Interactive, inside innovator

New Line's Paddison one of the first to see potential of Web's global reach

He’s being honored today as Integrate ’05’s Integrated Marketer of the Year. But over the course of a decade, perhaps nobody did more than Gordon Paddison to make studio marketers stop worrying and love the Internet.

A vigorous proponent of interactive promotion dating back to the Web’s early years, the New Line integrated marketing topper was among the first studio execs to support the syndication of content to fan sites, allowing them to have official video, photos and other production elements on their pages.

“While other studios were trying to squash fan sites, Gordon and his team harnessed the power of the Internet fan and used it to his advantage,” says Jim Moloshok, a former Warner Bros. exec, now senior VP of branded entertainment for Yahoo.

“He had a realistic understanding that fan sites are like mushrooms in my back yard,” Moloshok adds. “You can remove one, but 10 more will pop up. Instead of shutting them down, he just developed a recipe for mushroom soup. I bet that 90% of the materials that appear on the fan sites are materials that New Line wanted to appear on their sites.”

Paddison’s team now serves as a single entry point for promotional opportunities across all windows of release for the New Line’s properties.

Recent endeavors include a novel integrated campaign with Budweiser for the July 15 release of New Line’s “Wedding Crashers,” in which Web users can “crash” the film’s trailer by inserting images of themselves in the footage.

Also notable was a promotion for “The Notebook” last summer. Paddison’s team got Nicholas Sparks — author of the pic’s source novel — to answer fans’ questions on the Wal-Mart Web site. The promo helped the film gross $110 million and the Warner Books release jump to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for the first time since its original release years prior.

Despite these recent successes, Paddison is still best known for the groundbreaking Web site New Line built to support “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. A full year before the first film’s theatrical teaser trailer was put out, Paddison’s team created an online event, giving fans their first peek at “LOTR” footage.

The site delivered over 6.6 million downloads, while integrating user chat, games and trivia.

“During the production and marketing stage of development, there were millions of fan malcontents waiting for a production or studio mistep,” Paddison notes. “Our best success was in our embrace of the fanbase and having a true community approach to the trilogy.”

“Gordon’s work was essential to the franchise’s global success,” says “Rings” director Peter Jackson. “He understood earlier than anyone else that the (‘Rings’) books may not have been relevant to today’s generation, that fantasy films historically didn’t do well at the box office, and finally, that a studio can’t prevent fan Web sites from functioning independently.”

Sony integrated marketing exec Ira Rubinstein sums it up this way: “I know that the online campaign for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy will become a case study in marketing classes years from now.”

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