MARKETING ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment as Marketing, From Silicon Valley and Hollywood to Madison Avenue


Last Friday, I attended the “Transmedia 3: Rethinking Creative Relations” Conference at USC, a joint presentation of UCLA Theater, Film and Television Department AND USC’s Annenberg School of Communications, generously sponsored by the Andrew J. Kuehn, Jr. Foundation. Organized as a series of panel discussions between media, technology and content professionals and their academic counterparts, the day-long conference was accessible, informative and provocative.

Here’s how Professor Denise Mann (UCLA, The Producer’s Program) characterized the event in her overview:

“As transmedia models become more central to the ways that the entertainment industry operates, the result has been some dramatic shifts within production culture, shifts in the ways labor gets organized, in how productions get financed and distributed, in the relations between media industries, and in the locations from which creative decisions are being made. This year’s Transmedia, Hollywood examines the ways that transmedia approaches are forcing the media industry to reconsider old production logics and practices, paving the way for new kinds of creative output. Our hope is to capture these transitions by bringing together established players from mainstream media industries and independent producers trying new routes to the market. We also hope to bring a global perspective to the conversation, looking closely at the ways transmedia operates in a range of different creative economies and how these different imperatives result in different understandings of what transmedia can contribute to the storytelling process – for traditional Hollywood, the global media industries, and for all the independent media-makers who are taking up the challenge to reinvent traditional media-making for a “connected” audience of collaborators.”

What I wanted to talk about in today’s post was a topic of discussion during the opening panel on Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue that trailermakers and those who admire them, have long understood and embraced. Lee Hunter, Global Marketing Head for Youtube, described his company’s development of 100 Channels of content as well as their Youth Symphony, Life in a Day, and Space Lab initiatives as well as Google’s Parisian Love campaign as efforts to capture eyeballs and serve advertising. The new “now,” he boldly proclaimed, conflates entertainment and marketing, both serving the other symbiotically, describing YouTube’s endeavors as a “goodwill project to naturalize our brand’s commercial relationship to audiences.”

A collective gasp did not go up. Prof. Mann’s question was probably rhetorical, designed to elicit an answer the audience already acknowledged. Still, discernible in the composition of the panel and the place names serving as short hand for content, technology and advertising, the takeaway was that functional differences between content and advertising are no longer meaningful.

Sitting in the back, I jotted in my “old media” notebook, with my anti-diluvian Cross pen, “trailers have long recognized and exploited this commerce/content hybridization.” As early as 1912 and the first recognizable trailer, transmedia promotion was already part of the movie going experience, while narrative rhetoric (storytelling) was the key element of the promotional campaign. The whole point of trailers, if I can be so bold, is that selling is telling, promoting is showing, marketing is entertaining entertainment and entertainment is the most marketable marketing. (See my earlier post.)

The TA assigned to my course last year specialized in Transmedia, so I invited her to present to the class, cleverly concealing my shocking ignorance of the subject by pretending my questions were intended for the benefit of the students. Sitting in Eileen Norris Hall this past Friday, it occurred to me that I had long been a transmedia worker without even knowing it.

Other memorable insights from the panelists (Nick Childs of Fleishman Hilliard; Jordan Levin of Generate, formerly Ceo of the WB, and Jennifer Holt, a Media studies professor at UCSB) included the following:

“Marketing is in search of authenticity.”

“For products, it’s about integration and placement, and a responsiveness to audience skepticism.”

“In marketing, we no longer broadcast; we’re having a conversation.”

Sounds to me like there should have been a panel of trailer makers and movie marketers on the stage since A) a free sample of an advertised product is the very essence/definition of authenticity; B) trailers appear across platforms, are cut for specific audiences, and counter skepticism with audio-visual evidence of what the product (film) has to offer, in the very same form as the product itself; and C) user generated trailers, mash-ups, you-tube comments, trailer sites and blogs are having that conversation, while the mall-intercept encounter of the market research process is recording and measuring the content of it.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

And the buzz word from the conference was definitely the word “silo,” as in “integrate the silos” or “struggle against the silo-fication” of an institution or company. (The conference was entitled “transmedia,” after all.)

Integrate the silos!

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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