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Variety’s Entertainment Marketing Summit in Los Angeles, presented by Deloitte, brought together more than 600 marketing professionals, executives, creators and influencers for a daylong event that examined all aspects of marketing as a discipline at a time of massive transition in the entertainment business. Here are the highlights from the event, held April 24 at the Beverly Hilton.

Marketing’s Social Impact on Sustainability

Last summer, the movie “Barbie” took the world by storm—and especially social media. Jay Tucker, executive director of UCLA’s Center for Media, Entertainment & Sports spoke with Lisa McKnight, chief brand officer at Mattel, about the impact the iconic doll with her millions of social media followers has had as well as her evolution.

“We started on a journey to reground the brand in the original purpose that the founder had for Barbie: to inspire the limitless potential in every girl,” McKnight said. After a lot of evolution and adding body diversity, ethnic diversity, different skin tones, eye color, hair fiber, physical abilities to the line today, Barbie is the most inclusive and diverse doll line in the world. And a real point of inspiration.”

Mattel created a line of products made from ocean bound recycled plastic called “Barbie Loves The Ocean.”

Artists and Athletes Influence On Video Games 

Video games have had a multi-layered impact on the media landscape. But fans have a bigger impact on live experiences. Tyler Bahl, Activision’s head of public marketing, spoke about how his company uses live events to engage in fandoms and what opportunities he creates to get audiences excited before a game is released. 

“We have an annual event in August, where we kind of bring 250 of the biggest influencers together to actually play the next multiplayer experience, and that ends up being a marquee event for us,” Bahl said. 

There are influencers at all levels that are invited to live experiences ranging from gaming influencers, hip-hop artists to high profile athletes such as Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes. 

Kathryn Kai-ling Frederick, CMO of Los Angeles Rams, also spoke about the marketing focus for the LA Rams in the months leading up to the start of the NFL season, including the NFL Draft which begins April 25. “It’s going to be a really electric moment for our fans and for our next generation of fans,” she said of the Rams’ plans for the draft.

Marketing for the Theaters and Streaming has Become One in the Same

The advent of streaming has not only altered the way people watch movies and TV shows, it’s also dramatically changed the way studios sell their wares. Patrick Cole, Disney’s VP of marketing, said his plans were very linear. He would pass projects between teams one after the other to handle the theatrical release and then the home entertainment. Today, with streaming making it easy to get movies into the home, marketing is streamlined into one cohesive experience. “We are thinking about…how do you make this feel like one big story where you are giving people something that feels unique in each of those,” Cole said.

How to Harness Artificial Intelligence

Another hot-button issue in entertainment has been the use of artificial intelligence. Robyn Malcomb, senior director of media and entertainment at Samsung Ads, has said, “one of the most recent” projects her team has been working on is using “AI and machine learning” to analyze real time data for her clients.

“We start with the client’s [key performance indicators] and work backward. If we are trying to generate lift, if we are trying to get increased retention within an app, we start with that and then machine learning is building that media plan from the KPI. And it’s been really successful,” Malcolmb.

Marketing in a Streaming Landscape Means Flexibility

Of all the changes seen in the entertainment industry within the last year, the lightning pace at which it operates has been a brutal constant. For marketing executives like Pia Barlow, executive VP of marketing at Max, it is all about “marketing at the speed of culture.” One of her latest projects “Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” was a surprise hit for Barlow and her team, and they had to adapt quickly to the wave of coverage the series received. “It’s part of all the things we have to do as content marketers these days,” said Barlow. “Sometimes you have to be reactive and agile.”

Domenic DiMeglio, CMO and head of data for Paramount Streaming, added that his job is not only about what’s new, but also about “keeping your ear to what’s going on” and gauging interest in older titles. In 2023, the anthology series “Why Women Kill,” which had not had a new season in two years, was rediscovered by fans on social media. DiMeglio was able to capitalize on the unexpected bounce and drive even more viewing by engaging with fans about the show. “It took off on a number of platforms, particularly TikTok. And so then we saw the opportunity, got after it in a bigger way, engaged in the conversation and it turned out to be one of the biggest drivers of new signups in that particular period,” DiMeglio said.

Multi-Platform Marketing is Key in a TikTok-Driven Media Landscape

Dennis Ortiz, principal consultant at Deloitte, moderated a panel devoted to cross-platform marketing strategies.  

Cross-platform marketing and targeting marketing differently based on who the platform will reach, creating and staying connected to consumer communities and the growing importance of social media were all topics of discussion.

“As the landscape has changed, it has given us an opportunity to be more targeted in our approach,” said Dustin Sandoval, VP of social media and digital at Lucasfilm. “We can reach certain audiences on one platform and be more targeted on a different platform. We can make sure that our content is custom across the board.”

Paris Hilton and Bruce Gersh Talk Propelling Brands Into Mainstream Culture

Paris Hilton, CEO of 11:11 Media, and Bruce Gersh, president and COO of 11:11 Media, talked brand promotions and personal branding during a conversation with Andrew Wallenstein, president and chief media analyst for Variety Intelligence Platform.

11:11 Media has ambition to grow operations in TV, audio, digital, social impact and licensing. Hilton said she’s always been one to explore different social media platforms, whether it be TikTok or Roblox. Hilton said she has always been an “undercover nerd” and obsessed with keeping up with the trends on different up-and-coming social platforms. “I can see into the future,” she joked.

Paris Hilton speaks at Variety‘s Entertainment Marketing Conference at the Beverly Hilton
Variety via Getty Images

Innovating Marketing for Audiences

The use of data analytics, reaching audiences on different platforms finding consumers on different platforms and artificial intelligence were main topics of the panel “Race to Innovate for Audiences.”

Panelists included Alex Angeledes, Google’s managing director of media and entertainment, Mainak Mazumdar, Fox Corp.’s chief advertising research and analytics Officer, and Adam Bergman, Vizio’s group VP of advertising and data.

Karen Kovacs, president of client partnerships and national offices for NBCUniversal Advertising and Marybeth Strobel, executive VP of advertising sales for Warner Bros/ Discovery, also joined in for the panel. 

Angeledes pointed to YouTube’s track record of paying out $70 billion dollars to creators over the past three years as a marker of changing times for content and audiences.

“That has changed the entire model,” he said. “It forces everybody to see a different way that consumers are consuming media and content.”

Successful Brand Marketing Starts with Relationships

With so many celebrity brands and startups popping up every day, it’s hard to know how to make your brand stand out. For Gigi Guerra, VP of marketing at Target, her motto for a successful business has always been “return on relationships.”

“It really speaks to how we work with talent and it has to be mutually beneficial. It has to have a return on both sides,” said Guerra. “Why do you want to work with us, why do we want to work with you, and how can we create something meaningful for both parties?”

When actor Molly Sims started Yse Beauty in 2023, she took a similar approach to Guerra. Although she had plenty of experience endorsing products for other companies, she needed to lean on those she met throughout her career when starting her brand.

“Having those base relationships has meant everything to me,” said Sims. “I’ve called some of my favorite people in my life who have the best brands in business to say, ‘Can you help me? Can you give me advice?’”

(Pictured top: Variety‘s Angelique Jackson speaks with Molly Sims, Rachel Lindsay, Patti Stanger, Meta’s Shannon Mattingly Nathanson and Target’s Gigi Guerra at Variety’s Entertainment Marketing Summit.)

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