Copy That!

A DVD or Blu-ray on a shelf acts as a mini-billboard for itself. And just like that ginormous billboard hovering over the freeway, every single aspect of the artwork is intentional (and sometimes even legally required.)

When it comes to physical goods, a title has to speak quickly and clearly to potential purchasers. We aim to strike a balance between the rational and the emotional parts of the human brain, moving from “Hmmm, this looks like something I might like” to “Yes! (adds to cart)” in the space of a few seconds.

We gave the feedback, our partners at Quiver delivered!

At Distribution Solutions, marketing and design professionals are hard at work to blend art and commerce in a way that’s going to drive purchase intent…for the benefit of our label partners. Everyone wins if we get it right!

Striking imagery is the first thing that likely catches a consumer’s eye, but then the box copy gets right to work. Because we only have a few seconds with a customer in a store aisle in an Amazon search, each and every character of the text on a DVD or Blu-ray cover has to pull its weight.

Design provided by 4Digital; tagline and concept by Distribution Solutions.

At Distribution Solutions, whether we’re designing the art (or providing feedback), our partners know that each element we include (or suggest) supports the recommendations found during our SWOT analysis of the title.

Collaborated concept: ITN Distribution and Distribution Solutions

If you’ve been out in the world and seen a DVD before, then you’ll know the key components of key art copy. But we’ll mention them here anyway so that we can elaborate on what each bit of copy brings to the table.

  • Title Treatment: Color, typeface, and design convey the film’s genre and tone. Great place to weave in genre iconography or go with a font that evokes a time period.
  • Tagline: Adds context and sells the premise of the film. This can be a difficult thing to write. Needs to be concise and as original as possible. (The DS team flat out loves tagline brainstorming, so our partners know they can count on us to get there!)
  • Press Quotes: Communicate the critical acclaim and serve as a hallmark of quality, while the sources contextualize who is recommending. With the right set of quotes, a tagline is rendered unnecessary. A great situation!

Our goal is to make the most out of the few seconds our label partners’ titles have with a potential purchaser, whether it be in the aisles of a big-box retailer or a digital storefront during an at-home browse.

Feedback from Distribution Solutions, final art delivered by Magnolia.

To learn more about our process and talk to us about the intersection of art and commerce, drop us a line at studios@ds.aent.com. And one more for the road…

Horror and twisted humor go together like baby teeth and cash rewards. Design courtesy of ITN Distribution, with creative input from Distribution Solutions.

Take A Picture, It’ll Last Longer

It’s movie awards season! Time to try to predict which films will take home the honors, as “watch lists” grow exponentially with lesser-known titles that have landed in front of the world as nominees.

Can’t you just FEEL the magic?

While we love to watch the best in the biz bask in the glory of the recognition, we also celebrate the increased traffic we’re likely to see across digital platforms and streaming services. (Guess we’re just suckers for revenue opportunities.)

So…let’s return to one of our favorite topics: grabbing the consumer’s eye and getting that dollar on a transactional platform. (Or, frankly, getting that licensing deal with a streaming partner.)

We’ve written previously about the importance of a good synopsis, with some specific tips on how to write one. We’ve shared some key art and the capabilities of our in-house design team for our partners. (And yes, we’ll get to trailers and marketing plans soon.)

However, all this Award Season emphasis on all the various roles that go into filmmaking prompts us to think about the one thing that is consistently neglected by filmmakers…but is arguably critical to the commercial success of the film into which they’ve put their hearts, souls, and sometimes their own money.

Photography. It’s photography.

When filmmakers budget for all the essentials that go into the technical production of a film, photography is often considered an unnecessary line item. A “nice to have” not a “must-have” and, anyway, marketing is something to think about later. Oh, friends…

Making a movie is expensive. Decisions need to be made on where to spend, especially with limited funding. It’s often a tug of war between creative and commercial interests. Marketing is where these opposing forces need to connect, for the good of the whole project.

