Insights from QYOU: The team behind viral TikTok promo campaigns for Ghostbusters, Resident Evil, Scream, & Clifford
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If you’re a TikTok fan, you’ve likely seen awesome ads from creators promoting up-and-coming movies.
You may have even participated in some of the viral, movie-related TikTok trends, including the “Voice of Ghostface” sound, the “Big Red Dog” effect on TikTok, or the branded “#GhostYourProblems” effect.
When I learned how QYOU leverages TikTok’s tools to partner with creators on viral social media campaigns for some of the most beloved pop culture films, I knew I had to talk to their team.
I interviewed Glenn Ginsburg, the president of QYOU Media; Lexi St. John, the vice president of content & creative; and Morgan Barclay, the vice president of integrated marketing. Here’s what I learned.
Banknotes: What were the ultimate goals behind Scream, Sing 2, and Ghostbusters? How did you set measurable goals and plan for such a large campaign?
Ginsburg: At QYOU’s core, we’re marketers and storytellers. We identify the “reasons to believe.” What are the universal themes and messages that viewers can relate to that drive excitement for the film? Reasons to believe are the thematic and emotional hooks that audiences can connect to, with a promise that they can experience these feelings at the movie theater (or wherever the experience is available).
QYOU’s multi-phased campaign strategy creates multiple opportunities to explore different “reasons to believe” for a variety of communities and demographics that are important to open the film (or to buy the product, try the service, etc). And we collaborate with our clients to align with key marketing dates, such as trailer drops and special events, to maximize impact in the lead-up to the release.
QYOU is able to tell these stories at scale, even in a fragmented media market. Social media gives us the opportunity to reach large audiences or specific communities both efficiently and effectively.
Banknotes: How do you go about partnering with creators, and how do you identify creators that are the right fit for a particular movie?
St. John: We have a lot of respect for creators. They’ve built audiences at scale rivaling and exceeding shows on TV—all from their living rooms. For each campaign, we look at the creators that reach the audiences important to our partners. Then, we look at the formats they regularly produce and identify the ones that are proven popular for those audiences. The campaign posts therefore result in serving the right audience and provides viewers with an excellent brand experience.
Our relationships with these creators are of utmost importance to us at QYOU. Whether with a new creator or as an established partnership, we approach each relationship as a creative collaboration and strive to co-create branded content they are proud to post and that their audiences will love and appreciate. It’s one thing to satisfy the brand partner, and another to surprise and delight fans with awesome content.
At QYOU, we constantly have our finger on the pulse as we aim to discover new up-and-coming talent as well as identify the top creators across social platforms. Whether it’s to reach an extremely niche community or to spread mass awareness for a four-quadrant film, the QYOU team will find the best creators that align with the goals for every campaign. Although important to consider, it’s not always about the person with the most followers or highest engagement rate. We assess a creator’s production and storytelling capabilities as well as dissect their existing formats to determine if they may be an unexpectedly awesome fit for a brand campaign!
Banknotes: What role does TikTok play specifically in your influencer marketing campaigns? Did you launch on any other social platform or did you just stick to TikTok? Why?
Ginsburg: In its brief moment of time, TikTok has become a real force. TikTok at its core is 12-34 (years old), but what it has really done is (for the first time in history) give a powerful collective voice to this audience segment. Through the way this audience communicates—with memes, trends, and sounds—this segment finally has significant collective power and influence.
QYOU is adept at either finding or targeting a community that super serves clients' needs. We are the best at identifying and working with communities and creators born on these social platforms. QYOU is great at diving deep into any community on TikTok—from #horrortok to #familytok!
We’ve been really successful in getting audiences to take action, particularly with film releases. Since the start of the year, we’ve helped five feature-length films from major studios reach No. 1 at the box office on their opening weekend. We were able to refresh iconic IP and make it relevant for new audiences through TikTok, and we’re incredibly proud of that.
QYOU started on YouTube—QYOU was on TikTok even before it was TikTok (Musical.ly) so we’ve seen the platform evolve from its early days to where it is now, and we’ve adapted our creator campaign strategies and approach accordingly.
Our campaigns now include a variety of formats from dance videos or interactive duets to highly produced and individualized collaborations with top creators. Our strategy is always to not only look at the creators that super-serve the target community for a brand but also what content and formats are relevant within that community. The social hive-mind’s shift from creator relevance to creative relevance is blurred and subtle, but QYOU thrives in the gray area and knows how to optimize for the best results for the brand.
And the best results often come from cross-platform campaigns. With high-quality creative posts and a variety of media solutions to support, QYOU delivers amazing results that drive action across TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and more! We’re everywhere our audience is.
Banknotes: What role does TikTok play in marketing? Why is TikTok such a powerful tool right now?
Ginsburg: TikTok creates impactful moments within a fast-paced community conversation. It provides the ability to appeal to general audiences or to target specific communities. Its tools accessible to creators—sound, effects, transitions, etc.—are really impactful.
The acceptance of #brandtok allows brands to create their own dedicated channels on TikTok for regularly programmed content so it becomes an active participant in trends and relevant community conversations.
Banknotes: How did you go about creating the Big Red Dog Effect on TikTok? What about the branded effect called #GhostYourProblems?
St. John: QYOU’s creative team always finds solutions for branded effects on social platforms, whether we create them ourselves or find unique ways to support them with influencer posts. Our in-house post-production team can utilize brand assets to create custom executions for any social platform, including special visual and sound effects.
