Paper Planes: Helping a Little Aussie Film Fly

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Much has been written recently about the lack of success of Australian films. Even Aussie films lauded at Cannes struggle to find audiences at home, and Roadshow had had three successive Australian films in 2014 performing below expectation.

Paper Planes was releasing around the same time as big hitters such as DreamWorks’ Penguins of Madagascar, Disney’s Big Hero 6 and Sony’s Annie. Paper Planes lacked the existing brand, big stars and buzz of these international releases.

And, a film about a paper plane competition! In today’s technology-ruled world, would kids even care? OMD research showed that paper-plane making was definitely not in kids’ list of top activities.

The key marketing challenge was making audiences connect with this film. Major US & UK releases come with global discussion and buzz (whether positive or negative) and usually big name cast members to drive pre-release awareness and engagement. Australian films start from zero, not to mention having much smaller marketing budgets. Building awareness through sparking a connection to the film was crucial, and OMD would have to make the film seem larger than it actually was to compete.

The brand insight was simple. This was a film that had a universal, timeless and accessible icon at its heart – the paper plane. Old-fashioned - maybe, not as cute as Penguins –definitely, but if the agency could somehow make paper planes seem like something fun and exciting, there was a big opportunity for this film.


Three consumer insights led OMD to the idea:

1. Children these days expect more than just a film; they expect an experience that lives well beyond the screen – whether through games, costumes, songs or toys. The classic activity of creating paper planes had tactile, real-world opportunity to make families care about this film…but would need strong amplification.

2. Summer holidays are a key time for family togetherness. Parents are always looking for accessible activities for children to do, particularly ones they can participate in together – whether it’s watching the cricket, going to the beach or doing creative things at home. Grandparents are also important in kids’ lives at this time of year, spending time with them when parents go back to work.

3. Kids are easily influenced when it comes to what’s cool. If they see their heroes doing something, it immediately earns credibility and they will want to get involved.


The strategy came to life via three clear imperatives:

Hero the paper plane over the cast and story. It’s iconic, easy to understand and provides a tool to create connection and awareness on a mass level, very quickly.

Make paper planes cool. To overcome the non-digital, old-fashioned nature of the paper plane, OMD would need a solid influencer strategy to overcome scepticism from kids. It couldn’t just rely on the planes either, it would need to integrate into spaces that kids trust, that play to their interests.

Make it about families, not just kids. Parents and grandparents would love the opportunity to connect with kids over something other than an iPhone – Paper Planes would be the perfect alternative to digital obsession.


To get paper planes back in the air and into the hands of families, OMD worked with Network10 TV to create paper plane-themed content at nationally televised cricket matches. Interstitials showed cricket heroes competing in paper plane competitions; directing viewers to vote online to win a family holiday. This partnership culminated in a major live televised cricket match the night before release, with families invited onto the ground to throw planes in front of hundreds-of-thousands of fans. Even the commentators got on board, throwing planes around the studio. 

To increase the cool-factor the agency recruited two Australian ‘Paper Pilots’ (one of whom ranked third in Red Bull’s Paper Plane World Championships) as ambassadors for the film. The Paper Pilots appeared on various kids and family TV programmes, as well as recording stunts for digital content.

To weave activity and film together, communications encouraged families to make paper planes at home and bring them to the cinema to let fly during screenings. Paper plane kits were handed out in cinema foyers, retail environments and aquatic centres.

Long-form content made for Nickelodeon (cut into a 30-second parent-targeted piece for other channels) showcased children making their planes, taking them to the cinema and reviewing the film; giving kids an all-important endorsement from a trusted source.

Understanding that parents need to keep their children entertained through the holidays, a search campaign was built around keywords on holiday activities for kids, sending them to a mobile-led site housing interactive paper plane games and how-to videos.


Paper Planes reached 37% prompted awareness the week before release – more than double that of every other Aussie film released by Roadshow in 2014.

The film made $1.71 million across opening weekend, with three consecutive days at number one of ALL films in Australian (ahead of Penguins of Madagascar & Big Hero 6), only beaten in week two by the release of American Sniper (which had the biggest ever January opening in the US), and even then still holding onto second position.

One week after release Paper Planes had already made 70% of its Box Office target, going on to make $2 million above target in 4 weeks, with projections of $3 million above the marketing objective over its lifetime - or in ticket terms -  over a quarter of a million Aussie kids.

The film’s success garnered attention from several mainstream news outlets, resulting in headlines like “Now Some Good News about Australian Film” (

Schools added paper plane making to the Aussie curriculum. OMD estimates that over 200,000 paper planes have been thrown since the release of the film, reinvigorating a classic, wholesome, real-life activity that can be shared by children, parents and grandparents all across Australia.

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Paper Planes
Brand Owner:
Roadshow Films
New Zealand
December - December 2014
Media Channel:
  • FMAs winner
  • FMAs shortlisted

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