The above is something that would have looked like gibberish 10 years ago, and something I never believed I would have ever typed. Not only beginning a statement with a “hash tag”, but then following it up with the word “sharknado”. To top it off, a “2” which represents the fact that there are multiple sharknados. The reason for all of this is very closely linked to the emergence and explosion of social media across the world over the past decade, a trend that has no end in sight given society’s push to engulf themselves in the latest happenings with news, sports, pop culture, family and friends as quickly and easily as possible. Where the public goes, the marketing landscape is sure to follow and this has been ongoing since the Egyptians first used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters. The very fact that you are reading this blog is most likely an outcome of your involvement in social media.
On July 30th, 2014, I had the very fortunate and one-of-a-kind opportunity to attend the world premiere viewing party for Syfy Network’s highly anticipated follow-up to Sharknado, the very aptly titled Sharknado 2: The Second One. For those uninitiated to the growing cult following of this movie, a “sharknado” is a very rare weather event in which tornadoes that form over the ocean suck up multitudes of deadly sharks to create a super-storm of terror for anyone in its path. The concept seems ridiculous on so many levels, but it has given the world something to talk about through word-of-mouth, news outlets, and most prominently, through social media. The original movie aired in July of 2013 to 1.37 million viewers, slightly below the average of a typical Syfy channel movie, a channel known for producing low-budget sci-fi fare that causes the user to suspend disbelief 10 times over (see also: Ghost Shark, Crocosaurus and Mega Piranha).
Following subsequent airings and social media buzz across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, viewership of the original movie continued to make the film a worldwide phenomenon, with various celebrities and high profile people tweeting about it, either condemning it for its ridiculous premise, or applauding it for its sheer comedic genius. The build-up for the 2nd installment of the series (a third movie has already been green-lit) was palpable, and I was able to view the movie at the Hudson Terrace Rooftop in New York City. Upon the elevator doors opening, I was immediately greeted by excited NBC Universal employees offering me the choice of a foam chainsaw (the lead character’s shark-killing weapon of choice from the first movie) or a shark hat. For me, the choice was simple: “I will take both please!”
There was a giant screen set up in front of rows of couches and chairs, surrounded by bars set up to serve the eager movie-goers with their alcohol of choice, candy contained in Sharknado 2 cups as well as finger foods and popcorn. As people began to shuffle in, so did some of the cast of the movie, as the male lead Ian Ziering (formerly of Beverly Hills: 90210) gladly posed for pictures with his fans. The impeccable Chazz Palminteri (Usual Suspects, Bronx Tale, Modern Family) showed up to support his son’s small screen debut, while comedian Robert Klein (Primary Colors, Reign Over Me) and Daymond John, creator of the FUBU clothing brand and co-star of ABC’s Shark Tank, also showed up to the premiere given their appearances in the movie.
The experience was something I will never forget, as the crowd became (mostly) quiet when the movie began and the carnage and terror of the sharknado wreaked havoc on New York City (in the movie, not in real life). With every commercial break, Syfy encouraged viewers to tweet their thoughts, viewing party photos and reviews of the movie by using #sharknado2 on Twitter. It was at this time that I fully realized how far social media has come, because this movie would most likely not be receiving the attention it was getting without social media outlets. According to HitFix, Syfy boasted that Sharknado 2 at one point monopolized Twitter’s Top 10 trending topics and “there were more mentions of Sharknado on Twitter than #MileyCyrus on the day of MTV’s 2013 VMAs, #kimye on Kim and Kanye’s wedding day and #transformers4, #thelegomovie, #godzillamovie and #22jumpstreet on each movie’s worldwide premiere day.”
NBC Universal and Syfy were also smart to cast celebrity cameos that would further boost the popularity of the movie through Twitter; people such as Kelly Osbourne, Perez Hilton and Kelly Oxford, each of whom have over 500,000 Twitter followers. The amount of marketing for this movie can be amplified by a single tweet from one of the people in this movie, and a ripple effect throughout the internet can cause more people than imagined to have heard or read the word “sharknado” and most likely seek out what on earth it is. Advertising for and during this premiere was amplified Super Bowl-style, and Jared from the Subway franchise even made a cameo in the movie eating a Subway sandwich in a New York City subway station, the pure definition of perfect product placement.
According to Pew Research Center, 42% of online adults use multiple social networking sites, with Facebook remaining the platform of choice. 73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind, and these numbers continue to rise year over year across all social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, just to name a few. For advertisers, social media represents an emerging outlet for advertising dollars to be allocated, since there are new ad opportunities being introduced on these sites all the time. Recently, Facebook re-formatted their ad space along the right rail of a user’s home page to minimize the amount of clutter for the user, while also making ad inventory more valuable. It is being noted just how important it is to appear on these types of sites, because the vast majority of people are touching one or more of these social sites.
eMarketer performed a study on Social Media advertising (September 2013) and uncovered that 74% of marketers were buying ads on Facebook, vs. 62% in January 2013 and 55% in July 2012. Similarly on Twitter, 32% of US marketers used Promoted Tweets in 2013, up from 26% in 2012, with both site’s figures expected to rise this year and in coming years. In a May 2013 survey by The Creative Group, “62% of US marketers said they expected to increase their advertising and marketing spending on Facebook, while around half were planning increases for LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.” These numbers are putting a quantitative percent against a very real and emerging trend, as evidenced by NBC Universal and Syfy Network ensuring their television movie about a shark storm was represented in the social media space as much as possible, leading to record-breaking numbers.
Speaking from experience, I am on my smart phone all the time and mostly frequenting my Facebook and Twitter apps for the latest news from the people I know, and the people I follow. Sponsored ads, take-overs, expandable rich media and more are continuing to find their way into my user experience, even more tailored now to who I am and what I want to see. “Native” advertising is also emerging in the marketplace as a way to seamlessly display advertisements within the natural flow of a site, as if the ad is not really an ad, but another part of the site being visited. All of these advertising opportunities, and many more, are being utilized and expanded upon each and every day. Standard desktop display has been joined by Mobile and Social Media as key components in advertising portfolios, and is necessary for the future of marketing. The only way, in my opinion, to move forward in digital marketing is to embrace where the landscape is heading, and with so many people abandoning obsolete methods of communication and entertainment, the future of digital marketing is clear.
The next time someone is walking the streets of Manhattan and feels a rain drop and strong gust of wind, that person can visit Twitter and tweet “Uh oh, I hope another #sharknado isn’t on its way!!” and we will be there to ensure they are marketed to as appropriately as possible. Will you?
For more information on Social Media and its relation to Sharknado, check out the following links:
Senior Digital Strategist