For the Big Red Dog Effect, we used Paramount’s animated toolkit to create custom posts with influencers having fun and playing tricks with Clifford.
And for Sony’s #GhostYourProblems, we choreographed each “zap” of the textbox “problem” to align with a different lyric from the classic theme song, supporting the official Branded Effect on TikTok with top influencers.
We often test the beta effects before they’re live, making recommendations to the client and vetting any bugs before we give direction to influencers. It’s truly a collaborative process, and QYOU keeps the creative juices flowing between the brand and creators.
Banknotes: Tell me more about the iconic voice of Ghostface on the platforms’ text-to-speech function for Scream. How did that work? What results did you see?
St. John: Paramount’s Ghostface Text-To-Speech feature on TikTok was truly a first of its kind, and QYOU had the opportunity to launch it to the masses via an influencer campaign.
After some careful testing, QYOU tapped brand-aligned influencers to creatively integrate the Text-To-Speech effect in their own unique style and voice.
Creator formats ranged from cosplay to horror skits, and QYOU’s production team provided creators with custom sounds, visual effects, and even scripting phone calls with Ghostface himself! The results: Ghostface was on everyone’s For You page, with the TTS voice earning billions of views on TikTok.
Banknotes: What role does UGC play in your overall promotion strategy? What do you look for in UGC and how do you decide what to promote/how to promote it?
St. John: Depending on the overall campaign strategy (and the legal/platform requirements per client), UGC is a really powerful and energizing force that amplifies brand conversation and key messaging.
At QYOU, we create formats and trends that have the potential to go viral (and often do!) but we are still able to exceed goals with or without virality and UGC.
Banknotes: Do you give your influencers guidance or do you let them roll with their own ideas? How much of what we see comes from influencers and how much comes from the direction from QYOU?
St. John: Part of QYOU’s “secret sauce” is our ability to collaborate with creators and provide creative direction as well as production support from our Content Studio team. No matter the campaign’s high-level content strategy, the QYOU team dives into collaborative brainstorming with creators, makes helpful recommendations, and provides mock videos for creators at all levels of experience.
Sometimes giving more creative freedom to inexperienced influencers puts too much pressure on the creator, since they want to please the brand. The creative usually ends up overly branded or not an organic fit within the creators’ own channels. QYOU is really good at assessing creators’ own content and making recommendations to creators who need a bit more direction and reassurance. We want them to do what they do best, and we help them get that confidence back with brand deals!
Banknotes: What do you do to plan a massive roll-out campaign with so many influencers?
St. John: QYOU’s creative team is dedicated to making the entire production process seamless for both clients and creators. With multiple large-scale campaigns usually happening all at once, the team has established tried and true best practices to keep the clients and creators on schedule with aligned expectations.
We develop detailed production calendars and have the expertise to anticipate turnaround time for both creative and approvals.
Banknotes: What advice would you give smaller ecomm/DTC brands that want to get started with influencer marketing?
Ginsburg: Most DTC brands are so focused on growth marketing tied to very specific ROIs and KPIs; although it’s a powerful strategy, it has diminishing returns. The right creative can propel the brand to a new echelon of awareness and engagement. However, there’s a happy medium where native and influencer content on social platforms consistently shows that/outperforms traditional ad units in view-through, engagement, and click-through. A growth marketing and content strategy can catapult DTC brands to a new level of awareness and relevance.
Banknotes: What do you think the equation is for creating a viral TikTok video/strategy? Is it luck or is it replicable?
St. John: Virality is something—oftentimes our videos go viral, but QYOU plans for predictability and consistency.
The formula for any trend on TikTok can be loosely interpreted, adapted, and replicated for influencer campaigns: for example, Sound + Transition + Effect = Trend.
We’re known for overdelivering on our campaigns and, inevitably, the work we do goes beyond the expectation of that plan. But that plan definitely sets us up for success and, hopefully, virality.
Banknotes: How did you infuse the gaming world/gaming influencers into your strategy for Resident Evil?
Barclay: We activated top influencers with a strong affinity for playing action and survival games, specifically Resident Evil. It was also essential that the creators consistently put out viral content tied to pop culture, entertainment, and gaming.
Moreover, our talent strategy included tapping and celebrating fans of the Resident Evil franchise within the cosplay community by showcasing their "best of" posts designed to spark culturally relevant conversations surrounding the game's release within the broader gaming community on TikTok.
Banknotes: How have you seen your influencer marketing strategy change over the past five years?
Ginsburg: High-level strategy has not changed much, but where it has changed, we’ve been flexible and have adapted.
We’ve developed more storytelling and production expertise to meet the quality clients need to represent their brand, but also a deeper understanding of what audiences want, what algorithms are driving to what content, what appeals to audiences, and bringing the right influencers in to tell that story.
But we’ve flipped it. Instead of relying on influencer storytelling, we’ve become the storytellers. Then we cast the right influencers to convey that story for brands, encompassing dance trends or more unique, one-off creative where everyone is doing one thing.
Banknotes: This strategy is working well for movies. What other verticals and industries do you think would benefit from influencer marketing on TikTok?
Ginsburg: Any vertical can benefit from influencer marketing on TikTok. Any vertical trying to reach audiences at scale should be tapping into social platforms to spread key themes and reach key audiences and give them reasons to believe.
Gen A to young Millennial audiences especially were born into these platforms and have formed parasocial relationships with these influencers.
These are the same relationships that, traditionally, Gen X to Boomers have had with TV and movie stars. QYOU campaigns that go beyond movies have also included retail and gaming. And they were equally effective.