Audrey Marco, VP & General Manager Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, has been responsible for some of Hollywood's biggest online promotions featuring partnerships with offline marketers -- including last year's "Pepsi Stuff" campaign on Yahoo, and the Dawson's Creek Web sites.
We asked her how brand marketers should be working with Hollywood online today:
QUESTION: Who should be partnering with Hollywood online and what are some of the best ways to make those partnerships happen?
MARCO: Anyone that wants to add sizzle to their campaign. Any category that is trying to touch the consumer in a unique way should be talking about an entertainment tie in, and I mean anybody. It is all about what the concept and desired outcome is. The beauty is there is such a wide array of properties there will always be one that is in sync with the audience you are trying to reach.
The best way [to establish such a partnership] is to have the brand marketing or promotions people at the corporation call us up. I know for a fact that we are aggressively targeting them as well. It all starts with the call. Only when you start discussing how brands fit together and what you are trying to accomplish will you come up with a comprehensive plan. In this industry we can craft something that works, but you should have a fundamental knowledge of your goals.
QUESTION: What really makes these partnerships work and what should be avoided?
MARCO: Revenue to their bottom line and ours is what works. It is also the exciting union of partnership and brand integration and unique ways to tie into entertainment through emerging technologies and platforms. Press worthy initiatives also work as well as the ability to reach the consumer in a way that will affect their behavior to drive consumption of both partnersí assets.
Cost prohibitive programs with undefined goals should be avoided. Do not go in and spend a ton of money if you do not know what you are trying to achieve. The onus is not all on [the marketer], though I will say they do not always understand what they can accomplish.
QUESTION: What is used to measure the success of such partnerships?
MARCO: Consumption numbers, new interest, renewed interest, and retention of that interest to consume the product. Any type of marketing is to increase consumption of the product. For us, we look at revenue and media that promotes our properties. We also look at traffic and database acquisition.
QUESTION: What should marketers know about the cost of online partnerships?
MARCO: Know that costs are scalable, from barter through million dollar deals. It really depends on the deal but always know it is very scalable. Work far enough in advance to be able to create and execute a program. Timing most important.
QUESTION: What are the most successful partnerships you have ever made?
MARCO: Our recent arrangement with Yahoo! Itís a multi-year, multi-property, multi-division relationships that affords us the ability to reach their massive audience in ways that are unique to Yahoo!.
The 'Pepsi Stuff' campaign was another. It was extremely successful in the way they promoted it, the way that all partners got behind it, the amount of registrations, the way that consumers experienced it, revenue that resulted from promotional efforts, and the media that drove awareness of our brand.
QUESTION: In the same arena, what has not worked and why?
MARCO: We have found that guaranteed cost per click does not work. Cost per acquisition does not work either. Those types of deals are not ones we will put a lot of effort behind. They can be a component, but they canít be a driver. I only want to partner with people who have an appreciation for a partnering of brands.
QUESTION: Are there any negotiating points or expectations that anyone new to online promotional partnering should be aware of when they do their first deal?
MARCO: If you partner with a studio, have a good understanding of what the marketing approach is from the online marketing world and the studioís perspective. You can then evaluate if it fits with what you are trying to accomplish.
Any good negotiator just tries to create a win-win situation, so basically itís a matter of understanding the value of what they have to bring to the table and what we [or the studio] can bring in return. Understanding of each otherís brands is key.
There is always going to be give and take so just expect to be open-minded and, of course, expect to get results.
QUESTION: What are some best practice tips for anyone looking to promote entertainment brands online through online partnerships?
MARCO: Companies should target sites that reach their demographic and work with those partners to develop interactive partners to reach beyond just a flat experience. Offer a viral component. Look for a partner that has earned trust and a direct connection with their fan base.
QUESTION: Which practices have you engaged in that have taught you the most about your target audience?
MARCO: I still feel best ways to learn about our target audience is through community and communication. We also tap in through surveys and polling, where we can. We do pop-up surveys on fan sites and message boards. We learn the most when we engage them in conversation and we really listen, like on the Dawsonís Creek site (http://www.dawsonscreek.com) and most recently the Spiderman site (http://spiderman.sonypictures.com).
For the right property offering new ways to consume entertainment we have seen a higher adoption rate than anticipated. Again, if the property has value to the end user, we have learned that the consumer is very willing to dive in and explore.
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