Stephanie and Kristin know an alluring poster, trailer, and website will be crucial to their impact campaign efforts. They begin working with Scrap Labs early on in the distribution planning phase and come to the Creative Distribution advisory summit with a few poster versions already in hand. Since part of the film focuses on the harmful C8 chemicals found primarily in Teflon, the film team and Scrab Labs decide on an image of smoke in the shape of a skull rising from a nonstick frying pan.
Daniel Perlaky, a freelance creative director and summit advisor, provides feedback on their poster and website to help maintain a cohesive creative presence for the film throughout all main marketing assets. Stephanie and Kristin relay this helpful feedback to the Scrap Labs team, which leads them to their final version. In addition to visual aesthetics, the team brainstorms taglines to include on the poster. Each of Stephanie’s past films has included a tagline, and the team feels that one will be integral to the marketing campaign for this film. After long deliberations, the team lands on “The chemistry of a cover-up.”
After the advisory summit, the team strikes a deal with Wheelhouse to edit their trailer. For $10,000, Stephanie and Kristin are given five rounds of edits and a couple short video spotlights for marketing purposes. Usually this fee amount only covers the trailer edit, but the team at Wheelhouse is passionate about the film and graciously includes the two short marketing videos.
Stephanie and Kristin enlist the team at Fullstack Creative to revamp the film’s website. The team puts a big focus on the website, since it will function as a hub for the social-impact campaign they construct with Picture Motion. They aim to create a true-crime vibe to lure people into the website. For $8,000, Fullstack Creative creates a robust website, including sections where users can study the facts about DuPont’s cover-up and take action to rid their homes of toxic chemicals, in addition to call-outs throughout the site to sign up, take action, and watch the film. The Fullstack Creative team implements basic search engine optimization (SEO) on the website in order for it to appear in the top search results when browsing for the film online. The website maintains a cohesive aesthetic throughout and compliments the other key assets created for the film. The team sets out to pair all of these key assets with digital marketing to drum up the most awareness and engagement.
The first part of the impact campaign starts in July 2018 when Film Sprout begins the semi-theatrical screening campaign. They start with outreach, using the lists they created in addition to the outreach research they were given by the film team, to find people and organizations interested in screening the film in their communities. They also receive outside inquiries from organizations and individuals who have heard about the film through other means, such as the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. The grassroots screening and discussion events Film Sprout facilitates begin in Portland, Oregon, in August 2018.
On September 10, 2018, the film team decides to launch the redesign of the website. This has a significant impact on the number of screening inquiries Film Sprout receives. In the end, 54% of all confirmed screenings reach out to Film Sprout via the film’s website or other organic channels (e.g., calling or emailing Film Sprout directly).
The team launches the chemical detox challenge, which is managed and overseen by Picture Motion, on October 16, 2018, the same day as the TVOD launch for the film. By making the film readily accessible to many audiences through the digital release, they hope that this will drive more engagement with the chemical detox challenge. The team uses the website as the main hub for the social-impact campaign, hosting the step-by-step detox challenge under the website’s “take action” section, in addition to smaller, yet still meaningful, tasks users can take if they don’t want to go through the full process of the seven-day detox, such as signing a petition.
To promote the detox challenge, Picture Motion constructs a robust email promotion campaign. A total of 14 emails are sent throughout the campaign to those who opt in to the chemical detox challenge. Each newsletter has a different theme, some of which Picture Motion crafted with different partners, such as Hayward Score, Collaborative on Health and the Environment, and Made Safe, to come up with a specific message. In additional to Picture Motion’s promotional efforts, the film team works with 3i to craft a robust digital-marketing campaign around the digital release and the chemical detox challenge. Kristin also writes a blog post for the Sundance Institute website that explains why the team is carrying out this call-to-action impact campaign.
The team plans to launch their TVOD presales September 12, 2018, to coincide with their trailer launch through IndieWire. They initially planned to launch presales September 4, 2018, but decided to push the date out once they found out when IndieWire would be promoting the trailer. However, the film is still made available for presales September 4 because the date change order doesn’t go through properly with the Premiere Digital team. Instead of taking it down and relaunching on September 12, the team decides to keep the presales live and wait to do any promotion until September 12 once IndieWire launches the trailer.
Stephanie and Kristin work with 3i to craft ads around the trailer launch and the digital release that will hopefully boost their presale numbers. Meanwhile, 3i starts with an ad for the trailer release, which does exceptionally well. Within five days of launching the trailer ad on Facebook, the post is shared 13,000 times and receives 742,000 impressions. They continue to post frequently to their social media channels, promoting the presale with the hopes that they’ll climb in the iTunes charts.
On October 16, 2018, the film goes live on all TVOD platforms at the same time they launch the chemical detox challenge. Leading up to this launch date, the team taps into their past and present networks to ask for help with promoting the digital launch of the film. Stephanie and Kristin reach out to their email list, which includes followers of Stephanie’s past films, to spread the news about The Devil We Know’s digital release. They also reach out to NGO supporters such as Toxic Free Future, Center for Environmental Health, and Safe States, and tastemakers such as Erin Brockovich, Beauty Counter, and The Intercept, to ask them to promote the release on their social media channels, on their email lists, and via word of mouth. Through their relationship with iTunes, the Creative Distribution team also helps line up preferred placement on the iTunes main page for the release.
