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Showbiz Marketers Look to Netflix’s Data Expertise as They Build Their Own Campaigns

Robert Marich

Netflix’s ability to profit from its secret sauce of granular consumer data has made it the envy of Hollywood. Now, with Disney, Warner Media and others prepping their own ambitious services to challenge the streaming insurgents, entertainment marketers will face more competitive pressures than ever. But at the same time, new marketing tools are emerging that will help them challenge the competition.

This is the brave new world that will be examined at Variety’s Entertainment Marketing Summit presented by Deloitte, which takes place at Neuehouse Hollywood on Match 21. It’s a world where marketers plumb data from consumer interaction with content, buzz from social media, past purchases and other online activities for insights to help them craft campaigns and build brands.

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It’s not an easy task. “Data is critical but data can be overwhelming,” says summit speaker Shabnam Mogharabi, who is co-founder and general manager of digital entertainment shop SoulPancake.

As more streaming services launch, summit speaker Kevin Westcott expects streamers to mine data to fine-tune pitches to sell subscriptions. “The platforms know a user’s broad interests — maybe you were searching for something online — as well as their media interests,” says Westcott, who is a vice chairman and leads the U.S. Telecommunications, Media & Entertainment practice of Deloitte. “That’s the nirvana for maximizing viewership.”

For their part, advertisers are also using digital media for an alternative to paid placement of 30-second commercials. “Entertainment, storytelling and content are the avenues that many brands and corporations are looking to differentiate themselves, their products and services, and create a different kind of value for consumers,” says Mogharabi. “It’s a differentiating point.”

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Once an open range, the digital landscape is getting fenced-in in places due to growing concerns over privacy, audience data security, child protection and a general regulatory crackdown. “The FTC has brought enforcement actions addressing a wide range of privacy issues, including spam, social networking, behavioral advertising, pretexting, spyware, peer-to-peer file sharing and mobile,” the FTC stated in its annual report on privacy and data security. On top of that, marketers face a growing patchwork of differing rules, such as Europe and California enforcing more stringent general data protection regulations than the U.S. federal government, for example.

Marketing streaming subscriptions is a new initiative for Hollywood, with far more data points piling on. “What all this digital data means is a little bit of a question mark,” says Andrew Stachler, CEO at Max Stax Media, the L.A.-based creative ad agency that worked the “Roma,” “La La Land” and “Charmed” campaigns. “You still have competing data from traditional sources such as research screenings, trailer testing and tracking surveys, so how do you marry that with all of the latest digital data in the most actionable way?”

Film marketers typically start with a target of frequent moviegoers — the best prospects — and digital can parse that pool further. “We’re looking to see if they have an affinity for a specific genre like horror or if they are in an age range that we are targeting,” says Shannon Petranoff, senior VP, digital marketing, at Paramount Pictures. For movies, a key finding is what specific marketing elements spurred ticket purchases, or attribution. Nailing attribution “is in very early days,” says Petranoff, because offline outdoor billboards, TV and radio media might be in a consumer’s purchase-decision chain.

The digital realm opens doors to seeding cyberspace with content to create ripple effects, which Warner Bros. did successfully with “Crazy Rich Asians.”

“Prior to launching the trailer, we provided influencers and community stakeholders with early access to content, allowing them to be among the first to share elements of the movie in social media with their fans and friends,” says summit speaker Blair Rich, president of worldwide marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures Group and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “When the trailer launched, we also invited these audiences to screen the film months before the movie opened. Because they were with us from the very first marketing beat, they felt ownership over the film.”

GroupM global president of business intelligence Brian Wieser says digital audience data is particularly useful for filling in small audience potholes where a larger marketing campaign underdelivered. “While newer data types can dominate campaign planning and activation, they typically complement the broader metrics,” he says.

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