Creativity must star in marketing of movies

In the entertainment industry, the word "creativity" is typically associated with the end product: what gets onto the screen. At DreamWorks Animation, however, the off-screen efforts of marketers are also expected to rise to the challenge of embedding creative, risk-taking "big ideas" into each and every aspect of our promotional efforts.

In the entertainment industry, the word "creativity" is typically associated with the end product: what gets onto the screen. At DreamWorks Animation, however, the off-screen efforts of marketers are also expected to rise to the challenge of embedding creative, risk-taking "big ideas" into each and every aspect of our promotional efforts.

While every DreamWorks Animation film is emblematic of our companywide philosophy of creative risk-taking, it has especially been the case in our efforts to usher in the new era of 3D storytelling.

Meeting this criteria has been that much more challenging in a difficult economy that has prompted an overall environment where others are opting for more conservative strategies. For example, last year we were faced with the task of promoting our first-ever 3D film, Monsters vs. Aliens. We had to bring to market a filmmaking technology for which consumers already had preconceived - and not altogether positive - notions. It was crucial that we communicate that this 3D experience was fresh, new, immersive, and fun.

We turned to the big idea, which in this instance was to create a first-of-its-kind Super Bowl event advertisement. Our program involved the distribution of 135 million pairs of branded 3D glasses at retail and the creation of custom-animated spots to be televised in 3D just prior to the Super Bowl halftime show. This was the embodiment of creative risk-taking. Our plan was questioned for being too big in scope, impossible to pull off, and for not being the same as the theater experience. Fortunately, it proved to be a huge success in growing awareness not only for Monsters vs. Aliens, but for the 3D format as a whole.

Consumers understood that the TV spot and the in-theater experience were distinct. The film went on to earn almost $60 million in its first weekend. We are certain that the momentum toward this big opening began to build on Super Bowl Sunday. There was some nail-biting leading up to kickoff, but the risks paid off - as they usually do.

The initiating spark for our big ideas can come from anywhere. It can be in one of our characters who is especially compelling, like B.O.B. from Monsters vs. Aliens; in a "sticky" title, such as Kung Fu Panda, which immediately communicates comedy; or in a new and engaging world, such as the one in this year's How to Train Your Dragon. Regardless of where it begins, our ongoing pursuit is always toward building these ideas into memorable events that connect our stories with our audiences on an emotional level.

In 2010, the opportunities will be bigger than ever. For the first time in its history, DreamWorks Animation will release three films in a single year - all in 3D. With our first, the aforementioned How to Train Your Dragon, we challenged ourselves again to find new ways in which to communicate to audiences just how unique the movie is.

Part of our filmmaking process actually helped us in a very organic way. Our filmmakers regularly employ a research strategy of putting the movie - at various stages of completion - in front of test audiences. It was screened as early as November and we found it had very strong playability for families, kids, and general audiences alike. We were thrilled with the early audience feedback and emotional response to Dragon, which informed our marketing strategy going for- ward: to truly let the movie speak for itself.

Word of mouth is an all-powerful marketing tool - particularly in today's digital age, when a combination of social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook, can influence a broad movie-going audience in mere minutes. We are planning to continue screening the film in part and, ultimately, in its entirety as frequently as possible as we look forward to its launch on March 26, 2010.

By driving the emotion of our next-generation storytelling, we feel that our marketing can go beyond box-office results or TV ratings to achieve the farther-reaching goals of building brand preference and establishing long-term franchises.

To meet this exciting challenge, we plan to continue taking risks, always guided by the great risk mitigator that lies behind the consistent success of our films: creativity.

Anne Globe is the head of worldwide marketing at DreamWorks Animation. She oversees all movie, TV, Broadway, and brand marketing, as well as both consumer products and promotions groups.

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