“It is infinitely better to plan for the marketing needs in pre-production than to rely on things magically falling into place later.”

-Julianne Gorman
Distribution Solutions
Senior Director, Marketing

Once a film is in the post-production window, marketing suddenly looms largely in the picture. This is generally when a designer is hired to create a polished film poster (and/or digital image) that will convey everything a viewer needs to know about the film itself, drawing them into the cinematic world the filmmakers have conspired to bring to life.

The Producer Provides the Assets

Here is where we separate the wheat from the chaff, as someone familiar with harvesting might say. But really, this is where we see what happens when planning and budget align with overarching goals for the film’s marketing.

Scenario A:

The designer is delivered stills that in actuality are screencaps, and generally not usable, with lighting that is “moody” in the film but that reads as “muddy” when isolated as a still shot. The assets include 100s of behind-the-scenes snaps of cast, crew, and equipment on location–99.9% of this BTS material cannot be used for key art creation, but the designer has to weed through all of them just in case. Typically, some stills that look good are low-res and no one can locate a higher-res version. And lastly, the designer gets a mock-up of a layered poster created by someone early in the process and then never revisited. The result is the need to license stock photography and fundamentally, this takes the art away from the vision behind the film…and into more ‘generic’ territory.

Let’s move on…

Scenario B:

The designer receives hi-resolution, forward-facing shots of principal cast…in hair/makeup/wardrobe of their characters! Also within the photographic assets are shots of the location, key visual iconography of the film (i.e. an image of the rustic cabin in the woods, a beauty shot of the scenery), and close-ups of meaningful props–like a child’s lost doll, or the bloody murder weapon). These are shot under good lighting conditions, are high resolution, and give the designer loads of material for an inspired look that feels uniquely connected to the film itself.

Scenario B is obviously the ideal, right? When you see it laid out like that, planning for marketing is clearly important. That just leaves the other hurdle: money.

Paying for a photographer to come on one day to capture the key cast, and having time set aside for taking those photos may be an investment…but one with a high return. This will pay for itself, as truly great poster art elevates the look, feel, and perceived quality of the film. And licensing stock photography to “fill in the gaps” can cost the same as paying for a photoshoot. It’s a deferred expense…not an avoided one.

But if there is truly no money for photography? A first-time filmmaker, with little in the way of outside financing, for example. Well, that’s an opportunity to work those connections — and rejoice in the excellent technology in everyone’s pocket these days. Maybe it’s a film school peer with a phone — or a cousin who is great at Instagram — just a reliable individual who can come to set and shoot the photos needed, as outlined in Scenario B.

We advocate paying what is possible (asking any professional to be “paid by the exposure” is patently uncool). Barter if needed (i.e. shooting someone’s wedding video, or editing a family reunion slide show in exchange for a few hours of their time). Use their photos for PR, ensure they get photo credit…and maybe even a credit in the film itself, to beef up their IMDb page (If that’s their thing.)

Solicit group-sourced photos from a number of people on set, each working from a shared list provided well in advance– of what you need to capture. Then they need only upload their “actual size” shots to a shared drive for review and curation later.

Above all else, if trying for “free” is the route, prioritize the clear photography of key cast in good lighting…don’t want to leave that up to chance.

In the absence of money, advance planning and confirmed photography support will move the assets into the Scenario B zone…and ensure the film’s merits shine, through all creative touchpoints.

We hope this PSA on the importance of photography has been an enjoyable and helpful read. Reach out to us at studios@ds.aent.com if you want to talk marketing with the team at Distribution Solutions. We love this stuff!

Getting Creative

Winning! Some of Mill Creek Entertainment’s 22 Home Media Awards

At Distribution Solutions, we work with some of the best designers in the business — experts at creating appealing packaging and engaging digital key art, and much much more! And when we say “work with” we mean that we are all part of the Alliance family of brands and our actual co-workers. (Lucky us!)

