“Entertainment Marketing Mavericks”, Advertising Age’s Second Annual Entertainment Marketer of the Year Awards.
By Elaine Morris Palmer as seen in Digitrends Daily Online July, 2000
Nothing succeeds like success and today the Casa del Mar hotel in Santa Monica, nine of the “most influential, creative and innovative marketing executives in the entertainment industry” were honored at Advertising Age’sSecond Annual Entertainment Marketer of the Year Awards.
In her opening remarks, Jill Manee, President of Advertising Age, explained that accolades in the entertainment industry typically go to the personalities in the forefront. But none, she said, would have those opportunities without marketing.
To underscore that fact, David S. Morris, Publisher of Entertainment Weekly, hopes this award, along with what he termed stronger, sophisticated coverage, will “shine the spotlight on an exciting and innovative segment” of the entertainment industry. By identifying successful entertainment product in the categories of film, theater, book and magazine publishing, music and gaming, today’s honorees were cited for breaking through, standing out, knowing and understanding the customer and reaching them effectively.
Though three of the nine panelists could not be at today’s luncheon and award
ceremony, emcee, Morris, Ad Age reporter and Moderator, Wayne Friedman, along with the six other participating panelists recounted heroic tales of 1999’s entertainment marketing miracles. The importance of partners was a running theme as the recipients, in accepting today’s awards, all acknowledged the teams behind them.
Brad Ball, President of Domestic Theatrical Marketing for Warner Brothers, saw 1999 box office success with top grossing films, “The Matrix”, “Analyze This”, “Pokemon”, “The Green Mile”, among others. Ball exercised damage control using Internet marketing to deflect negative buzz on the summer movie, “Wild Wild West”, and to help stir the pot for “The Matrix”. Most recently credited with box office smash, “The Perfect Storm”, which opened against Mel Gibson’s “Patriot” July 4th, Ball pumped the film’s $120 million marketing budget into wide audience appeal (PG 13 rating) by hyping the book’s success and heightening the movie’s spectacular special effects. (Ironically, the movies’ effects were so well executed, early audiences perceived them as real and didn’t site them at all in the test screenings.) Mr. Ball highly recommends partnering with America Online on any ambitious movie release. He just happens to be in the catbird seat.
Lyor Cohen, whose then-ambitious and now-standard break-with-convention tactics, has made underground and street marketing common practice in the record industry. Plastering telephone poles and sides of buildings with announcements, Cohen saw Def Jam records come from underdog status to a 1998 Grammy Award-winning label with groups Jay-Z and DMX helping the record company claim $40 million in profits that year. Eventually merged with Island Records by Seagram Co. the payout for Cohen and partner, Russell Simmons 40% share was $120 million.
Ann Godoff orchestrated Random House’s “The Greatest Generation” book release, with NBC’s Tom Brokaw, her “great marketing secret weapon”. Because of NBC’s, almost 25% stake in the book, the network became the major publicity venue. Along with the one-hour NBC documentary, NBC “Nightly News With Tom Brokaw” end-of-show features relating to veterans, network program appearances and cable and Internet promotions, not a marketing stone was left unturned. Now, Ms. Godoff, Random House’s president, publisher and editor in chief, has 36 printings and 3.5 million copies of the book sold and The New York Times bestseller list Top 10 to show for it.
Amorette Jones, Executive VP, worldwide marketing for Artisan Pictures whose revenues for the film, “Blair Witch Project” are now projected in the $200 million range, suggests that “understanding your target consumers and providing access to what they like” is the key. The celebrated Blair Witch website built the legend. Along with the intensity and effort of a well-planned grass roots political campaign it hit home the one to one to many marketing campaign strategy which has been notoriously emblazoned in the minds of film marketers ever since.
Roberta Mell, HBO’s VP-marketing ever seeking to “reinforce the basic tenet that HBO is bigger and better than TV”, targeted subscribers to the cable network, linked the critically acclaimed “Sopranos” to the network every chance she got and premiered the show last January 16 with the seventh largest viewing audience ever for an HBO original program. According to Advertising Age, Ms Mell made sure marketing materials matched editorial environments. Whether in print, broadcast or advertising, HBO was always mentioned. Even on music stations playing the Sony Corp-partnered soundtrack which, by the way, hit a high on the Billboard 200 at No. 68. Subscriberships on HBO climbed by the end of 1999, and though there are no exact figures on how “The Sopranos” has affected those numbers, people across the country are calling cable operators and posting to “The Sopranos” web site bulletin board saying they are signing up because of the show.
