How Fox, Warner Bros., and NBC navigate the ever-changing world of entertainment marcomms

Executives from Fox Broadcasting, Warner Bros., and NBC Television Networks discuss the changing world of entertainment marcomms with PRWeek.

With streaming services and digital-only content driving an increasingly large part of the entertainment industry, marcomms professionals are constantly looking for new ways to engage consumers.

Last week, PromaxBDA, an international association for entertainment and media marketing professionals, held the #WTFuture conference in New York, where it brought together marketing executives to share their insights.

PRWeek discussed trends with prominent conference attendees, including Joe Earley, COO of Fox Broadcasting; Lisa Gregorian, president and CMO of Warner Bros. Television; and Scot Chastain, SVP of affiliate marketing and development at NBC Television Network.

PRWeek: What are the major marcomms trends you’re seeing in entertainment?
Earley: We’re obviously dealing with time-shifted viewing and the emergence of social, so those are sort of paralleling each other, especially with Millennials who want anywhere, anytime viewing and are also looking to engage on it. Those two things can sort of conflict because [Millennials] want to go out and talk about it, but they want to watch it when they want to watch it, so it isn’t just a spike now around linear viewing, but we’re seeing seven-day cycles in terms of social discussion of the shows.

I do think the rise of earned media and the importance of it is a big trend that we’ve all seen. I came up through PR and then oversaw marketing and I brought them together, and [Gregorian] oversees both. When your organization realizes that promotion is promotion, I think you see a much more effective return because the PR people are aligned with the marketing team. So when you’re breaking a new trailer of [a show] and the PR team sends it out first before it goes on whatever platform you’re putting it on, then you have the big earned impression and you start to get the social peer-to-peer consumption of it.

Gregorian: The biggest change, or you can call it a disruptor, is that we lived in a world not that long ago where advertising, marketing, and publicity was the one way we’d feed information out and there was no communication or dialogue. In a very quick period of time, we now find ourselves in a dialogue directly with our viewers live, and not only have we expanded that dialogue from the studio and networks, but it’s a one-on-one dialogue that can be taking place in the social space directly with our actors or producers by live-tweeting during the shows. That dialogue has dramatically changed the way we organically look at marketing.

I would add to that that never before has the viewer been so empowered. They have choice and now with social media, they have a voice.

Chastain: The overall mix of social and paid media is constantly changing, and what may work for now may not work the same way three months from now. If you’re launching two or three programs on a night, certain tactics are going to work for individual hours, and then you have the time-shifting problem. So you’re constantly trying to find that next mix in that one-to-one conversation with your consumers.

PRWeek: How are you engaging consumers or meeting their immediate gratification demands?
Earley: On the network side, there’s a rights issue, so those stacking rights lie with the studios. It requires a partnership with them to determine how you’re going to be able to provide the programming. The business affairs requirements flag the consumer behavior as does measurement. The consumer has decided how they want to do it, but we cannot necessarily provide it to them nor measure it properly in order to monitor it.

That’s a big business challenge, but anyone who works in marketing knows you have to adjust to that consumer behavior, so we have to speak to them and push and create the environment where they can be engaged. No one is sticking their head in the sand and saying, "Oh you either watch it on linear at the time we broadcasting or you don’t watch it at all." Instead, all of the marketing people are screaming to the business and scheduling people, saying, "You have to fish where the fish are, and we have to tap into these people and force the legal agreements and the measurements to adjust." There’s a little bit of a lag now, but marketing is always consumer-focused.

Gregorian: It’s really a global issue that the audiences around the world through technology have access to our content, whether it’s in a legal way or through piracy. We’re trying to adjust to not only deliver the material to them in the proper format that should be delivered, but also simultaneously trying to develop new business models. That’s where it becomes a really interesting challenge, which is meeting the demands, but meeting them in a way in which it should be served to the viewer.

PRWeek: What should we keep an eye out for in entertainment marcomms going forward?
Gregorian: There are a lot of disruptors in place. With the resources you have, where do you focus your attention? We’re all looking at those disruptors and trying to figure out which ones add value to the viewing experience and the fans of our shows and which ones potentially fly by night. Most executives today in PR and marketing are really trying to figure out where to spend time working and engaging fans and on what platforms and using what technologies or applications. That today is probably more challenging than the execution on those platforms.

Earley: The challenge is we can’t walk away from traditional media yet, and there’s a Wild West out there in terms of your new choices. We are expected to spot the trends before they are trends to know what’s going to catch on and what’s just bad, but you have to be in that space in order to figure it out and you must tailor it. Your marketing or publicity message is different on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instragram, or Vine. With the rise of the importance of earned media and the expectedness of peer-to-peer and third-party endorsements as opposed to traditional one-way paid media, it’s an amazing time to work in marketing or publicity because in some ways the world is your oyster, but you have to shuck a lot of oysters. It’s an incredible time of challenge and opportunity.

Chastain: One of the other things to add on to that is to figure out how far in advance you’re doing a promotion. Do you make a big push a couple of weeks out or do you start six months in advance? Everyone is still trying to figure out the magic formula of marketing in how far ahead you start, what the ramp up is, and when you’re going to be hitting crescendos.

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