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Gurus in the new age of marketing

Individuals at the cutting edge of film promo

DOUG NEIL

Senior VP, digital marketing, Universal Pictures

For Neil, who headed AOL’s entertainment strategy prior to joining Universal, digital marketing touches all facets of traditional marketing.

“It’s all integrated, and the campaigns all tie together,” he says. “If we put a program together for YouTube or AOL, we’re touching on creative elements and publicity as well as marketing promotions. Look at what’s changed just in the last few years. When I began, YouTube was hardly on the radar, Twitter didn’t exist, and now they’re key parts of our campaigns.”

Neil’s most successful campaign: “Fast and Furious,” which broke records when it opened April 3. “We had 500,000 friends on our ‘Fast and Furious’ Facebook page back then. Now we’re well over 1 million, which just shows the power of the brand and word of mouth online. That’s an amazing core group for us to remarket to for the DVD release and future installments. That really helps us measure the success of a film.”

DAVID SINGH

Executive VP, marketing, Disney

A Disney advertising veteran, Singh has seen online “grow and grow” at the expense of traditional campaigns. “I took over (digital) three years ago, and the great thing about it is the chance you have to engage someone on a totally different interactive level, and really let them become evangelists for you,” he says. “But the digital marketing space evolves constantly, so you have to be very innovative and creative to stay ahead of the curve.”

Singh measures success by tracking awareness and interaction, “but ultimately it’s ticket sales at the box office that really matter,” he notes. Recent success stories include “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and “High School Musical 3.” “We were able to find an audience online that no longer considered themselves fans of the franchise and get them to re-engage with the films,” he says.

DWIGHT CAINES

President, worldwide digital marketing, Sony

Coming from the ranks of market research, Caines was a natural fit to head up the company’s digital marketing arm. “I saw it as a great combination of both the creative side and the information and technology side,” he says. “In the past, digital marketing used to be just website-focused and separate from traditional marketing. Now, they’re far more integrated.” After some 200 digital campaigns, Caines measures success by the most low-tech but best barometer: “We look at opening-weekend exit polls and check what recall consumers have about some digital thing we did.” A key skill: “Being able to identify when we’ve built enough on a website, game or Twitter campaign, and understanding the difference between some of the fleeting transactions with consumers and the deeply immersive experiences we can create.” Caines believes that digital marketing will continue to grow at the expense of traditional marketing.

AMY POWELL

Senior VP, Interactive Marketing, Paramount

“Digital marketing entails a much richer, more immersive experience, in that we involve consumers in blogging and talking about a film, so that they become marketers themselves,” says Powell. “While traditional marketing is much more ‘push messaging,’ ours is much more push-and-pull and interactive.” Powell sees a key skill as “being humble enough to realize we don’t know everything. You need to take the time to listen and observe, and spend time on the blogs and social networks, and it’s a very time-consuming, labor-intensive responsibility.” Powell cites the ’08 hit “Cloverfield” as “a great example” of engaging fans. “We did this huge viral ARG (alternate reality game) campaign with J.J. Abrams and his team; it was very successful and a key part in helping the movie open so big.” Looking ahead, Powell sees all marketing strategies gradually converging into “one new platform, where they all support each other.”

JAKE ZIM

VP, Digital Marketing, Fox

Former website builder Zim joined Fox after stints at Lionsgate and Fox Atomic. “We have a key opportunity with digital marketing to create content and really place it in front of engaged audiences,” he says. “Because digital is such a niche and fragmented world, we can go after specific, targeted audiences.” Technological and entrepreneurial skills are both needed. Plus, he adds, “You need the ability to make quick decisions, as digital is such a moving target. You have to innovate, take risks and make gut decisions based on analyzing real data.” For Zim, how a movie performs is the “ultimate takeaway” in judging a campaign’s success, although measuring views of created content on such site as YouTube and Facebook “also tells us a lot.” He doesn’t see digital marketing sidelining traditional marketing, but increasingly supporting it.

MICHAEL TRITTER

Senior VP, interactive marketing, Warner Bros.

Tritter, whose first job at Warners was coding HTML for fledgling movie websites, says while traditional and digital marketing share disciplines, “there’s also a much closer and targeted set of tools available digitally. You know very clearly who you’re speaking to on Facebook; you can directly engage or woo potential fans on Twitter; you can actually close the loop and have a customer purchase a ticket on their phone.”

Exit and anecdotal research reveal where digital campaigns landed in the mix, adds Tritter, who believes that digital campaigns for “The Dark Knight” and “I Am Legend” were “tremendously effective, while the ‘300’ campaign did a great job of building on a niche, core fanbase and turning an unknown  property without big stars into a mainstream success.”

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