Case Study: Communication and localization strategy that help Avatar 2 make a mark on every touchpoint with millions of Vietnamese audiences

This article is also available in Vietnamese

After 13 years since the release of Avatar - the iconic 3D series that sparked a worldwide craze, this blockbuster franchise officially returned to the big screen in December 2022 with its sequel, namely Avatar: The Way Of Water.

After only 2 months in theaters, director James Cameron's blockbuster has grossed more than $2.2 billion and become the third highest-grossing film in world cinema history. In Vietnam, "Avatar: The Way Of Water" also achieved impressive ticket sales with more than 277 billion VND as of March 3, 2023. In addition to the resounding success in terms of revenue, the work also created "explosive" effects in terms of communication and became a topic of discussion on forums and social networks in recent times.

Let's learn about the strategy behind the success of "cinematic wonder" through the sharing from the media team of "Avatar: The Way Of Water" in the Vietnamese market in the article below.

*In some cases, the author uses "Avatar 2" instead of the movie name "Avatar: The Way Of Water"

After nearly 2 years of "freezing" due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the movie market in Vietnam has gradually entered the recovery phase since April 2022. Before Avatar 2 was officially released on the 16th of December 2022, the theatrical film market was quite bleak with a few notable Hollywood movies and a series of Vietnamese films that were released but did not really make a huge impact.

Following the success of the 2009 version, "Avatar: The Way Of Water" has quickly attracted the attention of a large audience around the globe right from the first information revealed. A series of articles on global entertainment news sites have focused attention on the return of the "3D movie icon" as well as looking forward to the next breakthrough of James Cameron - the director of many billion-dollar films.

In Vietnam, besides the advantages from the halo effect of Part 1, the movie as well as the media team also face many challenges when this brand is only really popular with the Millennials (from 30 years old onwards). Meanwhile, the younger audience isn't familiar with Avatar very well or even at all. This has raised the question of how a movie that was released 13 years ago can still have an impact on Vietnamese viewers in the same way that it did on American viewers.

Besides, according to a representative of Galaxy Links, the movie communication team in Vietnam, the release time of Avatar 2 also faces certain challenges when the 2023 Tet period comes early in the middle of January and the movie only has a chance to break through in just 3 weeks.

According to a share from a Galaxy Links spokesperson, the communication campaign of "Avatar: The Way Of Water" is built based on 3 insights aimed at the target audience, which is the mass audience in the age group of 13–45, including:

1. The average movie ticket price in 2022 in Vietnam is the highest recorded. After the New Normal has ended, Young millennials and Gen Z (aged 16 to 34) have a tendency to spend more on entertainment services, typically movies.

2. The proportion of moviegoers in 3D format has grown significantly, surpassing the rate of ordinary 2D moviegoers on the re-release of the first part of the film in September 2022.

3. The admiration and trust of the domestic audience for director James Cameron, which has been engraved in the minds of many generations through films such as Titanic, Terminator, and Avatar 1

Realizing that the potential audience is more willing to spend on special entertainment formats, the Avatar 2 media team has taken a strategic approach by focusing heavily on the outstanding quality of the filmmaking technology as well as the name and legacy of the Avatar brand instead of exploiting the content perspective on the family theme, which is considered "dogmatic" and less groundbreaking.

In general, the communication strategy of "Avatar: Way of Water" is extended from October 2022 to the Tet period of 2023 and divided into 3 phases: Pre-season, Launching and In-season.

Online and offline communication activities are combined throughout to ensure the best spread of the film to the mass audience. In particular, in this campaign, social media acts as a key platform to deliver content to a wide audience.

Phase 1: Pre-season

With the goal of building awareness and attracting the curiosity of the general audience about the return of the film, the communication team mainly focused on the strategy of spreading the message "Avatar 2 is coming back after 13 years of waiting" using social media posts and several PR articles in the most reputable local news outlet.

At this phase, content is deployed in two main pillars:

1. Movie Info

2. Legacy of the "Avatar" franchise

From the above two orientations, the theme and content angles are also diversified accordingly, from the filmmaking process, the story from the director/actor/character, to looking back at the far-reaching influence of Avatar in the film. for a decade since it was first introduced to the audience.

