for an entirely different process. Every editorial decision was made based on what would be optimal for advertising on social media (in particular Facebook), not just what would tell the story best.
For example, it was cut in a 1:1 (square) aspect ratio, despite the feature film being framed in 2.39:1 (widescreen). Square videos perform far better on social media (as they take up a much larger portion of the user’s screen), so naturally I wanted to take advantage of that.
The downside of working in 1:1 of course is you have to crop your image, and that doesn’t always work aesthetically… But no one really cares about that except for me and you, and a handful of other cinephiles. The average person on social media probably won’t notice how cropped your image is, and in my opinion it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.
What the audience will notice however, is whether or not they are hooked – which is why the first 5 seconds of your edit are so important.
For our social trailer, I decided to open it with some aggressive flashback shots, rather than easing into slowly as I would have with a theatrical style trailer. And since we would inevitably be using title cards, I made sure to drop one in before the 5 second mark as well, to orient the viewer right away.
Text is a huge consideration with social media trailers, since the majority of people watching them will have their sound off. Whether you do subtitles or tease the story with a series of title cards, you have to make that trailer fully watchable, even on mute… Especially on mute!
I went so far as to work in a muted editing session with the sound permanently off, and didn’t turn it on until the very end of the process once the picture was locked. Only then did I drop in a 15 second music piece (pulled from the old trailer), and reposition a couple of clips to land on beat. This way, it would play well with sound on or off.
I also added one last call to action title card at the very end of the video. You need to leave your viewers with that little reminder to click over to your iTunes/Amazon/Vimeo page, otherwise many will just keep scrolling. It’s amazing how much of an effect having a call to action can have when it comes to online sales. That can be the make or break factor in some cases, so if you’re doing any sort of social media ad, it’s a must.
Below is the trailer we’re testing right now with our Facebook ad campaign. It is currently running with a few different captions, and being marketed to a few different audiences. Once the campaigns run for a while, we’ll look at the data and decide how to optimize our ad spend.
If you want to check out the film, you can access it using the links below. It’s currently available in US/Canada on iTunes and Worldwide on Vimeo on Demand. It will roll out on other platforms (including Amazon) in the coming weeks as well.
Otherwise, I’ll be sure to follow up soon as we get results from this campaign. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!