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Massive Conference Gathers Entertainment’s Best Minds to Explore Strategies

Variety event takes place March 21 at UCLA Luskin Conference Center

When Facebook announced a major revamp of its search algorithms earlier this year —downplaying pop culture and national/international buzz in part to quash Russian trolls — it wasn’t just distant thunder to Hollywood.

“We’ll do what we always do,” says Donald Buckley, chief marketing officer at Showtime Networks. “Test and learn, test and learn more, and then optimize.”

Buckley is one of the speakers at Variety’s Massive: The Entertainment Marketing Summit, presented by Deloitte, on March 21.

Showtime, like all of Hollywood, markets extensively via Facebook so Buckley adjusted creative messaging, frequency of messaging and media allocation online for promoting Showtime’s individual programs and also for acquiring subscribers.

Quickly getting on the right side of yet another seismic media shift is, well, just another day at the office for Hollywood marketers. And that’s but one of the many critical issues that Summit attendees will grapple with as they discuss ways to deal with audience fragmentation.

“Short is the new long” in mobile, says another speaker, Elias Plishner, exec VP-worldwide digital marketing for Sony Pictures. Messages can be sized down to three to six seconds for cell phones. “Frankly, we’re competing with users’ attention on news feeds in social media and video platforms like YouTube where they can skip content at any time.”

Plishner notes that traditional marketing materials such as trailers running 2½ minutes have the luxury of building suspense gradually to an emotional climax. Drawn-out pacing isn’t possible when the element runs just seconds.

Speaker Kevin Westcott, who is vice chairman, U.S. media & entertainment leader at consultancy Deloitte, notes that the short bites in mobile facilitate “serialization to almost encourage binge watching.” He adds that marketers used to simply repurpose creative materials originally made for traditional media but now they pursue a mobile-first process, which unleashes more impactful messaging since it’s hand-crafted for the new medium.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment president of worldwide marketing Blair Rich, also a speaker, sees a continuing role for video content longer than traditional trailers as long as the creative “breaks the traditional mold, rhythm and style of advertising.” She notes that consumers don’t expect traditional advertising in many online destinations, so they won’t engage if encountering a video opening with an overt corporate pitch.

Entertainment marketing execs say that data mining to provide insight on a granular basis and a wide-open palette for creativity are two key constituents of today’s digital age. The two go hand-in-hand.

Data gleaned from online provides insights on individuals based on their viewing, general buying patterns and movie ticket purchases, which enables crafting relevant messages. “The new horizon for us is this more personalized content,” Rich says.

Panelist Bob Berney, head of marketing and distribution at Amazon Studios, advocates constantly tweaking content. “You find out where you are getting the response,” he says. Then marketers “change the creative so it’s fresh because everybody is seeing so much now … especially with digital and mobile where people are getting bombarded.”

But messaging has to ring true by being “authentic and consistent,” says Massive Summit keynoter Kevin Hart, the multi-hyphenate with 35.1 million Twitter followers. “We are living in extremely sensitive times so you have to … make sure that you are respectful while still staying true to who you are as a person.”

But not all the marketing action is in digital. The human touch still works when used right. Last year Hulu sent shivers down the spines of South by Southwest festival attendees with a red-frocked street team in brain-washed character making the rounds promoting its series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“The money might go to the TV and the digital,” says speaker Kelly Campbell, Hulu’s chief marketing officer, “but the passion and energy go towards creating moments where people think something, feel something and take action as a result of the campaign. We care about engaging people to get conversations going.”

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