How important is the poster in selling an original new show?

With rows and rows of key art on streamers, getting the poster right is crucial to entice viewers to click and play.

The poster is everything in communicating the concept, tone and star power of Original content according to local subscription executives.

Speaking recently on Screen Forever panel there was consensus on the importance of marketing Original titles, which unlike acquired international titles, don’t come with any history or brand recognition.

But within that are crucial artistic decisions and the realisation that so much weight is attached on getting streaming viewers to click and play.

Cailah Scobie, Chief Content Officer at Stan said, “We invest incredibly heavily in marketing our Originals. I think one of the challenges with Originals is you are generating all of that marketing and that publicity yourself.

“Whereas with licensed content, there is often also international campaigns happening at the same time. But we take each piece of content, in terms of our Original slate, and look at the right marketing strategy: the audience obviously, a lot of outdoor advertising, digital advertising, TV, radio. It is a very important part of our strategy and ultimately, we want to find the audience for our shows.”

Alison Hurbert-Burns Executive Director at Binge said, “We look at what we’re commissioning, but then how we sell it. So when you come in and pitch to me, I’m already sitting there thinking, ‘How do we market it?’

“We won’t commission something if we’re not going to spend money marketing it. And in the ‘attention economy’ that we’re in, it’s really important. …especially if you’re launching a show from scratch. You have to create the awareness of it in a market that’s full of choice.”

Tyler Bern, Head of Content ANZ said Prime Video spends “an insane amount of time” looking at key art.

“It should be a 30 minute meeting, to look at a couple of different concepts, and then you’re on your way. But it’s hours and hours of time debating the merits of key art,” he explained.

Deadloch is coming up in a month. We all know what Deadloch is in Australia. We’re gonna have a large marketing campaign. Everybody knows the Kates (McCartney / McLennan). You’re gonna see Deadloch up on Prime Video, and you’re going to click on it.

“But for our Indian customers, for our customers in Eastern Europe, they don’t know what Deadloch is, and they’re gonna see it on Prime Video. With so much content, we want the show to pop and we want them to click on it and to start to watch.

“So it becomes a very nuanced conversation about how we can best represent the show in a tiny little box. It’s a unique problem. We do a ton of testing and customer research just to make this tiny little box pop for our global customers.”

L to R: Tyler Bern, Alison Hurbert-Burns, Daniel Monaghan, Cailah Scobie.

Hurbert-Burns added, “You’re often having to shoot it when you’ve got the cast. So we’re shooting High Country (poster), while we’ve got everyone. Same with Love Me or Strife.

“It’s often a long way out when you’re conceiving the show and commissioning it. You’re thinking straight away about how you’re selling it.”

Daniel Monaghan, Senior Vice President, Content & Programming at Paramount ANZ agreed on the importance of key art in rows of home page posters.

“It’s the little picture that you click on. It’s not just a billboard anymore,” he said.

“It’s like the actual window in. The amount of times that you get from distributors -if you’ve acquired something or you’ve inherited something via your pipeline- key art that (makes) you think ‘You will need to change that for this market for it to get the click through, because it doesn’t necessarily work for an Australian audience….’

“You’ve got to have it right. Because otherwise, in a second, it slides on by, and then it’s gone out of their mind.”

15 Responses

  1. An hilariously cute and naive conversation, I’m surprised the people on stage couldn’t speak more literally on the design decisions being made. Netflix used to go from something like 12 > 6 > 2 final thumbnails that deliver the most viewers over time. These final selected thumbnails may vary region to region. What’s on these posters and thumbnails that works best…. the germans and french are happy with an intriguing image etc., but Australian’s and US audience like to see a line up of talent in the show – something Stan are almost embarrassingly a one trick pony for – similarly in Australia we like two people in profile face to face or side by side arms crossed to suggest a battle or challenge. None of this is rocket science it’s is just what is most popular on click throughs etc. In promoting something completely new, stars often take the lead, especially over concept. In promoting reality again Host will take lead over contributors.

  2. Promotional imagery is probably something that tends to get overlooked as computer graphics can make even low budget shows or movies look potentially wonderful. Bruce Willis is a good example of how a popular celebrities face is often used as the main attraction. Bruce’s late career movie choices was not always the best but movie makers who contracted his services only wanted his image on the poster (allegedly) so paid him the few million necessary for a weeks work. The same thing happens for TV drama as well, hands up all those who watched ZeroZeroZero because Gabriel Byrne was the main attraction in the TV ad promo used, Mr. Byrne was primarily seen in only one episode in a somewhat limited role, but his image did the job.

  3. Netflix do this well with their tumbnails using their algorithim
    As a gay man, who clearly watches a lot of LGBT+ content, every other thumbnail on my homepage for various shows is a picture of a shirtless hunk ☺

  4. To me…Posters are an essential part of promoting, the poster has been used to promote movies since 1895 (the first by Marccellin Auzolle for the b/w short film L’Arraseur arrose) and it’s not just tv or movies that posters are used as promotional material. Visuals give people an idea of what the message a poster is trying to convey, they’re like little snippets. Marketing with visuals helps to grab a person’s attention and draws them in. I studied Marketing and the most fascinating thing was the psychology behind it and how people’s minds work when they see a visual or a catchphrase is used, they are two of the most important things that stick in a persons mind. Besides the artwork that is created is just as appealing, interesting and important when trying to draw an audience in. There is also big money to be made for those who collect and sell posters which is another reason posters are important to some as well.

    1. Yep we have always been and still are a very visual species as you say, even today using emoticons/emojis isn’t that far removed from hieroglyphics, it’s just more they have progressed into an electronic and different form. So it is no surprise as you say that posters and thumbnails for shows etc., are used to grab a person’s attention and draw them in, it is more than just a legacy that has continued because that’s how it has always been done, our brains are woken up by them.

    1. I get that…. but the comment was made at a producers’ conference, as noted, so in context I think it was a fair remark. FYI Deadloch is coming soon but you can click on the show’s tag for more.

  5. I think the promotional materials and photography is important in appealing to the target audience.

    It’s quite common, but was more common in the days of CD singles and records where the cover would emit a particular style or feeling, so you knew what type of song it was without hearing it. If you saw a sleeve cover with clouds and a grid, then you knew it was a trance CD, or if it had coloured stripes, then possibly a house or disco record. Then you could listen to it in the store CD player kiosk and purchase.

    The show poster is an important communication that should have the elements and themes that will attract the right audience.

    1. Absolutely, as you say with records it was a big part of selecting that vinyl, even when CD’s first became the dominant form and Vinyl had been relegated, look at how many times you’d hear or read people say they missed the days of the LP Cover.

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