Also, the media team of "Avatar: The Way of Water" has a more strategic calculation when working with a single influencer, in contrast to projects that take advantage of the heat from influencers and KOLs in promotion efforts. Galaxy Links revealed that the influencer must fit the tone of the movie in the Vietnamese market. This is just one of many aspects that they carefully take into account.

With this campaign, rapper Karik is chosen to accompany and participate in the promotion process throughout the campaign, from pre-season to in-season, through dubbing activities, photoshoots, promotional videos, and attending the film's red carpet event.

Simultaneously, offline activities are also implemented to reach different audiences, such as DOOH at LCD systems at commercial centers in big cities, covered with banners, posters, photo booths, etc., at all cinemas across the country. Decorating the theater according to the film's theme is a tactic often used by the "movie giants" to create an interactive experience and immerse the audience in the context of the movie. Similarly, with this campaign, the Avatar 2 team also took advantage of the Galaxy Tan Binh theater to change the context of Pandora's sea, causing many viewers to exclaim impressively.

In early December 2022, the Pandora World Experience area with a full 3D mapping room was introduced at the SC VivoCity shopping mall, which also contributed to helping the film reach a wider audience, especially family audiences.

Stage 2: Launching

Implemented a week before the official release of the film, Avatar 2's communication activities are pushed to the limit on multiple platforms to encourage audiences to book tickets early as well as create a wave of discussion about the movie anywhere, on any forum and distribution channel.

Specifically, the team has cooperated with the leading ad networks in Vietnam, covering a series of large and small news sites with movie banners through mass direct buying and programmatic buying. During the release week, a variety of ad formats were optimized such as masthead, in-page, homepage banners, pop-up banners, etc. to help reach a large audience and build awareness of the film. 

PR activities in newspapers, the implementation of social content, and offline communication are also especially promoted at this stage so that the film receives great attention from the public.

Thanks to these efforts, the communication effect of "Avatar: The Way Of Water" really exploded during its release weekend. Avatar 2 received a perfect score on Google Trends for audience interest. Along with that, there are articles from reputable websites and a series of social post reviews and discussions about the movie on fan pages and community groups with "huge" followers.

Stage 3: IN-SEASON

After the official premiere and the explosion on social networks, "Avatar: The Way of Water" continues to carry out communication activities to keep the heat on and identify the film's brand with the general audience. The main content deployed at this stage mainly revolves around two content pillars:

1. The ultimate cinematic experience

2. The entertainment of the movie

Similar to its predecessor, Avatar 2 has a less complex plot but places more of an emphasis on providing the audience with a "visual feast" of vibrant and lifelike special effects images that transport viewers to the real world of Pandora. Accordingly, the media orientation also focuses on the movie viewing experience to arouse curiosity and force the audience to go to the theater, because if only focusing on the content, the audience can approach it in other ways, such as by reading reviews, spoiling, or watching pirated movies. Instead, by hitting on emotions and experiences, the campaign's target audience could hardly refuse the opportunity to experience the pinnacle of cinema directly through this film.

Key assets in the in-season period are also exploited in a variety of ways, from short videos, images, reviews, and memes to hypothetical analysis and hidden details in the film, helping to create a similarity and stimulate audience discussion.

Offline communication activities are also carefully calculated by the team based on the timing of the market. Avatar 2 hits theaters at the end of the year when people have a high shopping demand to prepare for Tet 2023. Taking advantage of this, the communication team has deployed and maintained D-OOH at the shopping center, where many groups of family audiences of all ages gather, thereby helping the film to maintain its recognition and heat in the market.

In early January 2023, the team performed the Canoe Stunt by dressing like a Navi who canoed around the Saigon River on New Year's Eve, attracting the attention of a large audience and the media. Sharing about this activity, a representative from Galaxy Links said: "Despite falling in the low season of the market, this activity still receives a response from social networking sites. Although not actively promoting communication through paid media, this activity still received more than 25 earned posts from community pages and groups with a number of followers/members over 100,000. This has contributed to solidifying the No. 1 box office position of 'Avatar: The Way of Water' ahead of the Tet holiday."

