Studios Turn to StumbleUpon to Market Films

21 and Over Group - H 2013
Relativity Media

21 and Over Group - H 2013

The social service recently hired its first L.A.-based salesperson to chase new business from Hollywood.

Have movie studios stumbled upon a new way to market their films?

Over the past week, studios put ad dollars into the young-skewing service StumbleUpon to promote weekend newcomers Jurassic Park 3D and Evil Dead.

And before that, Relativity Media used the service to promote content for 21 & Over, going as far as sending the film’s stars to StumbleUpon’s San Francisco headquarters ahead of a screening in the city.

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“Studios using StumbleUpon to market and distribute their content is a relatively recent phenomenon,” says Cody Simms, StumbleUpon vp of product.

Several months ago, an uptick in studio interest in paying to promote movies via StumbleUpon prompted the company to hire its first Los Angeles-based salesperson to go after that Hollywood business. The company, and studio sources, indicate StumbleUpon's young audience makes it attractive to advertisers.

“We’ve got a youthful, engaged audience. Eighty percent of our users are under the age of 34,” Simms says.

For the unfamiliar, StumbleUpon is somewhat like a personalized search engine. Users are shown web pages and content based on their interests, and are able to give content a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to inform the service what types of content they would like to see.

According to the StumbleUpon, about one in 20 pieces of content displayed will be paid for by an advertiser. But if done correctly, this paid content may be hard to distinguish from the unpaid content.

“A great movie trailer is great content, regardless if it was paid to be in our network or it got there organically," Simms says. 

Liz Jones, senior vice president, digital marketing at Relativity, says the studio sees StumbleUpon as a way to reach “early influencers” who might then share the studio’s content on their own Facebook pages or other social media profiles.

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“It’s a great place to build word of mouth buzz,” Jones says. “It’s sort of the first step before you’re at Facebook.” Jones adds Relativity was “very happy” with its return on investment for its 21 & Over push.

Part of StumbleUpon’s promise to advertisers is a user will spend a minimum amount of time looking at the content, or else the advertiser will not be charged for it. The company also touts the potential for “free” traffic should a studio's paid content go viral within the community.

When content resonates with our users, either by thumbs up or someone spending a long time on it, StumbleUpon then gives that content preference,” Simms says. In other words, a trailer may get extra views the studio didn't pay for.

In addition to studios, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences used its StumbleUpon account to drive interest in the Oscars in the weeks ahead of the ceremony, creating lists chronicling the funniest Oscar moments and best Oscar speeches. That culminated with one StumbleUpon user winning a trip to Los Angeles and the red carpet.

Simms says in the future, StumbleUpon would like to explore partnering with other awards shows for similar promotions and also has eyes on working more to promote television series.