ShoWest THR Marketing Summit


It's a whole new ballgame for today's movie marketers. Advertising buys once limited to print, television, radio and outdoor now include such options as online, cell phones and other mobile devices. New media have opened a vast new sea of promotional possibilities that integrate the entertainment experience, turning the marketing push into a marketing pull.

On March 15 in Las Vegas, The Hollywood Reporter gathered some of the industry's top executives at the second annual ShoWest THR Marketing Summit, sponsored by MSN. The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson moderated the panel "Reaching Consumers in the New Media World," which featured Starbucks Entertainment president Ken Lombard, Yahoo! Entertainment category development officer Vince Messina, Paramount Pictures senior vp interactive marketing Amy Powell, New Line Cinema president of domestic marketing Russell Schwartz and MSN director of branded entertainment and experiences Gayle Troberman.

The Hollywood Reporter: Gayle, your MSN job description says you "develop entertainment experiences that forge an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer." Can you explain that to us?
Gayle Troberman: (Laughs) Sure. When we think about branded entertainment in the online medium, in the MSN network, we think first about being where that consumer is and understanding what their lifestyle is in this new medium. Then you think about: How can you -- whether your product is a movie you're trying to launch and make people aware of, or it's a soda, or a car -- how can you create a connection? The first rule that we look at is, you've got to give the consumer a reason to want to bring you into a world that's increasingly personal. Whether it's my buddy list, my space, my digital photos or my music, this medium's incredibly personal -- so the first thing we think about is getting invited in.

Earlier, we showed some examples of work we've been doing with Warner Bros. to leverage things like an instant-messaging platform, to have a consumer choose to take your movie in -- that content -- and represent it back out to their world. So you enable self-expression -- "That movie's cool; that's interesting. I got it first; let me project that out" -- and become your own grass-roots marketer.

Being invited in is key. And then the second thing to think about in terms of forging an emotional connection in the interactive medium is that it is interactive. We're missing the mark so often when all we do is put a static message out there or just show a trailer online, when the power of the medium -- and if you want to create an emotional connection with that consumer -- is (to) let them shape that trailer, let them build that trailer, let them be part of that trailer, let them insert their photo into that. Let them become part of the experience because in this medium, communication is nonlinear and participatory.

If you want an emotional connection, there's no better way to do that than by letting the consumer actually shape or be part of that experience. Those are kind of the principles that forge the best emotional connections, and when you look at the results, they're kind of off the chart when you think about people who have been through these types of participatory experiences for a Sprite or a Volvo. Their connections to those brands -- the numbers are just dramatically different than those who haven't experienced brands (that way).

THR: Russell, have you been checking into this area at New Line, in terms of finding innovative ways to stick to the consumer?
Russell Schwartz: Yeah, to Gail's point, last year we actually launched a "You can be in 'Wedding Crashers'" trailer online -- sort of (like) our Budweiser commercial, where you actually crash the trailer. You were able to go online, go onto the site and take pictures of yourself, your friends, George Bush, Condoleezza Rice -- whoever -- and you can become Vince (Vaughn), you can become Owen (Wilson), or you could become Isla Fisher. That classic line, "I never thought my first time would be on a beach," (there were) 3 million unique trailers passed along. It was extraordinary, and we have a whole bunch of other things like that going on right now.

THR: Amy, you're the interactive guru at Paramount. How important is Internet marketing at your studio?
Amy Powell: It's extremely important and becoming more so every day. Innovative filmmakers will come to us first and say, "How can we look at interactive marketing first and foremost, before we even look at what we're doing for a trailer or a one-sheet?" They're really involved with creating the materials for online, first and foremost. Before a film's even being greenlighted, we're often going to the production and the filmmakers and saying, "How can we garner your fans online and work with them for you?"

A great example is "Nacho Libre," a new comedy starring Jack Black. We actually went down to Oaxaca (Mexico), brought Jack a camera and asked him to start taping his own confessionals from the set. Every day, he would go into his little confessional and actually record what was going on that day -- a very hysterical, you could say, promotion that we're putting together that we're launching exclusively with (Apple's) iTunes, and then it will go broader thereafter. It's really a behind-the-scenes look at what's going on from the filmmaker's perspective and allows a very open dialogue between the filmmaker and the talent -- and their fans and moviegoers -- without being censored by a journalist.
Tom Cruise is another example who really recognizes the importance of online. For "Mission: Impossible 3," he wanted to reach out to his fans before any traditional journalist was able to talk to him, and he has given us tons of exclusive content that we're working with and planning partnerships to promote, including with Yahoo!

THR: Vince, tell us more about that.
Vince Messina: The specifics of what we're working on with Paramount I can't talk about here, but I do want to jump on a point that Amy mentioned before, and I agree: Filmmakers are now more interested in working with the marketing departments in studios on interactive campaigns. I think part of that is the fact that it is very much a generational media, and as Gayle pointed out, it is all about engagement, it is all about being interactive -- the user feels like they own the media. That means that the challenge to marketers is to make sure that when they get the message across, they're doing it in a way that the user is invited in. If you violate that, the reaction can be quite negative. So understanding that line -- when we talk about engagement and we talk about involvement, when we talk about manipulating content to help create the message -- the user feels like they have a stake in that for the first time.
It's always challenging for marketers to make sure that they ride those lines but don't push users away -- part of that is a generational thing -- and when creative executives come in and say, "We'd like to talk to you about an interactive marketing campaign," part of that is the question of the fact that that's where they're spending their media (time). There's a generation of folks now that are between the ages of say, 24 and 34, that the Web is very much a part of their lives. They use it every day -- it's less other media, or at least not as much of other media -- and the Web represents more of the time that they spend entertaining themselves, so it's only natural that they would turn to companies that they work with and say, "Hey, I spend three hours a day doing this; what are we doing in this space?"

