Studio exex talk marketing coin

Panel talks about FTC violence report, reaching minority moviegoers

LAS VEGAS — A day after new figures showed film marketing costs rising 11% in the past year to $27.3 million per film, four top studio marketing execs on Wednesday sought to explain where those dollars go at a Variety-sponsored ShoWest panel.

In addition to costs, the group weighed in on the landscape since the FTC violence report; the relative value of television, print and the Internet; and approaches to reaching minority moviegoers.

Panelists included Arthur Cohen, Paramount’s worldwide marketing prexy; Warner Bros. domestic film marketing prexy Brad Ball; New Line prexy of theatrical marketing Joe Nimziki; and Miramax West Coast prexy Mark Gill.

“A lot of times film marketing seems overt and in your face,” said moderator Charles Koones, publisher-VP of Variety, kicking off the discussion. “But in fact it is a subtle business filled with nuance.”

Panel points

Among the nuances revealed at the panel:

  • A good one-sheet, while a worthy goal and certainly a fixation for producers, production execs and stars, actually has diminishing influence. In a typical marketing budget, TV ads often take up 65%-70% of spending, while one-sheets account for about 3%-5%. “Its role is a little overstated,” Ball said.

  • The best campaigns marry a film’s story elements with the personas of the stars. “Until two years ago, it was always stars,” Gill said. “Now more than ever, though, people want to be entertained by an enjoyable story.”

  • Platform releases make an already difficult task of marketing even tougher. By Nimziki’s count, roughly one in 20 platforms succeeds, and one reason is a constantly evolving, high-maintenance marketing challenge of such pics.

Panelists suggested, as had Motion Picture Assn. of America chief Jack Valenti in his remarks at ShoWest on Tuesday, that television ad rates were the culprit in rising marketing costs.

Increases to continue

Gill said increases should be expected to continue as long as reliably top-rated primetime windows continue to be so scarce amid record upfront ad sales.

Added Cohen, “The question should be, ‘What do I spend and what do I get for that spending?’ At Paramount, our marketing costs have remained fairly stable, but our average opening weekends have been up considerably.”

All four execs conceded that fallout from the FTC’s damning findings last fall has “kept us on our toes,” in the words of Nimziki. They denied that concerns about violent content have altered the film slates of most companies.

Another vigorous denial was prompted by a question about Academy Award campaigns.

“One misperception that needs to be dispelled is that we’re going out and spending money to buy a nomination,” said Gill, whose bosses at Miramax are at ground zero of such charges. “If that were true, every studio would have five nominees. Everybody is spending aggressively out there.”

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