Peter Moore, senior VP-marketing, Sega of America, deployed guerrilla and viral marketing tactics including a 39-city “Dreamcast Mobile Assault Tour” to build a bridge back to retailers, game developers and mostly hard-core gamers in a category it once dominated, bar none. Firmly “taking gaming where gaming is going”, Moore is largely responsible for getting company sales back on track. To reconnect with its core audience, Moore returned the company’s marketing focus to its “brand essence” – defiant, independent, unexpected. Sega’s hope is to broaden its appeal to an even bigger group without disenfranchising the original audience. How? The answer may be in a recent introduction of Sega’s forthcoming content partnership with Excite@Home and AT&T WorldNet Services, Dreamcast Network, a partnership with MP3.com and Sega.net, the new gaming ISP. “We’ll widen the net”, says Moore, “by having the delivery, the facilitation and the content.
Marc Shmuger, Universal Pictures’ President of Marketing, believes in today’s hyper-competitive marketing atmosphere the “basic calculus for reaching an audience and what you can rely of for success has shifted again”. Five years ago, entertainment
media messages were pushed to the widest possible audience in a very one-way process. Shmuger believes radical shifts in viewer participation means radical strategizing of how to capture and keep customer relationships with a studios’ products far beyond a blockbuster opening weekend. As an example, Shmuger sees at least one slated movie promotion as an opportunity to depart from the “traditional inefficient, unsophisticated and incredibly expensive” use of television to reach an audience by reducing exposure on television to 1/5 of what it has been for past movie introductions and promotions. The “courage to make those moves” is what’s called for. French conglomerate, Vivendi’s purchase of Universal certainly won’t hurt. Vivendi’s property, Vizzavi, is Europe’s answer to AOL and a free portal that would appear as the default home page for its combined 80 million subscribers of Vodafone, Canal+ and Cegetel.
Harvey Wasserman is the CEO of H&S Media and king of the single-focus magazine.
Success for H&S means giving the people what they want in a capitalize-on-the-moment, one-shot publication. Newsstand sales drive his revenue model, not advertising
sales, like other magazines. Wasserman’s meager advertising to editorial ratio is 20-80
because the secret to successful newsstand sales, Wasserman will tell you, is being first
to market. And he always is. A Tribute to Diana: In Our Hearts Forever was on newsstands within a week of Princess Diana’s funeral. The 96-page commemorative magazine, John F. Kennedy Jr, : Eternal Love, hit newsstands only five days after John F. Kennedy Jr.’s death. Wasserman churned out and sold 1 million copies at a cover
price of $5.95 in just 48 hours. How does he do it? Wasserman spent his life in distribution and knows what sells. The H&S forms partnerships with companies who bring commodities they don’t have. They not only capture “the pulse of society,”
they do it with quick turnaround to be first on the stands.
Alan Cohen Executive VP – Marketing, ABC Entertainment Group could rest on
his Who Wants To Be A Millionaire laurels for quite a while, or would think. The show successfully pulled in more viewers last January 25 than any other ABC show since the early 80’s. The key to successful marketing according to Cohen is being more creative and aggressive than the other guys and spending more money. At ABC, this translates to running more show promos, using viral marketing strategies including online chats with the shows’ stars on ABC.com, tie-ins, contest giveaways and branding efforts to make the network appear more friendly and accessible to the viewing audience.
But leading the reality show craze that’s taken over network prime time and sustaining Millionaire’s lead is the big challenge now. As Cohen himself says, “It takes more than a hit show to bring a network from #3 to #1. It takes a hit show you can run 4 times a week.” Which is how many times Millionaire will run next Fall. The show still holds a #3 or 4 slot in the Nielsen’s every week. But viewing patterns change. Among tacks the show takes besides, of course, making stars out of real people practically overnight are “stunts” such as the Celebrity Millionaire show which created a huge rating spike. “We are not scared,” declared Cohen, whose network is launching 2 more reality shows in the Fall.
E.commerce Media Communications is a Los Angeles-based Integrated Solutions provider. Elaine Morris Palmer can be reached