DreamWorking a marketing mix

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Photo by: Christopher Patey
Photo by: Christopher Patey

DreamWorks Animation's CMO Anne Globe needs to sell a secret history. On November 21 the studio will premiere Rise of the Guardians, which reveals that Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost are all part of a superhero task force safeguarding the world. Based on a book series by author and illustrator William Joyce, Rise of the Guardians marks the first time since the 2010 film Megamind that DreamWorks is releasing a film that is neither a spin-off nor a sequel.

This creates a different challenge for Globe than marketing a film spun from an existing property, like Madagascar 3 or Puss in Boots. “For the sequel of a franchise with some awareness, you need people to know what's new and exciting,” she explains. Because the upcoming Rise of the Guardians revolves around a concept original to film, it already has a novelty factor. But Globe and her team also need awareness. “We need to get audiences really attached to our reimagined version [of the characters],” she says.

To generate that audience investment, Globe's team, working with its distribution and marketing partners at Paramount, began marketing the film quietly seven months in advance of its premiere—the studio's longest lead time ever.  DreamWorks released an app that features additional content about each of the movie's main characters. The studio strategically rolled out backstory and details about characters as their corresponding holidays neared; for instance, content about the villainous Pitch was released around Halloween. “Even though you know these characters, you don't know our interpretation,” Globe says. “Creatively, we were looking at what we could do to connect people well with this film.”

In June DreamWorks began installing print materials and advertisements in movie theaters for early introduction and to take advantage of the strong summer crowds. These installations supplemented the campaign's key element: an augmented reality app. Moviegoers use their mobile device to scan a poster featuring one of the film's characters, causing the character to move on the screen.

While traditional areas of advertising such as TV spots or billboards remain heavy areas of investment, in recent years DreamWorks has increased its digital footprint. “The goal is to build franchises, like Shrek and Madagascar,” Globe explains. “[Digital marketing] allows us to have a deeper engagement beyond the movie theater. You have to be conscious of where people are spending their time outside of the theater.”

As audiences increasingly spend their time online, fiddling with apps or playing games, marketers need to be there as well, Globe says. When Megamind premiered in 2010 Facebook game FarmVille, DreamWorks created a promotional tie-in with the game. For Globe, this foray was largely experimental. “For a lot of these sites, there's no point of comparison,” she says. “When you open successfully, we have a post-analysis on what worked particularly well.”

In 2011 Globe oversaw another promotional game tie-in, with Kung Fu Panda 2—quadrupling target audience participation over the Megamind tie-in. “That was us getting a better idea [of] what to do,” she says. “But also a factor was [FarmVille] growing.”

Despite the emergence of new online channels, the most important digital venue for marketing—indeed, the second most important channel overall after television spots—is YouTube. In recent years DreamWorks has expanded its partnership with Google's video sharing site in part because of its extremely wide reach.

“Our research also shows people get most of their movie information from YouTube,” Globe says. However, it's YouTube's TrueView service that drives DreamWorks' continuous investment. Through TrueView, DreamWorks purchases ad space, targeted demographically, that runs prior to premium content. DreamWorks' ad plays for five seconds; viewers can continue watching or X out to the content they had originally wanted to see. The studio pays for each ad that is either viewed in its entirety or viewed for 30 seconds, whichever comes first.

Unlike other industries that also use TrueView, DreamWorks designs content for its YouTube audience. For Kung Fu Panda 2 and Madagascar 3, DreamWorks created exclusive online spots showcasing additional content. “That's an opportunity to engage a really desirable audience through the platform,” Globe says. “We can't just repurpose television ads.” She seems surprised when I tell her that marketers in other industries tend to do just that. “Well, maybe that's because we're marketing content,” she says.

Despite DreamWorks' elaborate mix of digital and traditional marketing elements, each strategy depends on the film's content, as well as on numerous external factors. “There are different levers to pull with each different film and you have to factor in the competitive environment,” Globe says. “What other sources of entertainment do consumers have both inside and outside the movie theater?”

Rise of the Guardians will premiere the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, targeted opportunistically so the film can play through the holiday period while avoiding, five days prior, the opening of the final Twilight film. “As a fan of Twilight myself, I always go on opening day,” Globe says. Twilight, up until it's released, will monopolize the attention of the mom-and-tween-girls group, a significant segment of DreamWorks' demographic. But after Twilight, the stage will hopefully be cleared for Rise of the Guardians.

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