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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

M.T. Carney & Disney

All I know about MT Carney is what I read in the funny papers.
She is all about the next marketing model. Will that work for Disney or the companies whose future which she is now being entrusted? There is truly no way to know.
What we know is that she, like Rich Ross, will be trying to do things differently. This has to be better than the Mutual Assured Destruction that studio movie marketing had become, right? But does that make Ms. Carney the woman who can make Harold & Kumar into a box office hit… or does it make her into the person who can open Prince of Persia without spending $60 million… or does it make her the most brilliant or dangerous hire at a major since… well… ever?
The key, I believe, will be what Rich Ross asks her to sell. Can he cut the ad budgets back on Pixar and make the movies even more profitable? Possibly. When faced with a DreamWorks miss, will she cut bait… can she? Is there actually a more effective way to sell Marvel movies? And does Miley Cyrus actually have another gear?
If her new idea is to spend less, she will upset a lot of people. But I don’t see a Puttnam rebellion coming. Because every corporation wants the studio to spend less on marketing. This is one of Rich Ross and Bob Iger’s more interesting calls. Her successes and failures have a real chance of being very very very influential.
The only fear I have…. movies are not cars… they are not drug stores… and there are some traditions that actually have value. Leaders who don’t really understand that can create havoc without intending to do so. And it’s hard to unspill milk.
And dare I say… the movie star looks are going to keep the media distracted for at least her first year or two… not that there’s anything right with that.
Welcome to Crazy Town, M.T.

40 Responses to “M.T. Carney & Disney”

  1. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I’m of two minds about this.
    There’s a lot to be said for bringing in a fresh point of view to any industry. Habits tend to build up over the years that may or may not continue to be relevant as the underlying business dynamics shift – the reasons for certain behaviours or business practices disappear, but the practices remain because “that’s how you do it”. As an example, most LVMH brands (most notably Dior) went through a period of stagnation in the 70s and 80s because the people running the brands were too scared to forge new directions – they kept repeating practices that had been successful in the past. It took the hiring of designer of John Galliano to reinject life back into the brands because he was willing to break with “tradition” while still being true to the brand DNA (as LVMH like to call it). The biggest fear of the Maison heads is that the current generation of rising managers will fall back into the trap of safety through reverence.
    On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for the “Latin” approach of spending time understanding what drives the marketing for a business rather than trying to get hands on straight away. Probably the worst case in recent years was the 1994 acquisition of Snapple by Quaker. They paid $1.7billion for a brand that had $670million in annual sales and was being promoted on Seinfeld… and three years later they sold it for $300million because they tried to run it just like Gatorade. As DP points out, different brands are different and need to be treated as such.
    MT Carney spends a lot of time talking about how businesses need to “change how they interact with consumers” – but, hey, that’s what media agencies do. Their entire business proposition is “You don’t understand the market, we do. Therefore you should pay us instead of doing it in-house”, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Her background at Ogilvy niggles at me – they’re a pretty arrogant bunch, which again has its pros and cons, and I’m bemused that she’s regarded as “international” because she’s originally from Scotland. It’s a fine line to walk, but at least I applaud Rich Ross for having the balls to break out of conservatism.

  2. christian says:

    Ugh.

  3. The Big Perm says:

    Marketing is evil. Poland, you’re the devil.

  4. christian says:

    The Devil is a powerful brand.

  5. palmtree says:

    The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was understanding the market and underlying business dynamic shifts.

