BUGSfeed - a taste of insects: a comprehensive publishing platform for BUGS

Case study: Find and engage your audience! But can you overcome 'disgust'? 10-month content campaign for audience build-up in anticipation of the documentary BUGS

Will eating insects save our Earth? A gastronomic adventure

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Key challenges 

  • ever-increasing struggle for visibility of 'niche' docs
  • eating insects is not yet an established concept in the western world
  • no pre-existing audience data for this type of film
  • we should not appear as promoters or salespeople for edible insects
  • the human feeling of ‘disgust’ is one of the hardest to overcome

Market research

  • pre-existing websites on edible insects all seemed to fall into one of four categories: science, recipes, advocacy, and commercial interests
  • a gap in the market: a comprehensive platform on edible insects that is independently run, non-promotional, and easy to read and watch 
  • two other docs on the subject that were in production at the time seemed rather uncritical and not engaging audiences on a similar scale
  • great potential to target people with interests in gastronomy, food culture, food systems, insects, sustainability, challenges of marketing, education
  • hundreds of prospective partners in the emerging culture and business of entomophagy (so-called 'entopreneurs'): researchers, suppliers, restaurants

Content marketing strategy

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  • heavy reliance on social media targeting, even clickbait
  • with a distinct platform name, BUGSfeed references both the film and a news feed and is also a play on Buzzfeed
  • constant build-up of anticipation ahead of the film's release
  • during the initial phase, discovery of the film by chance rather than advertised 'in your face', aiming to drive users' curiosity and investigate their 'discovery'
  • potential for building up to a series of 'film & food' events on World Edible Insect Day

Campaign milestones

  • January & June 2015: planning meetings with the entire team in Copenhagen
  • alongside, build-up of initial outreach database (1,200 contacts), web design and NationBuilder implementation 
  • December 2015: launch of BUGSfeed four months ahead of BUGS the film
  • from then on, publishing up to three new articles a week, including one 'Bug of the Week' as special feature
  • March 2016: launch of a comprehensive directory for 'consumers', listing places that offer edible insects  
  • alongside, contacting hundreds of stakeholders individually (using their directory entry as a hook)
  • April 2016: world premiere of BUGS at Tribeca Film Festival, supported by an An Escamoles Extravaganza
  • May 2016: launch in Netherlands and Belgium (pioneers in insect production); most successful article: Fact check: Are insects better for you than meat?)

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  • June 2016: UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival; record number of Facebook post reactions (245) to a post about June Beetles
  • September 2016: Danish theatrical launch following a dedicated bilingual campaign with articles about Denmark and in Danish (single posts reaching up to 25,000 users in the target territory)
  • October 2016: content publishing ends due to lack of further funding
  • December 2016, one year from BUGSfeed launch: more than 17,000 individuals in the database, more than 4,500 emailable contacts, even though the grassroots event plans of this campaign have not been enacted
  • Spring 2017: film becomes available on VOD in many markets
  • Autumn 2017: US release planned by Kino Lorber – BUGSfeed a good basis as most website users and Facebook fans are in the US

Screenshot_2017-08-21_13.15.07.pngStrengths and numbers

  • successful audience build-up seen in database, on the web and social media
  • comprehensive coverage, more than 100 articles published (most popular overall: Is it dangerous to eat insects?)
  • 22 special features of a Bug of the Week (most popular: Asian Giant Hornet)
  • more than 82,500 pageviews by 28,000 separate users
  • constant cross-site connections ('Passing the Bug') underneath every article to keep people engaged on the platform and also discover the film
  • 50% of pageviews lasting longer than a minute and 25% lasting longer than 10 minutes, proof of the strategy to keep users on the site
  • high rate of mobile & tablet sessions (40%) thanks to responsive design
  • praised and used by experts in the field, some of them becoming BUGSfeed contributors themselves
  • Mapover 100 screenings worldwide individually promoted on site and social media (not counting theatrical releases)
  • whenever these screenings were turned into special events (with tasters and expert speakers, often through connections facilitated by BUGSfeed), this worked much better than plain theatrical
  • proactive social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with Facebook showing a total of 17,500 ‘likes’ and other reactions to our posts
  • average of 1,814 users reached per Facebook post; total for all posts more than 550,000 over one year (includes potential overlap)
  • all these numbers have created an asset in rightsholders' negotiations with buyers, as the film already comes with an anticipatory audience, helping to achieve very successful world sales of the film
  • potential to develop audience base into ambassadors for a grassroots approach (wordspreaders, hosts of screenings, local speakers)
  • concepts developed for additional community elements and educational models subject to further funding

Weaknesses

  • fear of 'disgust' still a huge obstacle despite best efforts, resulting in visitor drop-off and low theatrical numbers
  • initially very limited availability of the film to audiences; missing 'sales funnel' for users engaged through the site
  • focus on original content made BUGSfeed labour-intensive to produce, less expensive methods were needed for long-term maintenance
  • the critical stance of the film towards the emerging insect industry led to many 'entopreneurs' distancing themselves and becoming unavailable as partners  
  • limited availability of film director, protagonists and video clips for BUGSfeed (especially as TV series had to be edited simultaneously)
  • search engine difficulties: Google often reacted to searches for 'BUGSfeed' by suggesting users mean 'Buzzfeed' 
  • very successful world sales made the envisaged 'grassroots' campaign approach less feasible

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Outlook

  • we're in talks to see if BUGSfeed can assist distributors down the line, using structures for regionalised campaigns (in both content and language) as successfully tested in Denmark
  • research in strategies for overcoming disgust has shown: rational arguments are less effective than peer pressure, which in turn is less effective than promoting a unique opportunity – this needs to be reflected in further promotion
  • still potential for community-hosted film & food events if so desired down the line
  • potential for automating the re-publishing of articles, sourcing new crowd contributions
  • BUGSfeed has become a prime case study as the most comprehensive platform offering additional content ahead of a niche documentary release 

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