Key Insights From the 2020 Variety Virtual Entertainment Marketing Summit

young male watching tv with mobile devices

Over the two days of Variety’s Virtual Entertainment Marketing Summit, marketing leaders from the world’s top entertainment companies came together (virtually) to discuss lessons, insights and prognostications for the entertainment industry in 2020.

We attended, and we highly recommend you register (for free!) and watch the archived conversations available until the end of September 2020. We work with entertainment marketers every day at Greenfly, so we took some notes to provide you entertainment marketing pros with some key takeaways and insights we found the most innovative and inspiring.

Social Media Can Be a Powerful Insight Tool

Social media is a real-time focus group for entertainment marketers. “If you’re not listening to your customers and being super-nimble, I think that’s problematic,” said Mike Benson, Chief Marketing Officer at CBS.

Proactive listening informs marketing strategies and helps marketers see how a show or campaign is resonating with specific audiences. It’s not only the conversations happening on a show’s social media channels — there is a ton of engagement and chatter that takes place on the channels of the show’s talent. Some of the most effective conversation and promotion for a show takes place on the talent’s social platforms, which almost always have a higher organic reach than brand accounts.

The volume of conversation about a show across social media also carries value that should be counted alongside traditional viewership metrics. The TV industry is rapidly evolving beyond traditional Nielsen Ratings, NBCU’s Executive Vice President of Media Strategy and Planning Kjerstin Beatty pointed out. Entertainment marketers should analyze, evaluate, and foster social media success for their shows, and that includes all the activities that happen beyond their properties’ accounts.

Twitter is the ‘Roar of the Living Room’

The relationship between live TV and Twitter is as strong as ever, and how entertainment marketers can use the platform was a key topic of discussion. Twitter Managing Director Jen Prince dropped the memorable “roar of the living room” line and talked about how entertainment partners use Twitter to create appointment viewing television. Prince mentioned ‘watch parties’ on Twitter, bringing together fans and talent, to watch together and engage together. This increases live tune-in and also drives more conversation around the show on Twitter, helping reach more potential viewers, too.

BET’s CMO Kimberley Paige also mentioned her network’s success on Twitter, calling out how ‘engaging talent’ on the platform and co-creating content and conversations with them helped drive more engagement and awareness around their shows. Twitter remains TV’s favorite second screen and a place where entertainment marketers can drive conversation by activating their social media arsenal and engaging with their show’s fans and talent.

Social Media is Perfect to Extend the Story

Social media isn’t just a marketing channel to drive audiences to your film, show, or network. Entertainment companies can now create social-first content, furthering storylines, and activating those stories through their talent across social media. This theme played out across panels, with both TV and movie marketers seeing the opportunity in such ‘content extensions.’

Shows can create vignettes that are derivative of the show’s storylines that engage their social audiences and drive more conversation around the show. The show’s talent can activate their personal channels to engage with fans and co-stars, allude to storylines and plot twists, and talk with fans about their character and their story. Fans are spending a lot more time consuming content on social media than they are watching your show. But they love your show, its stories, and its characters. Entertainment marketers can capture a bigger slice of fan attention and time when they keep the stories going on social media.

The Reasons Consumers Subscribe to Paid Entertainment Services

Deloitte presented insightful findings from their media trends research, which reinforced how crowded and competitive the entertainment subscription space is. Even before the pandemic, the average Millennial had 17 paid entertainment subscriptions!

The question on marketers’ minds is how to ensure their offering is among those 17. Deloitte’s survey suggested that original content is the #1 reason consumers subscribe. Just as importantly, the #1 source of discovery or sampling for paid media subscription services is recommendations from friends and family. The recipe for success is there for marketers — drive existing subscribers to recommend your service’s great content to their friends and family.

Marketers can activate their biggest fans on social media to achieve this. When they post or comment about their favorite shows, it’s an implicit recommendation to the friends and family that follow them. When properties create more opportunities for those fans to engage and share, the word spreads organically and authentically about their content and the services on which consumers can find it.

Messages Specifically Designed for Each Platform and Audience Work Better

A common insight from the Variety Virtual Entertainment Marketing Summit was the importance of customizing content — for the platform, the audience, and the behavior and consumption patterns of the audience on each platform. SVP, Marketing Factual at Discovery Inc. Josh Kovolenko said they produce content and promotions with the unique audience of each social platform in mind because “everything is customizable” to the younger generations today. The way they promote a show on Facebook is different than how they’ll do so on Twitter, Instagram and on TikTok. This can include the type of content, promotional messaging, and even the call-to-action.