Contributing to the success of the communication campaign of "Avatar: The Way of Water" is the team's efforts in adapting to the Vietnamese market and local culture. The priority audience of this campaign is mostly young people from Gen Z and Young millennials whose awareness of the Avatar brand is not high. The film also encountered certain barriers because the sci-fi film genre was not popular in the Vietnamese market. The production team had a smart move when re-releasing the Avatar 2009 in September 2022. Through this re-release, Vietnamese audiences have the opportunity to enjoy the cinematic wonder that stirred the world's screens 13 years ago and set the stage for the upcoming sequel.


Part 1 of the "blockbuster" Avatar is re-released after 13 years in 4K format, making an important contribution to bringing the film closer to young audiences.

According to the report of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, the box office revenue of dub films in the Vietnamese market in 2020 reached 20.8 million USD and had tendency to grow year by year. It can be seen that dubbed films have been gradually accepted by the audience in the Vietnamese market. However, the dubbed version is really popular with cartoons with a younger audience. With the film's main target audience being adults, the dub version is often less popular because of limitations such as sound quality, translation style, or unsuitable voice actors, which limit their movie enjoyment experience.

Understanding this, the production team took the initiative in researching and measuring social sentiment to choose idioms and phrases familiar to young people and make the dubbed version more accessible to the audience. Particularly, this is the first live-action film to be dub for the Vietnamese market.

However, if only investing in content and dubbing languages, it is difficult for the production team to attract the attention of the mass audience. The collaboration with male rapper Karik in the dub version is part of Avatar 2's localization strategy. As one of the pioneering and most prominent rappers in the Vietnamese market, regularly featured in many gameshows with high coverage in the community such as Rap Viet or Running Man Vietnam, Karik is the perfect "ace" to help bring the film closer to the mass audience.

Karik's casting video has humorous and engaging content, attracting the attention of the Vietnamese audience.

The localization effort in the film's media campaign is also reflected in the way the team continuously measures social metrics and social sentiments on a weekly basis. Therefore, they can monitor response levels, draw audience insights, and change or supplement ideas for media content that hits the audience's psychology.


The scene of Neytiri wrapping the cake in the movie was used by the crew to remind the audience of the image of Vietnamese cake, creating excitement in the online community.


The photos of the Navi people who get lost on the streets of Vietnam make a "trend" on social networking sites.

In addition, the media team of "Avatar: The Way Of Water" has an extremely interesting approach when launching the Canoe Stunt activity in early January 2023. From the vast and magnificent ocean world of the fictional Pandora civilization, the two characters Jake and Neytiri are "turned into reality" with their version of disguise and adventure on the Saigon River. This idyllic, intimate image plays a role in promoting and creating curiosity for the mass audience, and at the same time arouses interest and discussion from loyal fans of the billion-dollar franchise when witnessing it with their own eyes. See the characters of the fictional civilization in the movie.

Up to now, "Avatar: The Way of water" has earned 277 billion VND after more than 2 months of release (according to Box Office Vietnam's statistics). At the same time, this work is also ranked 4th among the best-selling works of all time in the Vietnamese market, behind Nha Ba Nu, Bo Gia and Avengers: Endgame.

This blockbuster also achieved great success in terms of media when "Avatar: The Way of Water" continuously reached the top 10 most popular keywords on social networks in Vietnam during the period from December 6 to 26, 2022 (according to Younet Media), the movie has the highest level of interest over time on Google Trends, and the hashtags #AvatarDongChayCuaNuoc and #DongChayCuaNuoc also garnered nearly 15 million views on the TikTok platform.

The above impressive results of "Avatar: The Way of Water" have once again confirmed Director James Cameron's filmmaking talent and timeless thinking, and at the same time are a testament to the relentless efforts of the communication team in bringing the film closer to the audience in the Vietnamese market.

Case Study: Communication and localization strategy that help Avatar 2 make a mark on every touchpoint with millions of Vietnamese audiences

Thảo Vy

Thảo Vy

Content Creator | Advertising Vietnam

06 Thg 03 2023


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