In a major shift in strategy that is meant to boost its online marketing revenue, movie studio Sony Pictures is changing the way it sells online advertising inventory across its films, music and television content.
Sony's focus now is on customization of individual properties and not simply flogging the entire network. Also on its way out is impressions-based accountability for online advertisers in favor of branding by association with unique content.
“The impression sell was not working with Sony because we're not able to run a business based on the lowest common denominator,” said John Henderson, vice president and national sales director at Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment.
“The value of our content is more expensive than no-name, no-brand information or content that is distributed everywhere on the Web,” Henderson said.
Market conditions also dictated these changes, according to Henderson, who played a key role in the strategy shift. A couple of advertisers, whose names he would not disclose, have already agreed to go along with the changes.
The new model is meant to entice advertisers, and films are expected to play a major role.
Sony Pictures' “Spider-Man” will offer advertisers an opportunity to reach consumers age 18 to 34. The studio is looking for online sponsorships, including sponsorship of original film Web-isodes; newsletters and e-mails; associations with online games; and ad units on spider-man.com. Offline extensions are also possible.
These opportunities will be available in October through the opening of “Spider-Man” on May 3, 2002. That is when phase two of the spider-man.com site kicks in.
Television shows call for a similar marketing opportunity to leverage all available assets.
Henderson pointed to SoapCity.com, Sony's online hub for soap operas, including the Web site for “Days of Our Lives,” a show for women age 18 to 54.
Advertising on SoapCity.com could gain advertisers a dab at product placements within the “Days of Our Lives” show and participation in an online sweepstakes, “Be a Soap Star for 'Days.' ” The sweepstakes winner gets a walk-on part on the show. SoapCity.com attracts 735,000 unique visitors a month.
Leveraging yet another company-owned property, online advertisers also will be able to serve ads on the Clie, Sony's hand-held organizer, and similar wireless devices.
Another key broadband entertainment property is Screenblast.com, slated for a Sept. 10 debut.
Users can choose from five channels — comedy, action, drama, sci-fi/horror and music — and create and showcase their work. They can connect with other online users and also via a host of new devices such as PCs, digital cameras and recorders, wireless instruments and hand-held organizers.
The site targets college students or consumers who are familiar with the online music market and players such as Napster and MP3.
With Screenblast, Sony Pictures is looking for advertisers to run rich media commercials in 15- and 30-second versions on the site, and not simply static banners. It also will offer sponsorships of a music- or movie-mixer tool.
“Basically, the core concept here is to have an advertiser sponsor an environment,” Henderson said.
Sony Pictures' concept is similar to attempts by AOL Time Warner to leverage its offline and online properties through extensive cross-marketing opportunities.
Marketing across AOL's Internet access service, in fact, has helped boost subscriptions to company-owned print magazines such as Time and Business 2.0.
Henderson has similar designs for Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment. The emphasis now will be on peddling the value of content and branding against offering Sony's online properties only on a performance basis.
“It's going from a reactive sell to a proactive sell,” Henderson said.
Moreover, as the market environment changes, it becomes imperative for Sony Pictures to explain to advertisers its online value proposition, or else.
“The risk that I would run is being sucked into the mediocrity and mass marketing that the Internet has provided since inception,” Henderson said.