Similarly, the NBA’s CMO Kate Jhaveri described how the league customized their activations on different platforms, such as AMAs on Reddit, NBA 2K League gameplay on Twitch, classic game watch parties on Facebook, and more. When the content is built to match how audiences like to behave on a given platform, it’s more effective and more engaging.

Modern Marketers Look at Groups More Than Demographics

Demographics-based marketing is the “old model,” said HBO SVP of Program Marketing Jim Marsh. Entertainment marketers now group consumers based on data about their behaviors on a given platform, their affinities, and consumption patterns. The type of messaging, the platforms targeted, and even the path to conversion is different depending on the audience group.

Entertainment marketers also face the challenge to identify good versus bad data, noted Fox’s EVP of Marketing Emily King. Analysts can slice and dice user groups an infinite number of ways, so it’s important to marry the group analysis with the marketing execution. One group is defined as ‘free trial users’, others that signed up to watch a specific show, another that came from a social media referral while others came via an invite from a friend. Marketing to groups goes deeper than blanketing a strategy around females ages 18-34 and it’s how the top marketers at the Variety Virtual Entertainment Marketing Summit now execute research and campaigns.

Gen Z Supports Brands That Align With Their Values

The panel on marketing to Gen Z at the Summit was full of insight (we highly recommend you watch it in full) with key takeaways centered around the importance of brand values to this generation.

Gen Z wants to create change, and if brands do not take action to affect change, they will “vote with their feet,” said Chipotle CMO Chris Brandt. Vice CMO Guy Slattery echoed this point, noting it’s not enough for them to cover and opine on important issues and events. Gen Z consumers want to see the brand they support walk the walk. Jhaveri talked about how the NBA also made sure to walk the walk, empowering their players to put messages about racial inequality on their uniforms. Earlier in the pandemic, they worked with players to record messages about public safety and thanking essential workers. It’s not enough to put out a statement about a cause or issue, Gen Z wants to see action. Marketers that seek to reach this socially conscious generation need to make sure they’re doing (and showing) as much as talking.

Gen Z is Platform-Agnostic

Whether the content is on linear platforms, on digital and OTT, or on social media, Gen Z will find it if it’s good. This simple but clear insight is essential for entertainment marketers to embrace. Because Gen Z is not channel-surfing for the best thing on TV; they’re going wherever the best content is, regardless of platform. So it’s important to ‘meet them where they already are rather than work to bring them to a specific platform.

ViacomCBS executive Jacquline Parkes said diversity in their workforce helps them to activate on each platform with a better instinct for what works. This insight reinforces the need to deliver proper packaging and messaging for each platform because Gen Z is platform-agnostic, but your good content still needs to find them on each platform where they are.

Movie Marketers Aim to ‘Eventize’ Releases

‘Eventize’ was the operative word on a panel of movie marketers, particularly as massive premiere events have been eliminated by the pandemic. The marketers discussed how to eventize the at-home viewing experience, with Vice Chairman of Focus Features Jason Cassidy noting the importance of “surrounding the audience on all platforms.”

The panel also discussed their attention paid to the growth of drive-in movie events popping up, which can help eventize viewing experiences. With more movies going to PVOD (premium video-on-demand) more quickly, the main ‘event’ for viewers may no longer be a trip to the theater, but tantamount to watching something special on TV. Cassidy said this accelerates changes in how movie marketers gauge success of a premiere — it’s not just box office receipts anymore, but social media buzz, conversation, and cultural impact.

Premieres on PVOD are also no longer confined to those able to see the movie at a theater, let alone general availability in different markets and countries. A PVOD premiere can be a truly global, shared experience, noted Christian Davin, Global Head of Movies Marketing for Amazon Studios. It’s the shared experience that matters most, whether that’s in a theater, in a car, or on the couch at home connected to the globe via social media.

At Greenfly, many of our customers are ahead of the marketing curve and have already put much of the insight from the Variety Virtual Entertainment Marketing Summit into practice. Our award-winning platform helps entertainment companies activate more authentic, more agile, and more engaging marketing strategies. They’re leveraging their talent’s social media presence, enabling remote content production, and pioneering new and more effective forms of social engagement. See an example of Greenfly’s work with our CANAL+ success story and learn more about our entertainment marketing solutions.

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