AFM: Marketing Keynote Emphasizes Advertising Potential in Crowdsourcing

"One Direction: This Is Us"

"One word-of-mouth recommendation has the impact on an individual of over 200 television ads," says Tugg co-founder and "The Tree of Life" co-producer Nicolas Gonda.

Crowdsourcing isn't just about raising money. It is also a way to attract and engage an audience that will create word of mouth about a movie or other product that is far more effective than paid advertising. That was the message from Nicolas Gonda, co-founder of Tugg, co-producer of The Tree of Life and producer of the upcoming movie Knight of Cups, during his keynote address at the American Film Market's marketing conference on Monday.

Tugg, based in Austin, Texas, is an online service that matches up audiences, movies and movie theaters -- the endgame being the shared experience of seeing a picture in a theater together. It has also expanded into working with distributors to set up special screenings, sneak peaks and doing research.

"What it means in terms of film marketing is, first, we need to get in on it," said Gonda, noting that this ability to get people motivated around a movie or project is a way to get them involved so that they will recommend that same thing to friends. "One word-of-mouth recommendation has the impact on an individual of over 200 television ads."

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Traditional vehicles of marketing "don't have the horsepower on their own to compete in today's environment," he added. "They're not helping build our brands."

But crowdsourcing can do that, because audiences "want a stake in what they buy, especially if they are going to recommend it to someone." Gonda said that crowdsourcing is really about is "earnestly engaging the public for shared goals and shared rewards."

He cited the growth of social media as an example of the kind of crowdsourcing that can create powerful word of mouth -- Google search, Facebook and Twitter being prime examples. "We can attract masses not by brute force but by willing engagement," said Gonda.

As an example of the power of crowdsourcing in this sense, he said Tugg recently worked with Sony on the One Direction movie. There was no shortage of awareness, but the challenge became separating the noise from the results. Their answer was to open the movie early and use a form of crowdsourcing to bring together fans who were thrilled to see the picture three days before anyone else.

"When the screening came, it wasn't just a movie; it was an accomplishment. The movie was theirs," he said. "The social capital of the fan base was much greater than any physical capital. … The outcome was more than money could buy."

When he started his address, Gonda asked everyone in the audience to whistle. Some did and some didn't. When he was nearly finished with his address, he pulled out a check for $1,000 and said it would go to help veterans (on this Veterans Day) if everyone in the crowd whistled. This time the sound was nearly deafening.

Gonda said this shows the need to set interesta and goals that can be shared by others. "The most important thing about crowdsourcing is not the money raised," he said, "but the social capital and engagement. The social capital will continue to grow."