The (Un)expected Effects of Piracy
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology explored the average consumer’s behaviour when purchasing items in supermarkets. The study revealed that when consumers are exposed to specific visual property, they are prone to pay more attention to certain items and consequently, the probability of purchasing this item is increased. To elaborate, specific colors, the positioning of items on shelves, certain scents and even the music playing inside a store can stimulate the acquisition act.
Neuromarketing in the Intellectual Property Context
The notion of strategic exposure can similarly be applied to movie preferences and this is perhaps where Neuromarketing and intellectual property meet, especially in terms of illegal acts such as piracy.
In Brazil, the movie production industry is fast growing and changing the way whereby movies are consumed. In the past few years, Brazil’s movie watchers were considered a minority and/ of peculiar taste; today, those who watch national movies are people who appreciate Brazilian culture.
‘Tropa de Elite’ and the Piracy Effect
An example of a relatively recent Brazilian blockbuster is “Tropa de Elite” (Elite Squad), directed and produced by José Padilha in 2007, and the recipient of the Golden Bear Award at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival. Brazilians knew every single detail of this movie and it was considered a singularity in terms of popularity.
Notwithstanding the quality of the movie’s actor’s and plot, many Brazilians knew about the existence of the film due to piracy. Two months before the movie was released, the piracy began. This was crucial to the spreading of the novelty of the film and it did not decrease investments made to produce the film, but on the contrary, increased investments. Some people even said that it was a marketing strategy, but the director denied all of these speculations.
This is not an isolated case in Brazil. The film, Hulk (2003), was pirated two weeks before its release, but apparently this did not affect the profit made, US$ 245.38 million, in comparison to the amount spent, US$ 135 million. There are many examples that illustrates the piracy reaction: American Gangster (2007), spent US$ 100 million, and profited US$ 265.5 million; Sicko (2007), spent US$ 9 million and profited US$ 24.5 million, and Halloween (2007), spent US$ 15 million and profited US$ 60.4 million. All of these titles were disclosed months or weeks before the premiere.
If the neuromarketing study demonstrates that the more consumers are familiar with and exposed to (sight, scent, taste, touch and sound) a product, the higher the likelihood of them buying the item; the oversimplified conclusion is that the more watchers are in contact with a movie, the more likely they are to watch the film. Nevertheless, it is not this simple because there are intricate issues involving numerous stakeholders and interests.
Striking a Balance
However, these interests can be better understood and explored in order to create a solution for both sides involved, consumer and seller. Generally speaking, consumers usually do not like to wait to have the option to buy a film, while a seller needs to sell as much as they can to make a profit. Can these interested be reconciled or harmonized? Would it be possible to allow the public to watch a movie quickly and in such a way that will not reduce the profit? Could this action increase the film’s popularity?
Moreover, it is not only the act of going to the cinema that makes a movie successful. Producers can profit from all of the goods, music and merchandise surrounding a film.
Furthermore, the number of moviegoers is decreasing and no longer represents the biggest share of profit. In Brazil, according to IBOPE (Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statics), only 16% of the population habitually goes to the cinema while 88% of the population watch movies on television or online. This pattern of behaviour ought not to be disregarded.
This commentary is not a defense to piracy; rather, it is intended to challenge us to think about movie consumption in a manner that is beneficial for all interests involved. For the producer, profiting and gaining popularity with the film, and the consumer, gaining an opportunity to watch a film where and how s/he wants without breaking the law.