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Kerry Washington took a break from shooting Little Fires Everywhere to speak about engaging with female viewers and consumers at a Cannes Lions event with Hulu’s chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell.
Washington, who is adapting Celeste Ng’s bestseller for the streamer under her Simpson Street Productions banner, said she chose Hulu over other platforms due to data. “Hulu was the winner for us, not only because of the passion in the room but the data indicated to us how direct our relationship could be with the audience,” she said.
“It indicated to us that we knew where people were going to watch me already, we knew where people were watching Reese [Witherspoon], and we knew who would be into the content we were creating.”
Other platforms “did not have that level of specificity,” she said, adding that the production won’t be ruled by the numbers. “[We’re] willing to look at the data and take risks from the data, not just try to repeat the data, but let the data inform the risk-taking,” she said. “It’s not saying what we won’t do according to the data, but what risks can we afford to take leveraging our data to support our creative challenges.”
In May, the streamer announced it had reached 28 million subscribers.
Campbell said that the streamer also used the data to solidify its faith that Fires would do well on the platform since it has created a brand identity around strong female characters, led by The Handmaid’s Tale and Shrill. Because the subscribers can switch between various ad levels month-to-month, they are able to “have a sense not only of what people are watching, but what they think it’s worth.”
Campbell touched briefly on the upcoming Disney, Warner and NBC streamer launches, saying that with “competitors coming in from every angle” they will continue to focus on building brand recognition and creating connection with viewers. She cited Instagram as the social media platform where fans interact directly with the actors and each other and build brand loyalty for shows such as Tale.
Washington said Simpson Street is platform agnostic and she is still in development on a show for traditional network ABC. The biggest challenge with that show will be connecting with viewers without the deep data of a streamer. She indicated that drive will be social media campaigns, as well as meet-and-greets and in-person Q&As with viewers.
She is also producing Mannequin Life, which will delve into the lives of male models. “It’s about men who feel less than because they’re in a community where there is not pay equity and they’re dealing with a lot of issues that are traditionally thought of as women’s issues, like eating disorders.”
As far as the common theme among her productions, she added: “We’re invested in telling stories about anybody who is in a disenfranchised community, anybody who’s story has been thought of as peripheral, putting that story at the center of the content. … We really believe that we are living in a time when empathy is more important than ever before.”
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