SEO: Alt Text DIY

We know we aren’t breaking new ground when we tell you that SEO stands for “search engine optimization.”

But did you know that, on average, there are over 40,000 Google searches per second (3.5 billion per day!) and a little extra intention — utilizing mindful metadata tools like Alt Text and Meta Descriptions — can allow you to use that expansive number of searches to your advantage.

While we increasingly rely on digital data, being inclusive with our content can immensely improve search engine performance, which ultimately leads to accuracy and outreach.

Alt Text = Alternative Text Attribute

Alt Text is an HTML attribute that gets attached to an image in order to provide a text alternative/description for user accessibility and is also crucial for image SEO.  Alt text assists search engines to understand the context of an image. 

An important thing to remember when building attributes is that alt text accompanies images in Google image search, which helps users understand the image and improves your chances of getting more visitors.

movie poster of road rage killer in hazmat suit holding poison

You could simply use “movie” for this image.  However, to provide more beneficial content for both business and consumer, we should describe the image as if someone were unable to see it. 

Your chosen text should be thorough, yet concise – typically 120 characters or less. 

When building the html for alt text, Img Src = image source, and the information within the quotation marks is the title of the image.  For our purposes, this is labeled the title of the movie.

  • Okay alt text: alt=”movie”>
  • Better alt text: alt=”cover art for horror movie”>
  • Best alt text: alt=”movie poster of road rage killer in hazmat suit holding poison”>

Put it all together and it looks like this: <img src=”/tailgate.jpeg” alt=”movie poster of road rage killer in hazmat suit holding poison” />

The great news is: Website platforms that allow you to add images (i.e.: Amazon, WordPress, HubSpot, etc.) have simple tools for you to add alt text to images without having to build html into your web code or prior to uploading your images. 

The first step is becoming familiar with the tools and functions of your specific platform to utilize these built-in capabilities.

If you are planning to add metadata to an image before uploading, it can be implemented at the time you save an image to your drive; therefore, image metadata will consistently be carried to whichever platform you choose. (Baked in, as it were!)

This can be achieved by a couple of methods:

  • Adding ALT text to image metadata on your PC (no special software required – free!)
  • Adding ALT text to image metadata using Adobe Bridge (subscription required)

Stay tuned to our blog for more tips and tricks to implement alt text and metadata in industry-leading ways to digital platforms!

And, as always, if you want to talk it out, send us a line at studios@ds.aent.com.

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.

SWOT did you say?!

No matter what our partners’ content is, it’s our job to figure out how to maximize the appeal in the ol’ marketplace. Our first goal is to figure out just what a film or series is and then we can formulate our sales pitches, creative recommendations, and marketing strategy.

For that, we rely on the tried-and-true, ever-adaptable SWOT analysis. We like to make sure that all bases are covered. For fun, we’ll take you through an actual real-life release…from pre-pandemic times!

High Strung Free Dance

Released February 4, 2020, on DVD, Blu-ray, and Transactional Video-on-Demand, High Strung Free Dance came to us from our partners at GVN Releasing. But the path to release all started with our SWOT analysis.

Here’s a peek at our evaluation:

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

  • Moderate Success at Box Office
  • Teen romance/drama set in the dance world — a very specific niche
  • IMDb rating on High Strung in the 6.4 range

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Producer Involvement:
    • Michael Damien newsletter outreach, Twitter party and FB Live on his personal social channels
    • Janeen Damien Created custom socials graphics for cast ot post
    • Cheri Golub Managed social fan community organic posts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube
  • Continue theatrical partnerships in dance field:
    • So Danca HSFD dancewear featured in film available for purchase on their site
    • Youth America Grand Prix Ballet competition event: Release support at live events, with cast member Juliet Doherty (past WAGP winner) announcing release date
  • Soundtrack x-promotion with The Orchard, via social, with custom lyric videos

THREATS

  • Tough month to predict competitively — other notable releases circling the month: Doctor Sleep, Knives Out, Ford vs Ferrari, Frozen 2
Courtesy of Janeen Damien

We evaluated all of the above to play into the film’s strengths and leveraged the opportunities. Our marketing plan was an incredible collaboration, with an engaged group of stakeholders who were part of the theatrical and were prepared to support the home entertainment/direct-to-consumer window. We used incredible visual assets, exclusive clips and worked with the cast to get the word out. And we were able to take action to offset weaknesses and handle threats, to plan pro-actively to create the best path toward success.