Our Minneapolis-based designers are the force behind Mill Creek Entertainment’s 22 (and counting) Home Media Awards. They provide high-quality packaging that resonates with consumers, with designs that are recognized consistently by industry peers.

The Alliance Creative team (Irvine, CA) has won over 20 NARM advertising awards, developing unique campaigns for retail. Customized, beautifully designed, internally illustrated, and stand-alone – their work is key to the sell-through of some of the best and brightest catalog titles in the music category.

Our team creates custom POS displays across entertainment product types.

Our label partners can tap into the creativity behind all those awards!

Once the assets are in-house, we take it from there, with creative direction –managing the communication priorities (genre, talent, press quotes, taglines) — and driving the process of collaboration until we reach the final approval process with our label partners. Our capabilities also include handling final packaging uploads, print proofing, printing, and getting parts where they need to be for final assembly.

Browse the galleries for a sampling of recent work…for DVD, Blu-ray, collectible formats such as SteelBook® ! Our team knows how to create value and connect with fans!

Deluxe Blu-ray Editions

If a partner can dream it, we can design it. And if they can’t dream it, our team will do the dreaming on their behalf. We thrive on creating cool, collectible stuff that fans can’t live without.

Specialty Packaging

Our team creates key art optimized for virtual storefronts, creating & delivering versions of that art for nearly 30 custom sizes, covering every required aspect for digital and linear platforms!

Digital Key Art

We are proud to offer “boutique agency” quality and service, coupled with the product management know-how of our entire team..saving our label partners time, money, and the hassle of managing multiple vendors and complicated timelines.

To see more of our team’s stellar work and to learn about our rates and full suite of services, reach out to us at studios@ds.aent.com today!

Three Key Steps

“Connect content to consumers” is a marketing team mantra here at Distribution Solutions. And nowhere is that connection to consumers so delightfully direct as it is on digital platforms.

As the digital age pushes forward, Austrian scientist Dr. Florian Kaps endeavors to save the last Polaroid factory, hoping to preserve the art of analog photography…and to encourage people to slow down and reconnect with nostalgic “real” things.

In fact, when it comes to digital platforms, we believe a holistic consideration of creative elements is essential, as it provides the opportunity to formulate a cohesive approach to the assets and messaging used to reach the intended audience for the content.

While each film or episodic property represents unique artistic expression, each follows the same DS process, an evaluation gauntlet designed to assess a title’s strengths and opportunities and to navigate around any challenges to success.

Our marketing focus is upon the three key moments of consumer evaluation, each a step in the short journey that a viewer takes from “browse” to “transact” on a digital platform:

  1. Optimized Key Art. We evaluate art against the competition at large and other similar content to see how it stacks up. Does the title treatment pop? Can a viewer ascertain the genre at a glance, based on imagery? Are we leveraging any emerging (and relevant) trends in the marketplace? In short: we ask ourselves pointed questions, in order to identify and modify key art to ensure it is arresting enough to get someone to want to learn more.
  2. A Supercharged Synopsis. This is where we hook ’em. Sell it don’t tell it, as they say. Our copywriters love a challenge–and one of our favorites is converting a feature-length viewing experience into a precisely worded, dynamic selling tool–in both 140 and 250 character lengths. Our success here prompts a consumer to click the almighty “watch trailer” link, where budding viewing decisions come to blossom (or wither).
  3. A Powerful Trailer. This is it, the big time. We strive for a trailer that leaves the viewer wanting more. The aim is clear story-telling, that hits upon all the key marketing angles (great cast! important director! award wins!) that draw in the target genre audience. Here is where the excitement builds and turns a ‘maybe’ into ‘sold’ as the consumer decides there is no need to look any further.

When it comes to the “Creative Trifecta” as described above, we don’t reserve this approach for just a subset of Distribution Solutions’ label partners. This is a basic deliverable, served up regularly during the course of the collaboration, in order to build the best marketing presences possible on platforms.

Want to learn more about DS and our services? Try us at studios@ds.aent.com today!