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Hollywood leans into irreverent laughs to reach the TikTok generation

// Illustration by Kate Walker

Hollywood leans into irreverent laughs to reach the TikTok generation


Future. Hollywood is embracing the irreverent comedy, Gen Z slang, and creator-focused mentality of TikTok to promote projects… and it’s working. With studios desperate to make this summer movie season a return to normal, having a strong TikTok strategy may be crucial to capturing younger audiences.

The cheugy conundrum
According to Variety, Hollywood is learning how to speak the language of TikTok — irreverent comedy.

  • Lionsgate has been especially effective, leaning into the “daddy” qualities of actor Pedro Pascal to promote The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. It’s also sent the animated, Pauly Shore-fronted Pinocchio: A True Story viral by leaning into the “yassification” of the new Pinocchio voice.
  • The lean into comedy is working — Lionsgate has racked up 4 million followers and 90 million likes on the platform.
  • Universal has gone to the length of making unique TikTok handles for each new film and partnering with top influencers on the platform to promote projects, such as teaming creator Daniel Mac up with Helen Mirren for F9.
  • The studio also resurfaces clips of past titles, such as the opening “We’re Cheerleaders” chant from the very cheugy Bring It On, which brought in 8.9 million views.

The key to connecting on the app, according to Marisa Liston, Lionsgate’s president of worldwide motion picture marketing, is not taking yourself too seriously and keeping up with the trends. “You can’t fake engagement on TikTok. It’s a platform with its own language that demands authenticity,”

Good news for anyone in entertainment: TikTok’s own research found that 58% of users want to see more content from studios on the platform. That may have a lot to do with how ads are delivered on TikTok — organically part of the scrolling experience, as opposed to playing as a pre-roll before user-generated videos. Nikao Yang, TikTok’s head of media, entertainment and gaming, also says that the cycle of users remixing the content put out of studios is what gives it “longer legs” than on other platforms.

But here’s the million-dollar question: does success on TikTok translate to a bigger box office or streaming viewership? Disney invested heavily in both ad spend and community engagement on the platform last year to promote Spider-Man: No Way Home. Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, audiences showed up for the film to the tune of over $804 million domestic, making it the third-highest-grossing film in the U.S. of all time.

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