Marketing summit: Rules of ‘engagement’

Relationships with auds a powerful, if poorly understood, tool

Theatrical marketing is at a time of unprecedented one-on-one access to moviegoers — but exactly how to take advantage of that feedback is not entirely certain from one film to the next, Hollywood’s top marketing minds agreed Wednesday at Variety’s Film Marketing Summit.

And while plenty has been said about the importance of marketing on multiple platforms, simply ticking off all the boxes is not enough.

“Online is important, social media is important — it’s all important,” said Josh Greenstein, chief marketing officer at Paramount. “But it’s more important how it all works together, what the message is, what the timing is.”

The purpose of that message, of course, is to get the public into theaters — bizzers agreed that opening box-office weekend is still what keeps them up at night.

“If you’re not successful on the opening weekend and in that initial campaign, you don’t usually have the opportunity for that bigger revenue success,” said Anne Globe, worldwide head of marketing at consumer products at DreamWorks Animation.

Strategies for initial marketing campaigns often can rely on the type of filmmaker a marketing team works with. Tony Sella, chief creative officer and prexy of domestic theatrical marketing at Fox,remarked that it’s a “one in a million” chance to find a helmer like Ridley Scott, who can point out promotional opportunities and understands marketing because of an extensive background shooting ads. Relativity Media marketing prexy Terry Curtin concurred, adding that “it’s great to find people who are willing to shoot additional content” for infotainment on multimedia platforms.

But while recognizing the benefits of such strategies, Greenstein advised that keeping marketing separate from the filmmaking process might be a wiser choice for some productions, especially those featuring filmmakers of the caliber of Martin Scorsese or Robert Zemeckis.

Marketing can become even trickier with a movie that lacks an easily packaged, high-concept angle. In this case, Stephen Bruno, prexy of marketing at the Weinstein Company, pointed to his experience in describing the challenge of marketing such nuanced pics, noting that marketers have to inject the pic into the zeitgeist so people have a fear of missing it.

Sella suggested more extreme tactic as a last option: Tweaking the angle of the marketing to sell the pic, even if it ends up distorting the representation of the film itself.

“My take with filmmakers is that we’ve gotta try to fill that theater up so that people experience this film you’ve made,” Sella said. “We’ll do it however we need to do it.”

Confab, held in association with Stradella Road, took place at the Intercontinental Hotel in Los Angeles.