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Netflix’s marketing chief wants you to watch the movies on Netflix, not in theaters

Netflix fans have a busy weekend ahead of them, as does Marian Lee, Netflix’s chief marketing officer. On Saturday, the streaming giant’s Tudum fan event will quintuple in size and take place worldwide.

Tudum started in January 2020 as an in-person event in a market, São Paulo, Brazil. The Covid pandemic has disrupted that whole personal thing, but on September 24th the event is back – and it’s oversized.

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Named for the streaming service’s start-up sound, Tudum now consists of five events from around the world, offering “more content, more shows and films, more talent” and yes, “more news to report,” according to Lee said in a phone interview with IndieWire.

Tudum is Netflix’s D23 and its Disney+ Day rolled into one. It’s not quite San Diego Comic-Con, but Tudum serves as a powerful – and controlled – addition to existing fan conventions. “I wouldn’t say we don’t look at these events, but we’re really trying to bring our own flavor to something,” Lee said. “What do we really have that is unique here? We’ve really developed this massive library of intellectual property and franchises just over the last 10 years.”

These include the mega hits “Stranger Things”, “Bridgerton”, “Squid Game” and “The Witcher”, all of which will be represented at Tudum 2022. “We’re really just trying to bring all of these fan bases together. Celebrate them, give them a chance to connect directly with talent,” she said. “We could debut things they’ve never seen before, any kind of exclusivity.”

Putting it all together can create internal “chaos” within her team, Lee admitted. “It’s a bit like putting ‘A Beautiful Mind’ on a wall.”

Squid Game Season 1. - Source: Netflix

Squid Game Season 1. – Source: Netflix

Netflix

Squid Game remains Netflix’s biggest worldwide hit, which explains why this year’s Tudum launches in Korea, where the series originated. A show like this will sell in the upcoming season 2, but when it comes to launching a new series, Lee’s marketing team can really shine. Even viral sensations can use a helping hand; Lee’s toolbox includes a BA in Psychology from barnard College at Columbia University and eight years as a top marketing manager at Spotify.

The South Korean hit, which racked up a staggering 1.65 billion hours of views in its first 28 days, “definitely had marketing,” Lee said. In other words, the success of “Squid Game” didn’t just come from word of mouth. “It had marketing all over the world. Well, was [the viewership level] unexpected in certain markets? Did we think it would resonate as much as it did in the US?” she said. “Certainly not at the beginning.”

But Netflix’s Korean marketing team has laid the “really impressive foundation,” Lee tells us, including complete remodels at the biggest local department stores. There was “tailor-made marketing across Asia,” she continued, and as the show really picked up steam, Lee’s UCAN (United States and Canada, which she was managing at the time) team stepped up its efforts to “beat the heat on this one.”

And it was damn hot. “You could see moments being created, activations and costumes everywhere,” she said.

The Gray Man activation at San Diego Comic-Con.  - Credit: Hitchhiker Pictures for Netflix

The Gray Man activation at San Diego Comic-Con. – Credit: Hitchhiker Pictures for Netflix

Hitchhiker images for Netflix

During the conversation, you realize how much Lee likes a good activation. One of her recent favorites was The Gray Man, the big-budget spy-versus-spy movie (specifically for Netflix) starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, which ran in theaters for a week before it premiered on the SVOD service (which will soon add an AVOD stage).

At Comic-Con this summer, Netflix created an experience that gave fans the experience of being Six (Gosling) and Lloyd Hansen (Evans). In San Diego, fans boarded a fake tram that crashed into a fake building, just like a “Gray Man” scene that took place in downtown Prague. They completed challenges to move from one car to the next before escaping to the front of the tram, with subwoofers, rumble and jump scares enhancing the episode.

The Gray Man, Netflix’s fourth most popular film, is a franchise expanding with a sequel and spinoff series. For the film(s), Lee is happy with the short big screen option, but that’s not her preference.

“Netflix is ​​the place where fans can watch movies they love or sit down with their family to watch a new movie,” she said. And so far, so good on Netflix’s way of marketing movies — that is, not doing much marketing at all.

“From a marketing standpoint, what we’re doing is unlike big studios” who are “trying to sell a ticket,” Lee said. “But again, we’re trying to stoke anticipation and excitement for ours [movies] so people can eventually watch them on Netflix. [We’re] not focused on getting them in theaters in the short term… for (awards) qualification. To me, our fans are on Netflix and they prefer that.”

A zoomed-out view of Netflix's Gray Man activation at SDCC.  - Credit: Hitchhiker Pictures for Netflix

A zoomed-out view of Netflix’s Gray Man activation at SDCC. – Credit: Hitchhiker Pictures for Netflix

Hitchhiker images for Netflix

Tudum Korea begins Saturday at 11am KST, which is Friday 10pm ET (or 7pm PT). The Global Fan Event portion begins Saturday at 1:00 PM ET/10:00 AM PT with Part 1. Part 2 begins 90 minutes later.

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