THR: Ken, you at Starbucks recently made your first movie deal with Lionsgate to promote "Akeelah and the Bee." Can you give us some background on the Hear Music audio line, your chain's initial foray into entertainment?
Ken Lombard: I think it's important to start with our overall strategy: What we're trying to do is really build Starbucks into a destination for our customers. And when you think about our customers and their needs, that is really what Starbucks is all about. A lot of people think that we're in the coffee business, but frankly, we're in the people business, and we just happen to be serving coffee.

We're now up to about 10,400 stores, and we open up five stores a day throughout the world. We've got over 40 million customers a week, and as important as anything is the frequency that our customers visit us. The core Starbucks customer is coming in up to 18 times a month, so from a retailer perspective, we are considered, if not the most-frequently visited retailer in the world, one of the most-frequently visited retailers.

We've started our (entertainment) strategy with music, and we were able to come in and get a tremendous amount of support from the labels, as they recognized that what we are doing is providing artists an opportunity to expose our customers to music in a way that's already part of their daily routine. With "Akeelah and the Bee," you won't see one trailer in our store, (and) you won't see one one-sheet. Our marketing group has come up with a very elegant way to go about exposing our customers: It's all about attempting to build awareness. We're going to take advantage of opportunities that we have in terms of leveraging our assets to really monetize the environment we have and the exposure that we can provide. The traditional model with a promotional partner is that they pay for some product placement, which we don't do -- we have no dollars invested in this film. What we were able to provide Lionsgate and this film is a tremendous amount of exposure that they typically would not get -- and do it in a way that they felt warranted a partnership participation in the film. That's our model going forward.

THR: So a gross participation in the film. Are you going to be selling DVDs?
Lombard: DVD is not a part of our deal, but the soundtrack is. We are not going to move the kind of numbers that the big-box retailers move on the DVD sales, so as we sat and did our due diligence, trying to figure out how we can add the most value, we structured a deal that we think will result in increased performance at the boxoffice for "Akeelah." Three times a year, we are going to do this. It's going to be very selective, on smaller films where we really feel we can add value. On a blockbuster, you really don't need it.

THR: Russell, you came prepared with a sheaf of information. Can you share some of your factoids about Internet and mobile spending?
Schwartz: The percentage of time spent on one medium while doing something else -- in other words, how many people are multitasking -- it's ridiculous: Telephone, Web, computer, cell phone and book are all 60%-70%. In other words, everybody who's doing that, 60%-70% of them are also doing something else -- (and) telephone is almost 90%. The idea of multitasking certainly fits in with what we're talking about. These kids are multitasking. How do we get them to multitask over to us? The other really interesting thing is the importance of the mobile phone. The question was, for 18- to 24-year-olds, which I guess is Gen Y: If you had to give up everything in your life and keep one thing, what would it be? The answer was mobile phones. And the first thing to go would be newspapers.
Troberman: On the multitasking, we have a statistic we use a lot, which just blows my mind, which is that the average 35- to 54-year-old can handle 1.3 things at once -- when you think about platforms, whether it's text-messaging and (instant-messaging) or phone and e-mail, any of those pairings of kind of media uses together. The average teen can handle effectively -- not just as doing, but can handle and can actually accomplish everything they want to -- 4.3 things at once. So they're text-messaging while they're IM-ing, they've got three conversation windows open, and they're watching a video. We don't think about that a whole bunch when we create marketing and advertising and content for those audiences, but it's just astounding how differently they're going to consume media.

THR: Let's talk about mobile phones. What is the future of trailers and reaching kids through mobile phones?
Schwartz: There are so many options. Let's not forget television, which is probably going to be just as prevalent as online. And cell phones, I think once they get more interactive -- to the point where you can download your shows or upload shows or interact with shows -- it's going to get even more interesting. In America, we've accumulated 281 million televisions in 50 years, 180 million computers in 20 years and 203 million cell phones in just 10 years. That really puts it in perspective.
Messina: There's an interesting figure: Worldwide, there are about 800 million PCs and about 2 billion cell phones. If you want to get a glimpse at the growth of interactivity on cell phones in the U.S., you can look overseas. More than half the people overseas have never used a PC to access the Internet -- their access has been through a mobile device.
Troberman: It's a phenomenon. Mobile, game consoles, PCs, IM-ing -- these are new platforms for (movie marketers), and in some ways you have to think of them as distribution vehicles, but secondly, you have to think about them from a content and experiential standpoint and what's appropriate, versus the first thing we always do is drop our trailers or some content there. The next thing is: How can we integrate them to be part of that experience? The gaming statistics -- IM-ing and gaming -- when you talk to marketers, they say, "Oh, that's for teens, and if it's a teen movie, we should absolutely do it." But those are becoming older, mainstream entertainment activities -- they're happening for 28-, 30-, 35-year-old men and women. You have to think of them not only as distribution opportunities but also as a new, rich, creative palette. What can you do in games? How can you insert your films and become part of those experiences? There's so much more potential.