Power Marketing 2021: It’s All About the Home

It was the year when almost all entertainment was home entertainment.

In the pandemic year of 2020, the shuttering of movie theaters led studios to quickly pivot to digital premieres, and the premium video-on-demand (PVOD) model they had long wished for became a reality simply because there was no other way.

With nearly every new movie an immediate home release, studio home entertainment, theatrical and, in some cases, television marketing teams intermingled and merged. The lines evaporated; in some cases, home entertainment marketing teams ran the show, while in others, they laid the groundwork to give their theatrical or television brethren time to adjust to the new reality.

In Media Play News’ third annual Power Marketing special report, we are once again profiling the campaigns behind some of the year’s top-selling home releases — and the marketing executives and teams that made them happen.

The Power Campaigns

New Releases

■ Trolls World Tour
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
In a year marked by seismic shifts across the entertainment landscape, Universal Pictures at the onset of the global pandemic was the first to take the plunge into PVOD with the DreamWorks Animation sequel Trolls World Tour.

As soon as movie theaters around the world shut down in the middle of March 2020 in the wake of the World Health Organization declaring a global coronavirus pandemic, studios postponed the release dates of their tentpoles — often, as it turned out, multiple times.

Universal Pictures, however, pressed ahead with the originally scheduled opening of Trolls World Tour — and in the process pioneered a new, premium rental distribution window to ensure consumers had continued access to its newest releases. Trolls World Tour was released directly to home audiences on April 10, 2020, at $19.99 for a 48-hour rental window. It proved a truly transformative moment in film distribution. Trolls went on to earn the distinction of being the biggest digital release of all time, generating more than $100 million in PVOD revenue.

Later, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s global marketing team faced the new challenge of differentiating the traditional home entertainment window from PVOD. Marketers seamlessly shifted gears to design a standout campaign that incentivized the value of ownership and delivered on the promise of a unique, traditional home entertainment offering.

In support of this strategy, UPHE released two versions of the film, a “Dance Party Edition” along with the original film, as well as an all-new, original short featuring one of the film’s most popular characters, Tiny Diamond. To further heighten urgency, UPHE created highly collectible retailer-exclusive offerings that were made available at Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

On the publicity front, UPHE hosted a virtual global press junket with the film’s cast; secured national PR partnerships with NBC’s “Today” and “The Kelly Clarkson Show”; and teamed with music label RCA Records to unveil a newly created “Just Sing” animated music video.

Driving further excitement for the release, the team worked with TikTok influencers to create special digital content tied to the film’s hit song “Just Sing” and seized on high-profile digital opportunities within the app tied to Father’s Day.

The campaign was also supported by expansive national promotional partnerships with Popeyes and PUR Cosmetics, among others, in addition to a four-week-long, exclusive in-game Trolls World Tour promotion with the mobile game DreamWorks Trolls Pop.

Finally, the campaign was complemented by huge media support across network, cable and digital outlets — including an eye-catching, custom Facebook Augmented Reality activation in the home entertainment window that exclusively showcased six of the film’s leading characters.

Accordingly, the film continued to resonate with home audiences long after its PVOD run. Trolls World Tour topped the digital, DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales and rental charts, and at the end of the year was hailed as the most-watched movie of 2020 by both FandangoNow and Vudu, two of the leading digital retailers.

The Craft: Legacy
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
With the global pandemic’s impact on theaters and a compromised theatrical release calendar, Sony Pictures had to assess the best way to reach audiences for Blumhouse’s The Craft: Legacy, the sequel to the beloved 1996 cult classic The Craft. The studio found Halloween would be the perfect time to summon a theatrical experience directly to the homes of new and old fans.

This was the first time Sony Pictures brought a theatrical-sized campaign to a direct-to-consumer release in a combined effort to open the movie “in homes.” The young cast was perfectly suited to draw in millennial and Gen Z audiences via social media. The social media team leaned heavily into engaging content on key platforms to reach younger females. Tactics included conversational and supernatural GIFs, AR effects for Instagram and Facebook, and custom content highlighting everything needed to cast a spell for the perfect movie night at home.