  6. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I know a lot of people roll their eyes at “marketing”, but it’s a pretty big deal. I like the Snapple example, because over the space of 10 years it’s an example of:
    – The founders building a brand worth $1.7billion
    – Gatorade destroying a brand and selling it for $300million
    – RC Cola rebuilding the brand to be worth $1.5billion
    During that time nothing about the product changed – they didn’t alter the packaging like Pepsi or change the formula like Coke. They just changed how they marketed, and three times that swung the value by over a billion dollars.
    There’s a LOT of mediocre marketing people out there, just like there’s a lot of mediocre screenwriters and directors. If the marketing people you’ve worked with have never filled you with confidence that what they’re doing has resulted in noticeable impact, then they’re probably in the lower 50%. It’s their job to not only make a difference, but also to demonstrate that difference so they can gain the respect to continue having a hand in how the business is run – otherwise they’re just glorified Logo Cops. Just keep in mind that in order to do that you have to let them stick a hand on the steering wheel in the first place, and if you fire them for not being in the top 10% you’ve got a 90% chance of hiring a new mediocre marketing manager.

  7. christian says:

    The word “brand” is the most horribly overused term in our culture today.

  8. leahnz says:

    there’s always been marketing, but once upon a time movies would get made and then someone would decide how to best market them, rather than today’s bassakwards model wherein satan’s minions decide on which movies to make based on marketability

  9. Wrecktum says:

    We’re going to have a lot of fun with stuff like this in the future:
    “She’s full of MT promises.”
    “That campaign is MT of any interesting ideas.”
    “Those embarrassing TV spots made me feel MT and hollow.”
    “Our coffers are MT after that disastrous opening weekend.”
    “MT your office by noon.”

  10. Foamy Squirrel says:

    For me, it seems bassakwards to spend millions of dollars making something and THEN finding out if you can sell it. I can go and make 1000 tonnes of paprika and herring tapioca pudding, but wouldn’t it be a better idea to find out if anyone actually likes paprika with herring first?
    There’s a happy medium though – it’s probably equally bad to say “The majority of people like X, so let’s churn out nothing but X” because you get 20 people fighting over the same slice of pie. There’s room for smaller, artier stuff but for gods sake work out who are the people that it appeals to, how many of them there are, and how best to talk to them. If you don’t, you end up overspending, wasting your time talking to people who have no interest in the product, or telling them that the product has features they don’t give a shit about. Spending $50million on P&A telling mainstream audiences that Kick Ass has a 12 year old butchering criminals is not as smart as spending $15million telling geek audiences that Kick Ass is a deconstruction of the superhero genre – and your marketing should tell you which one you should do. AAA mass online games are falling over left, right, and centre, because they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing neat games… when apparently the North American AAA mass online market only has a million or two people (although billing your customers 40 times probably doesn’t help).
    – And Christian, yes, “brand” is overused. A lot of corporates like to throw it around for any product or service that has its own name, but it only really becomes a “brand” if certain groups of consumers are willing to pay extra money for that name. A lot of “brands” are just shit with a fancy name, and gaping financial black holes.

  11. leahnz says:

    “For me, it seems bassakwards to spend millions of dollars making something and THEN finding out if you can sell it. I can go and make 1000 tonnes of paprika and herring tapioca pudding, but wouldn’t it be a better idea to find out if anyone actually likes paprika with herring first?”
    but foamy, that analogy is about providing a simple product, not creating a complex work of art. historically speaking, how many great works of art, including literature and great films, would not have been made if the artists involved had second-guessed themselves and based their decision whether or not to pursues their vision/tell their story dependant on whether or not a certain somebody was going to buy it afterwards, rather than pursuing their vision with all the flair, clarity, and skill at their disposal, confident that if you create something terrific people will want to see it/buy it/own it?
    this sort of ‘marketing’ thinking is nothing but a dampener of individuality, creativity and clear artistic vision, and certainly doesn’t inspire daring and innovation in the artist’s work. worrying about the marketing of a movie before you make it, rather than telling the story you want to tell and THEN worrying about how to get bums on seats, leads to watered-down mediocrity. unfettered artistic/technical endeavour must come first, then figure out how to sell it. old school.
    of course there will be financial failures along the way, but doing it the other way around is the death knell to daring and creativity with too many grubby dumb-ass fingers in the pie. part of the problem is that flicks are getting so expensive to make, the stakes are higher, the gambles greater, which just leads to a further deepening of the ‘playing it safe’ mentality and descent into ‘competence’ and mediocrity. it’s downward spiral in which i believe the film industry is currently caught and perhaps even circling the drain, but that might be a bit of mood melodrama

  12. christian says:

    What leahnz nailed.