Now, over a year later, a visit to Amazon shows a 4 1/2 star rating from 531 reviewers (as of today, anyway) showing that we found our people…and High Strung Free Dance is enjoying popularity on Netflix, where it is at home with a fine selection of dance-themed titles appealing to this fan base.

And that, dear friends, is the story of SWOT. It’s not fancy, but it works.

To learn more about our favorite time-tested methods and our emerging new practices at Distribution Solutions, give us a shout at studios@ds.aent.com!

A+ Merchandising

This week, we’re focusing on maximizing consumer appeal on Amazon. Sweet, ubiquitous Amazon. A powerhouse in the online retail space, a hub for just about everything under the sun, Amazon is a behemoth in the retail space…with a seemingly endless parade of products. So many products, in fact, that “being there” just isn’t enough.

When a product is competing with millions of other similar items, it’s important to leverage every possible advantage.

How do we begin to make our partners’ products stand out? For this topic, we turn to our internal experts, Andrea Franco, Senior Account Manager, and Vera Martynets, Marketing Manager. Both are dedicated to our Amazon business and have put in countless hours setting up titles, managing inventory, and merchandising to appeal to consumers.

DS: Thanks for participating in this roundtable discussion! We’d like to focus today on one particular aspect of merchandising on Amazon: the A+ Page. For starters, what is an A+ page ?

AF: A+ pages are Amazon product pages that go beyond the basic product details and offer online customers more information about a release. They can include additional images and product features that otherwise would not be seen.  

VM: Right, they allow you to add more descriptors to a product.

DS: More descriptors are important because…?

VM: With each additional image you get to program more keywords, which helps with the searchability of the product. More pictures = better appearance in search results.

As you can see, this page lets consumers see exactly what the deluxe set includes!

DS: Okay, from a ‘consumer appeal’ and ‘searchability’ perspective, totally makes sense. Any other benefits?

VM: Adding a good-looking A+ page can result in higher conversion rates, increased traffic, and increased sales.

Loads of great keywords here!

AF: And it’s really a better way to engage the Amazon customer. An opportunity to tell them everything you want them to know about your release, like special features, Dove Approval rating, extensive cast. It’s a way to boost your release in search rankings without paying for sponsored ads.  It’s also an opportunity to optimize for mobile customers.

A closer look at Audrey, a documentary about this extraordinary actress, style icon and humanitarian.

DS: So this enhanced page can work on whole lotta levels, got it. What is the cost to our label partners?

VM: Zero, nada, zilch!

AF: That’s right: NOTHING!  This benefit adds value without costing a thin dime.

DS: Well, that’s great…so what do you need from label partners in order to create these awesome pages?

VM: Attractive synopsis, great stills. Photos showcasing talent, production value, storyline intrigue – anything that makes the movie look fantastic! And press reviews, critics’ shout-outs, awards…

AF: We call this EMC (Enhanced Marketing Content). The more photos the better, so I’ll add “beauty shots” of gift sets and talent headshots to Vera’s list. Oh – and expanded synopsis, special feature details. Detailing content by disc on multi-feature or box set products.

DS: Laughing a bit that we don’t escape this discussion without at least one new acronym…but what’s the dream scenario for EMC?

AF: The dream? At least one banner, lots of stills, full synopsis, and feature call-outs. That being said, a little bit can go a long way in making a polished, searchable product page that stands out from the crowd.

Clear photos featuring recognizable talent and a grabby banner to top them off!

DS: So, if I were to summarize our chat, I’d say key takeaways about the value of an A+ page are:

  1. Increases searchability (stand out from the competition)
  2. Adds consumer appeal (better sales tool)
  3. 100% customizable, based on available assets, no reason not to!

Thanks, Andrea and Vera. This has been a great discussion about the Amazon A+ page service we provide to our .com label partners Thank you both so much!

Readers, if you would like to learn more about our A+ page support and features, please reach out to us at studios@ds.aent.com for more information!

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!

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!