A key platform for this audience is TikTok, where Sony Pictures used a unique approach activating 12 influencers across three categories: beauty/makeup, WitchTok (which historically sees a huge boost leading up to Halloween), and mainstream influencers. All categories aligned with themes in the movie. The WitchTok influencers “called the corners” by creating Wiccan spells and highlighted magic to engage their audiences, while the beauty influencers re-created makeup and costume looks based on each character’s signature element (Earth, Wind, Fire and Water). The mainstream influencers leveraged a TikTok trend (freezing time) that also perfectly fit with the movie.

To blow the release out into a communal party event, cast and filmmakers participated in a live Twitter watch party hosted by Entertainment Weekly.

During the event, hosts shared DIY-inspired crafts and recipes in addition to polls and quizzes. Thousands joined the coven on Twitter to be a part of this unified experience.

There were 3,335 posts using the hashtag #TheCraftWatchParty, which trended on the platform and hit No. 2 on the Los Angeles trending chart. Fans were most excited to hear the cast describe their favorite scenes and utilize GIFs from the official Giphy page to react throughout the watch party. The movie’s GIF views increased by more than 1 million during this time, and the 3,000 Twitter posts and additional social support drove an estimated reach of 29.5 million.

The media team conjured up massive awareness by taking a data-driven approach that identified and ultimately converted key audiences. Tactics included leveraging first-party data, contextual targeting and affinity targeting. To spike urgency among young females, Sony Pictures marketers activated a 24-hour roadblock on TikTok and further broadened out by blanketing networks such as MTV, Freeform, The CW, AMC, Syfy and Adult Swim.

The promotions team cast its spell by partnering with audience-aligned brands. Black Moon cosmetics released a limited-edition lipstick kit, Cirque Colors debuted a four-piece nail polish set, and Hot Topic added print-on-demand T-shirts to a previous collection of merchandise from the original film.

All of these unique ingredients brought the witches brew together and resulted in a magical and immersive movie-watching experience.

■ Love and Monsters
Paramount Home Entertainment
Because of theater closures during the pandemic, Paramount Home Entertainment was tasked with launching the studio’s first PVOD release: the feature film Love and Monsters, a monster adventure film starring Dylan O’Brien and Jessica Henwick.

The marketing teams developed a creative and broad-reaching campaign from the ground up to maximize awareness and excitement, which resulted in the film debuting at No. 1 and becoming one of the most successful PVOD releases of the year.

The multi-faceted campaign cleverly played into themes from the post-apocalyptic film that resonated with viewers stuck at home, while offering escapism and a fun-filled ride. The creative team crafted an initial trailer using celebrated British rock band The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” to set the tone, followed by a teaser just prior to release.

Additional creative assets with unique character art were deployed across digital storefronts, emphasizing the “Home Premiere” of the film to eventize the release. Teams also worked closely with retail partners to coordinate premium merchandising, significant co-op media campaigns, and social media support.

Advertising included robust television and targeted digital buys reaching consumers through creative and compelling spots. The campaign was also supported through comprehensive publicity, including a virtual panel at New York Comic Con, and broadcast, print and online interviews with key cast members. Exclusive clips were strategically rolled out across high-profile and targeted sites, and reviews were secured in major outlets, ultimately resulting in the title being Certified Fresh with a 92% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.

These efforts were augmented by unique digital partnerships and influencer outreach to target the Gen Z audience along with niche demos, including fashion followers (three film costumes were given away), foodies (a film-inspired Thanksgiving menu generated more than 1 million impressions), and dog lovers (the film’s canine star inspired passionate fan engagement).
Ultimately, Love and Monsters was a hit with the target demographics, generating audience and critical acclaim, sales that exceeded expectations, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.

■ Scoob!
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Scoob! was released May 15, 2020, on PVOD and premium digital sellthrough as an alternative to a traditional theatrical release during the pandemic​, making the highly anticipated family animated film available for both ownership and rental in the home in lieu of a theatrical launch.

As the film had been scheduled for a traditional theatrical release, the home entertainment marketing team worked closely with its theatrical marketing colleagues to create awareness for the home availability of the film. Internal support for the film across WarnerMedia included media placements across TBS, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, TNT, TruTV, Boomerang, Bleacher Report, Xandr and DirecTV/AT&T U-Verse​.

