Starting this week, Magic runs a promotion for the new J K Rowling film “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them”. The mechanic includes a live mid-flight broadcast from a Virgin Atlantic aeroplane and three weeks of activity from London and New York.
Movie tie-ins are so important to Bauer that the group has its own Head of Film, Sarah Clarke. I chatted with Sarah earlier in the week and here’s what I learned from her:
There’s a long lead time
Projects like these start about one year in advance. There’s good rapport between Sarah and the key figures at the major movie studios, such as Alexandra Lewis at Warner Bros. Pictures in this case. They have regular catch-ups and the first conversation about this project was back in 2015.
It’s a big campaign for Bauer
Sarah says that in terms of size this will be one of Bauer’s biggest three campaigns of the year. In total, the promotion took a team of fifteen to put together. Yes, some radio stations have fewer people on the entire staff so it’s no wonder that these valuable movie tie-ins rest with the big groups.
In the language of Hollywood, Fantastic Beasts is “a four quadrant release”. This means it is designed to hit everybody: a real mass market offer for all the family, so you can see how Bauer’s broad range of targeted brands and multiplatform touchpoints provide an ideal opportunity.
Sarah points to the fact that in the UK, only Bauer plays at scale in radio, television, digital and print and that’s a huge advantage for the group when pitching ideas.
Here, have some key art..
What the client wanted
Film studios choose to use radio because of the power of a presenter endorsement. So it was key to integrate deeply with editorial content.
The brief also included a clear instruction to create a connection between the UK and the US.
Thirdly, the campaign had to manage the expectations of existing Harry Potter fans: this is Potter but it’s not what they’re used to.
So the challenge was to open up the franchise to new fans but also help Core Pottertonians navigate into the new world that JK Rowling has created here.
Even the pitch was wizardy
The creative pitch was presented with a theatrical flourish, revealed from inside a replica of the suitcase you’ll see in the movie trailer.
The joy of being able to leverage a brand called ‘Magic’ was a further advantage for Bauer.
The name of the promotion had to change
The campaign was first proposed with the name ‘The Ministry of Magic’ but this failed to get approval in Los Angeles at the studio. Clarke and her team were ready with ‘Magic in New York’ as an alternative.
Given that the brief requires a link to be established between the UK and the US that’s a double win.
Some things stay the same
Taking an entire breakfast cast out of the studio is a big change for listeners, especially on a station like Magic which builds its audience on familiarity and routine.
To mitigate the shock, the fabric of the show will remain entirely unchanged. All the key benchmarks, the music and the clock furniture remain in place.
Sarah says that listeners are used to imaging and competitions that change on a regular basis.
Magic in New York will come from the studios of a Manhattan-based radio station and, coincidentally, this all happens at the moment the US is electing a new President.
While a Presidential hopeful wins in Washington, there are many opportunities for Magic’s listeners to win baked into the promotion.
A Harry Potter general knowledge quiz is designed to reward core fans. Some listeners will win the chance to fly out to New York with the Magic team and attend the worldwide premiere of the film.
It’s not just within breakfast
Outside breakfast there will be trails through the day on Magic and Bauer’s Entertainments Hub (a team within the company that manages entertainment content for multiple brands) will ensure that Beasts-related content finds its way into all appropriate touchpoints, including Absolute Radio.
The promotion is centred on paid content as part of the campaign but Sarah thinks that there’ll be sufficient buzz about the event that Bauer’s talent will naturally want to pick-up on it in editorial time too. That will be a bonus for Warner Brothers Pictures and illustrates exactly why movie studios love to use radio so much.
It’s digital too
Online video content is centred on a theme of “Looking for the beast” and this microsite pulls together a competition call to action, content modules from Magic to enjoy again and a fetching picture of Nick Snaith in a blue shirt.
Mock of the digital entry form for listeners to win.
(Click the image to see Nick’s shirt in further stunning detail)
How did the link up with Virgin Atlantic come about?
Sarah says the creative process with a movie studio is usually quite collaborative so each party can draw on its strengths and connections, and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves along the way.
Warner Brothers already had a deal with Virgin in place before the agreement to work with Bauer was signed. In the event, it was the perfect extra party, says Sarah. It strengthens the promotion and adds a plane journey to the mix which Magic will exploit live on air, generating extra content on the way, including Nick Snaith making ‘Magic cocktails’ at 36,000 feet.
Production secrets of the live plane broadcast
It’s a complicated challenge to broadcast live from the Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow Terminal 3, transfer through security, board, get seated and stay on air.
So Virgin Atlantic has allowed the Magic team time on the plane before the other passengers board.
There’s a little bit of radio cheating involved too as the team will do some pre-recs to patch the times when broadcasting is not possible live. You can’t have a radio show falling off air just because it’s time to switch off all hand held devices or put them into flight safe mode. Larger items must be stowed for take-off and landing. See, I know the drill.
Once in the cruise, links from the plane will be broadcast over a satellite phone connection that Virgin Atlantic has onboard. Sarah says she believes this is the first time a live radio broadcast has been conducted from a transatlantic aeroplane.
There’s a lot at stake for Warner Bros and JK Rowling
The campaign is designed to achieve maximum excitement within the first two weeks of release. That’s the critical period in which the success of a movie is determined. It’s no good dribbling out the promotion over weeks and weeks: you need a big hit to make it talkable, fast.
So, the activity is phased to coincide with the countdown to the release and the first two weeks of release.
Many thanks to Sarah Clarke and the creative team at Bauer for sharing those campaign secrets and the digital mocks with Earshot.
If you’re working on a campaign, big or small, and would like to share it as a case study just get in touch with Earshot’s Steve Martin.
Earshot is always positive about radio: you could inspire others and help keep radio at the forefront of delivering great creativity and effective solutions that delight clients and listeners alike.