Traditional Press and Marketing
The film team decides not to hire a PR consultant for the distribution of The Devil We Know and handles the work as a team. For the release, Kristin and Stephanie feel the most important PR work will be finding an impactful partner for the trailer release. They aim to find a partner that will help expand beyond the east and west coasts, which are already exposed to the release of high-profile independent documentaries, and reach middle America, which has been most affected by the harmful practices of DuPont.
The team sets their sights on USA Today. As Kristin Lazure explains, “We felt like USA Today offered us the best opportunity to connect with a nationwide audience that cut across political lines.” They reach out to their Festival publicist, Renee Ridinger, for advice. She gives them contact information for USA Today and advice on how they should craft their outreach letter. Unfortunately, Stephanie and Kristin have no luck connecting with them after multiple cold calls.
They also reach out to the Los Angeles Times’ Amy Kaufman, who wrote a piece on the film during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, but they do not receive a response. They then do a cold outreach to Variety and the Hollywood Reporter and receive no responses from any of these outlets. Since IndieWire covers the Sundance Institute and the Creative Distribution Initiative, the Creative Distribution team suggests that Stephanie and Kristin reach out to them for the trailer exclusive. IndieWire takes the exclusive and launches the trailer on September 12, 2018.
Digital-marketing company 3i oversees and manages the entire digital-marketing strategy for The Devil We Know’s distribution campaign. Since the majority of their release strategy focuses on the digital release and the impact campaign via the website, Stephanie and Kristin feel it’s best to focus most of their promotional efforts on digital marketing.
At the onset of their collaboration, 3i’s Matt Delman and his team take Stephanie and Kristin through an in-depth audience-identification exercise. They start by brainstorming all of the audiences they feel might be drawn to the film, which include people interested in government cover-ups, alternative medicine, and documentaries, as well as environmentalists and people with illnesses that are specifically caused by C8 or could be related.
The 3i team takes these interest groups and puts them into buckets and begins to search social media groups tied to these interests. Their goal is to create a bucket that has no less than 1 million people and no more than 10 million people. They then take these buckets, determine which would be most effective for ad targeting, and use this as their audience foundation for the social media ad campaign.
Then the team maps out the specific ad campaigns they’ll run throughout the course of the release. They decide to run ads for their poster and trailer launch and then focus on the TVOD release. The 3i team first runs a poster ad on Facebook and Instagram to generate awareness for the film. On Facebook, this ad serves 31,332 impressions and is shared 546 times, and on Instagram, it serves 20,922 impressions and is shared 64 times. They spend a total of $500: $250 on the Facebook ad and $250 on the Instagram ad.
Then, the 3i team works with the filmmakers and Wheelhouse to make sure the trailer is set up to succeed on social, which involves a few rounds of notes, editing the aspect ratio for mobile, and adding captions. They allocate $3,500 for the trailer launch. The ad serves 1.5 million impressions, but the trailer actually reaches almost 3 million unique people due to the high number of shares. With 32,500 shares, the Devil We Know trailer is one of 3i's most shared pieces of content ever. The post also received 1 million views, 15,000 reactions, and over 1,500 comments.
Using the momentum from the successful trailer promotion, the team moves on to promote the digital release of the film. On September 29, 2018, they create a social media post to promote the TVOD launch with a link to the preorder page on iTunes for Facebook, Instagram, and Instagram Stories; they spend $1,000 across all three platforms to boost the post. The posts on Instagram receive 173,000 impressions, and the Facebook post receives 16,678.
In addition, 3i creates a series of spots tailored to specific target audiences to be used to promote the TVOD release. They launch each of these spots individually to their target audiences leading up to the release date and then runs all four of them concurrently during the release within the same campaign, allowing Facebook to automatically optimize for the spots that perform the best and serve the right spot to the right person. Wheelhouse Creative also delivers a 30-second cutdown of the trailer.
On October 16, 2018, the same day as the launch of the chemical detox challenge, the 3i team posts a 35-second video to Facebook promoting the challenge and the TVOD sales. They also post that same video to Instagram. For the TVOD release, the 3i team also creates a draft post Stephanie and Kristin can share out to their community partners to encourage them to help promote the digital release of the film. For the rest of October, the 3i team continues to promote the digital release across The Devil We Know’s Facebook and Instagram channels. Later, they release and boost spots adapted from the iTunes extra content, including one featuring Erin Brokovich and another about pet birds that have dropped dead from the fumes of a Teflon pan.
In addition to the social media promotion, Stephanie and Kristin send out a newsletter promoting the digital release and chemical detox challenge.
Despite all of their digital-marketing efforts, the TVOD sales for the film don’t perform as well as the film team is hoping for, given its viral trailer launch. On October 29, 2018, a little over two weeks after their launch, the team decides to pause all of the digital-marketing ads and reassess their strategy. They discuss dropping the price of the film on TVOD platforms, but ultimately feel it’s best to keep as is. As Kristin describes, “There was a consensus amongst the film team that the price likely wasn’t what was deterring sales of the film. Mindful that one of our goals was to recoup as much money as possible for investors during the Netflix holdback window, we decided to hold firm on the price and only drop it to 99 cents once the film became available on Netflix in January.”