​Digital marketing activations included a TikTok global challenge (#SCOOBDance), which garnered more than 6.2 billion views; a Roblox “Adopt Me” Scoob! Takeover — a multi-pronged influencer campaign including families, dog lovers and nostalgia fans; and downloadable family watch activities.

The publicity focused on generating awareness for the film and its at-home availability. Initiatives included a virtual press day with talent; talk show appearances including “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Good Morning America” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”; and a Scoob! Movie Night “premiere” with a “red carpet” livestream on YouTube and Twitter followed by a watch-along Twitter event​.

Brand partnerships included Blue Buffalo, BarkBox, Chuck E. Cheese, Carl’s Jr. and Best Friends Animal Society. Scoob! turned out to be Warner’s second-biggest digital release of the year.

■ The Secret: Dare to Dream
Lionsgate
Based on the best-selling book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, The Secret: Dare to Dream stars Katie Holmes as a widowed mother of three who meets a handyman (Josh Lucas) who inspires her with the power of positive thinking.

The feel-good nature of the film couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Secret: Dare to Dream had been slated for theatrical release on more than 1,000 screens on April 17, 2020. But as preparations were being made, the pandemic struck, shutting down movie theaters and triggering a mass pivot in Hollywood to PVOD.

Lionsgate marketers shifted gears and settled on a PVOD release July 31 as a 48-hour rental at $19.99. Other platforms fell into place: a digital sellthrough release would follow on Sept. 15, followed by Blu-ray combo pack (with DVD and digital copy), standalone DVD and VOD availability Sept. 22.

The marketing campaign was developed just as the world as we knew it completely changed. From the first marketing meeting with author Byrne, who was also a producer on the film, Lionsgate marketers embraced the “positive thinking” message in both the film and the book, and “Believe Again” became the theme of the marketing campaign.

A high-impact, compact campaign was drawn up, focusing on premium placement with on-platform media support. This was complemented by star-driven publicity, including the studio’s first virtual junket, and a robust social media campaign. This led to premium merchandising placement across all of Lionsgate’s digital and MVPD platform partners generally reserved for wide theatrical films with significant box
office earnings.

The film performed exceptionally well in its initial PVOD window, scoring the No. 1 spot on the FandangoNow digital rental chart. “Thanks to its good-natured charm, the chemistry of the cast and its focus on the power of positive thinking, The Secret: Dare to Dream has risen to the top of the charts on FandangoNow,” Fandango managing editor Erik Davis said at the time. “It’s the right time for this kind of release, offering the kind of uplift and inspiration that families are looking to experience at home during challenging times.”

■ Soul
Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution
Nearly three months after its Christmas Day release on Disney+, the Soul in-home marketing team set their sights on a promotional campaign that reached families with kids ages 12 and younger, Pixar enthusiasts, African-Americans, and film collectors, with campaign activations incorporating several multicultural efforts.

Marketing strategies included expanding the story and leaning into key moments that resonated with audiences, highlighting the diversity and authentic portrayal of the characters and New York City, and differentiating the in-home window with collectibility messaging. As a result, the title raked in digital and Blu-ray Disc/DVD sales nearly 20% above its initial goal.

A key strategy to the campaign’s success was leveraging the film’s music to connect with all audiences. For families and fans at home, the team produced a Soul-themed virtual jazz concert that debuted on YouTube, featuring performances from the most renowned HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) bands in the nation. Hosted by Jon Batiste, Soul’s jazz composer and arranger, the concert included exclusive performances by Florida A&M University’s The Marching 100, Jackson State University’s The Sonic Boom of the South, and Southern University’s The Human Jukebox.

After only a few days, the virtual jazz concert had generated nearly 1 million views on YouTube, with additional exposure on Disney social channels, and in publicity coverage. Fan response to the virtual jazz concert was overwhelmingly positive on social media, applauding its authenticity and focus on the talented HBCU students.

