10 Things We Learned at Variety’s Massive Summit

At Variety‘s Massive Summit presented by Deloitte, advertisers, studio and TV content partners and digital media brands gathered to discuss the future of entertainment at the UCLA’s Luskin Conference Center. Panelists spoke on the best strategies for brand awareness and campaigns as the entertainment world spreads across a number of platforms and medias. Kevin Hart also joined the event as the keynote speaker, talking about his off-screen work with his production company and his plans to take over Hollywood.

Here are our ten biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s summit:

How Toys “R” Us’ Closure Will Impact the Entertainment Industry 

Nickelodeon’s chief marketing officer Pam Kaufman spoke about the former toy giant announcing this week it was closing all its stores, and the heavy impact that would have on the brand. “Toys ‘R’ Us is very very sad, it’s very sad to see Toys ‘R’ Us go. For us they were a very important partner, they were a partner where we were able to launch and test,” Kaufman said during the “State of the Entertainment Franchise” panel. “You can’t always do that at Walmart and Target, these are big companies, I think of them as cruise ships, and Toys R Us was a great company to test new IP, they were a great advertising partner, they were a global partner. They’re going to be missed in this industry.”

Marvel’s Hesitations About Entering the Virtual Reality World

Mindy Hamilton, head of global partnerships at Marvel Entertainment, addressed why the company hasn’t gotten too involved in virtual reality during the “State of the Entertainment Franchise” panel. “You’d be surprised, Marvel has been very cautious about getting into that because there’s really bad VR out there and the really good VR is super, super expensive and it takes a really, really long time and you want to make sure that it’s not a passive experience,” Hamilton said. “If you’re doing VR, you want to make sure that’s its interactive, that it’s super engaging, that it pulls you along, it’s active. I think the best example where we dipped our toe into it was in our games division, where we partnered with Oculus and we knew, fans wanted that opportunity to be able to step inside and be Iron Man for a moment, or take on Hulk or take on Thor.”

Kevin Hart’s Desire to Become a Mogul 

Hart, the keynote speaker at Massive Summit, detailed his career plan for the next few years, much of which includes his production company Hartbeat Productions. Unlike some in the industry, who let others run their companies, Hart said, “When it comes to actually having my hands in it, they’re in it. I’m not just reading the scripts, I’m finding the writers, I’m in the meetings with the writers to get the script to where we want it, I’m talking to the studio about XYZ.” Inspired to “be a mogul” and a millionaire by friends like Oprah, Jay-Z, Ellen DeGeneres and Tyler Perry, the comedy star promised, “Hartbeat Productions will be a big partner, Hartbeat Productions will do big studio work, Hartbeat Productions will be tomorrow’s future company when it comes to development and producing for any type of film, from comedy to drama, I want to do it all. I can’t sit back and watch other people be successful and give me the blueprint and not do it.”

Kevin Hart on the “Gift and Curse” of Social Media

Hart, who has become something of a social media star with his frequent videos, said during his conversation with Variety‘s Andrew Wallenstein that “the gift behind social media I realized a long time ago is access. Today’s star and today’s celebrity, you’re big and you become bigger when your fans feel like they see behind the closed door.” He added, “I don’t ever want there to be disconnect, I feel like these people are invested in me, invested in my life. I’ve grown because you’ve grown with me. I do owe my fans a service, I want you to see the normalcy behind who I am, I want you to see that I’m a grounded, real guy.”

How “Jumanji” Re-marketed to Become a Hit 

Elias Plishner, Sony Pictures’ head of digital marketing, spoke during the “Masters of Targeting and Holding the Audience” panel about how his team pivoted the “Jumanji” film campaign to become a hit. He said that then the film was first announced and the teaser trailer was released, “it was a disaster. We had ruined people’s childhoods, Hollywood had officially run out of ideas,” and Sony realized they needed to reset their marketing strategy. “What we were lacking in our campaign is what we call the ‘connective tissue.’ Even though its an homage to the original, how do we remind people this is not a remake, this was actually a sequel to the film they loved in their childhood?” Plishner said they came up with the idea to pick up in the trailer where the last film ended, which he said caused the audience reaction to do “a complete 180.”