Using family and lifestyle influencers also resulted in better-than-expected social impressions, video views and engagements with consumers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Total publicity consumer impressions exceeded 16.5 million, and media strategically boosted the virtual jazz concert on social platforms, extending the reach across multicultural audiences and families.

Digital in-home marketing also featured Soul’s real-life artists performing alongside animated characters and shareable “words of wisdom” content to engage audiences. In addition, Disney marketers collaborated with EatOkra and Wahl Clippers to spotlight black-owned restaurants and barbershops nationwide, encouraging fans to support them as part of a Soul dinner and family movie night social media activation and sweepstakes.

The media team showcased Soul’s video creative and rich media across key broadcast, digital and connected-TV media channels, capturing fans and new audiences with highly targeted placements.

In-home marketing also timed media and social exposure leading up to the Oscars. Media and social activations surrounding the Academy Awards helped eventize and celebrate Soul’s two Oscar wins, including Best Animated Feature Film, by encouraging consumers to “catch up” through placements and consumer messaging.

Home Entertainment Original

■ Mortal Kombat
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
To promote the release of Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, an all-new feature-length original film inspired by the worldwide hit video game, the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment marketing team developed a comprehensive campaign to drive awareness of the film and engage core fans of the video game as well as action and animation film fans. Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge was one of WBHE’s highest-performing original titles of 2020.

Partnering with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment enabled the home entertainment team to market directly to video game fans through “Mortal Kombat” channels, including in-game messaging, social media posts, CRM blasts, and prime placement on the MK website. The film was included in various WBIE activations leading up to the game maker’s Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath expansion pack release. Additionally, this partnership provided the ability to tap into audiences such as Xbox and PlayStation Mortal Kombat game purchasers in order to develop a robust and very targeted media campaign.

A variety of content was used to support dynamic social media and retail programs. All content and assets developed remained authentic to the game IP material.

In addition, two trailers were created for the release.

A Green Band Trailer, used to officially announce the digital and disc release, was launched online exclusively with IGN, and then was released wide 48 hours later on the WBHE YouTube page.

Ed Boon, co-creator of the video game, was on hand to launch the Red Band Trailer at Final Kombat eSports Finale in Chicago. Boon also participated in a cast and filmmaker panel, which was initially going to be held at WonderCon but with a quick pivot was switched to a virtual panel when WonderCon was canceled due to the pandemic. Also featuring Joel McHale, the pre-recorded virtual panel was available to stream through the Mortal Kombat game YouTube, Twitter and Facebook channels. A viewing party, led by voice actor Patrick Seitz, was held ahead of the virtual panel. Fans were encouraged to buy the digital version of the film and to watch along with Seitz and the rest of the Mortal Kombat community while sharing their thoughts on Twitter.

Catalog

■ Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
During a year without many new theatrical releases, library features and television shows were a welcome and comfortable escape from reality. What was old was new again, and one of the most successful catalog releases of 2020 was the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Vol. 1 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Featuring fully restored and immaculate presentations of six iconic classics from the studio’s library —Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Strangelove, Gandhi, A League of Their Own and Jerry Maguire — this carefully curated premium set was seemingly designed for stay-at-home entertainment binging.

From the vast expanse of World War I-era Arabia to the baseball fields of the Midwest to a sports agent’s reawakened soul and beyond, these films served as a buffet of cinematic comfort food, all presented within collectible packaging and contextualized with nearly two days’ worth of special features.

The preparation and marketing for this set began nearly a year before it was released with an online fan poll of 4K UHD consumers about what classic library films they wanted to see on the format in the future. It was promoted across social media, in fan forums and via email. With more than 30,000 responses, the poll was an enormous success in both guiding the title strategy for the set (as well as for other 4K UHD releases) and creating a new database of passionate 4K consumers.

A press announcement revealed the set and celebrated the arrival of these classics in 4K. An impactful trailer illustrated how these movies have burrowed into our shared pop culture experiences. Finally, at the time of release, the team engaged home entertainment influencers for unboxings and promotions of the set to further fuel online fan discussion and demand.
Demonstrating the continued power of physical media, the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection was well-received by fans and critics alike, and its limited-edition status meant it didn’t rest on virtual store shelves for long.
To accompany the set’s success with consumers, Media Play News and its panel of judges and voting fans bestowed the set with both Title of the Year and Best Packaging awards as part of the Home Entertainment Media Play Awards. With these honors, the story of this collection comes to a close … but given this set’s “Volume 1” designation, one can only imagine what a possible “Volume 2” could bring.

■ Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone
Paramount Home Entertainment
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Godfather Part III, Paramount Home Entertainment worked closely with director-screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola on a full restoration, as well as a brand-new edit, of the third and final film in the “Godfather” trilogy. Branded as Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, the new release achieved Coppola and screenwriter Puzo’s original vision for the finale.

The campaign put Coppola’s desire to revisit the film front and center and maximized his support to create a new video introduction that was used in the product offering, as well as in advertising spots to reset the interpretation and positively position the film as the definitive finale rather than a sequel. The title received a day-and-date global roll-out, along with limited theatrical exhibition in territories around the world.

Retail marketing secured “new release”-level support across digital platforms that included hero storefront positions, email blasts and partner social media efforts. Placement was also secured with major physical retailers, allowing for displays of the new film, along with existing “Godfather” products.

The publicity team secured interviews with Coppola and stars Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia, Talia Shire and Joe Mantegna with top-tier domestic and international outlets. The team generated more than 750 placements in leading outlets including Vanity Fair, The New York Times, USA Today, People, Forbes, “Today,” CNN, “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access Hollywood,” TV Azteca (Mexico), El País (Spain), la Repubblica (Italy), Welt Am Sonntag (Germany), Network 10 (Australia), Movie Walker (Japan), and many more.

Focused advertising was placed across broadcast, print, online and outdoor to reach target consumers and promote both the theatrical run and the Blu-ray Disc and digital debut. Digital marketing augmented the campaign through trailer and featurette debuts, as well as custom clips, animated key art, and GIFs that were judiciously released across social channels to create buzz and excitement.

The campaign was a tremendous success, effectively driving consumer perception of the new version and generating massive awareness for the release. The increased fan interest will serve as a precursor to a larger initiative slated for 2022 when the first “Godfather” film celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The Power Teams

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Hilary Hoffman, EVP, Global Marketing, oversees strategic marketing for Universal and its distributed lines worldwide across feature film new-release, library and TV properties. Her responsibilities encompass defining go-to-market strategies and devising the overall approach for consumer engagement, including developing and leveraging new platforms and technologies as well as direct-to-consumer initiatives, to drive profitable growth. She is responsible for creative, digital content, retail marketing, media, digital marketing, publicity and consumer insights. Hoffman and her team focus on the complete digital and packaged-goods product lifecycles.

Pam Blum, SVP, UPHE Marketing, oversees creative marketing and the development of value-added content for UPHE’s releases on a worldwide basis.

Lea Porteneuve, SVP, Global Publicity and Communications, oversees global business, technology and executive communications for UPHE as well as spearheads all strategic publicity initiatives in support of the studio’s digital and physical home entertainment offerings around the world.

Jeff Ackermann, SVP, Global Brand Marketing, spearheads global strategic marketing, product development and management of new-release live-action titles from Universal Pictures and the studio’s extensive television and catalog library.

Denise Haro, SVP, Global Consumer Insights & Strategy, oversees business insights, marketing data analytics, and UPHE’s consumer insights and research with a focus on aligning global commercial strategy around product, window, messaging and innovation.

Sandy Choi, SVP, Brand Marketing, North America Partnerships, manages the North American third-party partners, which includes developing marketing campaigns for partner releases across both physical and digital platforms and leading the cross-functional team that oversees the overall management of partner relationships.

Stephanie Lutjens, VP, Global Brand Marketing, leads global strategic marketing, product development and management of Universal’s new-release family fare, including titles from Illumination and DreamWorks Animation, as well as from Focus Features films and content from its distribution partner eOne, in addition to managing worldwide home entertainment promotions.

Joe Eibert, VP, Global Digital Marketing, leads digital marketing strategic planning and execution for UPHE releases worldwide.

Nadia Haney, VP, Emerging Partnerships & Formats, is responsible for Universal’s entrée and advancement of new formats and of alternative distribution partner management and marketing. Additionally, she serves as a primary liaison for cross-industry growth initiatives.

Ted Chi, VP, Digital Marketing Strategy, is responsible for establishing and leading the strategy and execution of marketing for UPHE’s digital distribution business.

Paramount Home Entertainment

Michele Bell, EVP, Worldwide Creative Services, oversees all of the division’s product packaging and digital design, in-store and online creative assets, and print, broadcast and online advertising. Bell is recognized for navigating the ever-changing home entertainment landscape with creative solutions that reach a wide range of consumers across traditional retailers and emerging digital platforms. Under her direction, the home entertainment creative team pivoted rapidly to develop assets, trailers and tailored advertising to launch Paramount’s first PVOD releases in 2020 with tremendous success. Her focus is on developing compelling, persuasive and disruptive creative assets that demand attention and drive consumer sales. Bell has more than 20 years of home entertainment marketing experience and previously served as VP of creative services for Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Alanna Powers, SVP, Brand Marketing, spearheads the division’s global marketing strategies, product development, and management of all feature-length new releases, library titles and acquisitions.

Scott Klein, SVP, Brand Marketing, oversees worldwide release strategies, marketing, and management of all ViacomCBS on-air and library television products.

Melinda Froelich, SVP, International Marketing, leads the international marketing teams in developing strategic plans for all products and customers by territory.

Hilarie Hildebrandt, SVP, Digital Sales, Global Accounts and Customer Marketing, oversees the strategic vision and execution of consumer-focused marketing programs with all global digital accounts.

Leda Chang, VP, Digital Marketing, drives global interactive strategies and initiatives across the entire portfolio of new releases and library promotions.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The collective theatrical and home marketing teams behind The Craft: Legacy were led by Danielle Misher and Lexine Wong.
The marketing team that worked on the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection consisted of Lexine Wong, Jennifer Anderson, Jeremy Glassman, Jessica Lefebvre, Kerry Kendall, Christine Galloway, Jon Stone and Derek Mihalik.

Lionsgate

Lionsgate home entertainment marketing executives who worked on The Secret: Dare to Dream campaign include Amelia Rogers, Tom Gundred, Erin Carter, Kathy Arendain, Aaron Gershman, Shannon Parker, Tiffany Olivares and Hallie Prince.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Jessica Schell, EVP and GM, Film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, joined Warner Bros. in 2014 and has global responsibility for all operations related to the physical and digital sales, marketing, creative, distribution, finance and administrative functions of the studio’s film home entertainment releases, including new theatrical titles and catalog. Schell has been successful in combining traditional marketing strategies with her extensive background in digital marketing and new media to create cutting-edge campaigns for such titles as Wonder Woman 1984, Scoob! and Mortal Kombat. Schell also identifies and engages new technology marketing opportunities and platforms for the studio’s home entertainment offerings, including virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

Schell oversees the continued growth of WBHE’s Blu-ray Disc business, and also manages the growing market for 4K UHD Blu-ray titles. She has been instrumental in the continued growth of the digital transaction business, including electronic sellthrough and VOD. During her tenure, Warner Bros. has been the No. 1 home entertainment theatrical studio with a 17% share, the No. 1 home entertainment theatrical catalog studio with a 20% share, and the No. 1 home entertainment physical 4K studio with a 22% share, with consumers spending more than $100 million in combined sellthrough and rental sales of WB 4K theatrical product.

Kristina Fugate, SVP, Marketing, Film, handles all theatrical new-release and catalog brand marketing efforts across disc and digital platforms, which also includes creative advertising, franchise lifecycle management and global strategy.

Chris Baldwin, SVP, Worldwide Promotions & Partnerships, oversees all global promotions and partnerships for WBHE, including new-release, catalog, TV, family and animation titles.

Jack Walker, SVP, Media & Digital Marketing, oversees all media and digital marketing for WBHE, including new-release, catalog, TV, family and animation, and games. Walker reports to Jessica Schell and Jeff Brown.

Emily Zalenski, SVP, Worldwide Publicity, Film, oversees worldwide publicity, events and experiential marketing efforts for new-release and catalog titles. She also manages corporate communications for WBHE.