How Instagram and Celebrities Benefit From Each Other

The app’s global head of creative programs, Charles Porch, offered an inside look into celebrities’ Instagram profiles, revealing that they are largely groomed by Instagram executives. During the panel “Instagram’s New Class of Entertainers,” Porch said public figures looking to boost their popularity or project a certain image come to his team, who are happy to help: “We want Instagram to be the best place for you to build a relationship with your fans. We also want it to be a great place to build your business.” Porch offered Will Smith as an example of a recent addition to the app, describing the actor’s Instagram brand as “Will Smith’s take on Oprah’s ‘Live Your Best Life.'” He added during the discussion that his team can learn from social media-savvy younger celebrities, like 14-year-old “Stranger Things” star Millie Bobby Brown, who “are just ninjas with it. It’s amazing to put something out there and just see how they use it.”

truTV’s President on Stepping in When Advertisers Walked Out

According to truTV President Chris Linn, advertisers did not echo the positive sentiments of viewers toward the program’s previous programming strategy, which sought to produce the “most ridiculous” version of “what everyone else was doing” during the reality TV boom. For the “Funny Business: Anatomy of a Successful Rebrand” talk, Linn discussed being brought on to revamp truTV in order to make it appealing both to consumers and advertisers by embarking on the difficult feat that “required (him) to be fearless from the very begining”: recruiting top talent to a network people in the industry did not take seriously. Linn said his first target in his talent-search was Billy Eichner, who his team stalked for a year before truTV acquired “Billy on the Street,” setting off a domino effect of popularity both on the industrial and consumer side. Since the initial rebrand, Linn said talent continues to be a top priority: “That’s why so many of our shows have the talent in their name.”

How Taco Bell’s CBO Used Movie Magic to Promote Nacho Fries

Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s chief brand officer, chose to take a less-traditional approach to introducing its newest menu item, which she discussed during the “Taco Bell Conversation.” During the discussion, Thalberg detailed the planning that went into releasing a fake movie trailer starring Josh Duhamel in anticipation for nacho fries’ debut, adding that she does see Taco Bell “as part of the entertainment business.” She said her atypical strategies for promoting fast food come from her background in the luxury beauty market, which provided her with “a completely different mindset to (the fast food) business both with a certain amount of vision and a certain amount of ignorance.

Film Executives on the Negative Impact of Rotten Tomatoes

Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller tasked five movie marketers with explaining the decline in moviegoers during the “Film Studio Keynote Conversation,” which the executives attributed to the pre-premiere buzz coming from outlets they cannot control, like Rotten Tomatoes and social media. Because of the plethora of prior data and comments available both to marketers and consumers online, president of worldwide marketing for Warner Pictures Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Blair Rich said, “Thursday night, you know if you’re surviving. You don’t even get to the weekend,” to gauge how films will perform. In order to combat reluctance to go to theaters, Rich and others stressed the importance of offering an emotional experience that cannot be achieved on other platforms because, “at the end of the day, we’re selling an inconvenient experience.”

How Higher-Tech Analytics Can Change the Marketing Game

While speaking with Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein, CEO of Parrot Analytics Wared Seger presented the increasingly complex ways in which technology can gauge consumer tendencies in the entertainment industry. In addition to exploring the demographics attracted to particular shows, he said it is also possible to track other shows those viewers may like. Seger used viewers of Netflix’s “The Crown,” as an example, showing via an onscreen infographic that they also watch “‘The Good Wife,’ tennis, and a healthy dose of ‘Fox News.'” Through these links, Seger suggested that shows with similar plots and titles can actually promote each other by expanding each other’s audiences.

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