Nicole Coleman, SVP, Trade Marketing and Sales Integration, oversees the theatrical catalog P&L for the home entertainment group across the physical and digital retail landscape, and also leads trade marketing and sales planning for both physical and digital film and television content.

Laura Lupinetti, VP, Film Trade Marketing, is responsible for driving go-to-market strategy for WBHE’s new-release and catalog businesses, curating content and price variability to maximize sales and placement across various retail windows.

Mary Ellen Thomas, SVP, Originals, Animation & Family Marketing, oversees product development and marketing for animated and live-action originals, episodic animation, Turner, and portfolio brands (Peanuts, Dr. Seuss, Viz Media and WWE).

Zandra Palmer, VP, Trade Marketing, provides strategic direction to field sales and brand marketing teams in the development of effective retail programs across all distribution platforms in North America, both physical and digital, to achieve or exceed financial objectives.

From the Outside

Gigi Wang

Gigi Wang is CEO of Invoke, a Boston-based marketing research company that uses proprietary software to facilitate virtual focus groups for studios and streamers, providing data and feedback in real time. Media Play News asked her for her perspective on the Big Pivot of 2020, from theatrical to PVOD.

MPN: As a third-party services provider, what are your thoughts on what happened in 2020, when all entertainment suddenly became home entertainment?
Wang: Over the past several years, we have seen a dramatic change in how audiences consume entertainment content thanks greatly to the explosive growth of streaming services. The pandemic has accelerated the phenomenon. Theaters had to close, so studios had to either come up with alternative release strategies or hold releases for at least a year or two. Everyone was home and consuming more content when/where/how they wanted. And parents were willing to spend on entertainment to keep kids occupied.

In response to the subsequent increase in consumer demand at home and the pandemic-forced closure of theaters nationwide, select studios took the opportunity to gauge consumer response when they released first-run movies direct to PVOD.

MPN: What role does Invoke play in this? Invoke captures potential viewers in their own homes, a natural setting for the new wave of entertainment that is premiering in the home. Does that work to your advantage? How so, and why?
Wang: It absolutely works to our advantage. Today, with digital releases as the new norm, studios need to test content with viewers in situ, viewing the movie at home on a digital device and not a theater screen. Just as technology enabled the pivot to digital premieres, technology also enables virtual screening research. Invoke has always been at the forefront of cutting-edge consumer research innovations, perfectly aligned with entertainment’s shift to streaming. We were the first to bring virtual, live consumer groups to the market a decade ago, and our approach is uniquely suited for testing with a streaming audience. We stream episodes and movies and measure consumer reaction while they watch with a digital dial. We then take the audience through a detailed discussion with many probing, open-ended questions. Our proprietary method brings scale (a nationwide audience of hundreds of respondents in a single 60- to 90-minute session), speed (AI algorithms enhance the natural language processing so that hundreds of open-end responses are analyzed, interpreted, and sentiment is grouped and ranked in our dashboard in real time as they are received), and selectivity (we can recruit any audience profile studios need across a variety of consumer segments). Producers and studio executives are viewing how consumers respond to each minute of footage — and learning why they like or don’t like something) in a virtual back room and can make key editorial decisions at the end of the hour.

MPN: Has business picked up since the pandemic?
Wang: Yes. We’ve doubled the number of client companies we serve in the past year and, happily, our client base continues to expand. The largest streaming companies are testing with us, as are several of the major studios, along with gaming and social media companies. Even during the pandemic, when production was shut down, studios were partnering with us to do a wide range of pre-production testing and development exploration, e.g. movie to series, series to movie, film adaptations of books, planning for sequels, art concepts for animated content, and more.

MPN: What about the future — will we revert back to the old theatrical-first model or are home premieres here to stay?
Wang: I think digital premieres are here to stay. The genie’s out of the bottle. Of course we’ll still have theatrical releases for tentpoles; humans are social and some fans will still crave shared viewing experiences. But technology has always moved the value needle. Think of how smartphones have changed the value of watches. Timekeeping is now just a feature on our phones. The next generation of movie watching will incorporate even more tech, perhaps AR and VR.

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