  13. leahnz says:

    cheers

  14. jeffmcm says:

    Also, re: what Foamy said earlier re: Snapple –
    If your product can swing wildly in popularity solely based on whether or not it’s marketed well, it’s probably not a product that people actually need. One of the things that bugs me about ‘marketing’ is how wildly inefficient and distorting its effects are to rational economic decision-making (especially because the whole reason most marketing exists is to circumvent/subvert rational economic decision-making).

  15. Foamy Squirrel says:

    And yet Ed Catmull, who co-runs the studio with probably the best financial and artistic record in history, would disagree – there has to be a balance between the artistic and business sides. The artists need to be free from the fear of failure – to avoid “playing it safe” as you say – but they still need the feedback to tell them what works and what doesn’t.
    There’s definitely bad marketing out there. The idea that you can somehow look at audiences and figure out The Formula ™ for a successful piece of art is nonsense. But so is the idea that somehow if you just believe in the purity of the creative process then you will tell the best story. The best comedians have known this for eons – they’ll test *this* joke by telling it *that* way on *this* audience and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. They’ll swap jokes in and out of or change how they tell them in the middle of their routine based on audience reaction – that’s marketing in almost it’s purest form, changing your art to get the best enjoyment for the audience you’re currently performing to. The worst comedians are those who stick blindly to their scripts, sticking with jokes that are falling flat, and ignoring when their audience gets restless.
    Shakespeare absolutely wrote with a concept of his audience in mind – he specifically included asides to the drunken “stinkards” in the front row so they could keep up with the plot. Many of Da Vinci’s paintings were deliberately composed because he gained most of his work through commission, and Michaelangelo’s Cistine Chapel includes a cut-section of the broca’s area of the brain for the clinicians how allowed him access to dissections for his study of anatomy. Sir Christopher Wren, who designed much of quintessential British architecture including St Paul’s Cathedral, placed structurally unnecessary pillars in Windsor Guildhall because the owners preferred them (although it should probably be noted that they are an inch or so short of the ceiling, so they continue to be structurally unnecessary). Chaplin co-opted much of his physical comedy from Little Titch in Europe because of audience reaction, and Richard Wagner modified the Ring Cycle legend to be more appealing to the King of Bavaria when creating Der Ring des Nibelungen.
    Think how much better the Star Wars prequels would have been if Lucas had listened when people told him Jar Jar Binks was awful.

  16. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Oops – forgot to include the link to the Ed Catmull presentation.

  17. christian says:

    And recall that no studios would make STAR WARS because their marketing departments told Lucas that audiences didn’t want to see science fiction.

  18. Foamy Squirrel says:

    And two years later they were proven “right” (for a given value of “right”) with Disney’s Black Hole.
    Marketing can certainly be screwed up – I’ve given
    a rather embarrassing example recently.

  19. christian says:

    And they were proven wrong within weeks by STAR TREK: TMP which made bank, followed by THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK the next year and the return of big budget sci-fi in the 1980’s….

  20. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Rather than getting into an example/counterexample debate…
    If you’re trying to say that marketing can be wrong then I’ve given you plenty of examples that already show I agree with you. If you’re trying to say that artists should be liberated rather than restricted, then I’ve given you plenty of examples (including that of John Galliano at the top of the page) to say that I agree with you. If you’re trying to say that marketing distorts the rational economic decision making, then I agree with you because the evidence is pretty consistent that humans really aren’t that rational in the first place.
    I guess my point is that if you look at the proportion of top artists/creators/inventors in history who looked at the people around them at the same time as they created their ideas, and then compare it with the proportion of failed artists/creators/inventors that you’ve never even heard of who decided that the only voice they should follow is their own, then the evidence seems to indicate that listening to your audience is probably a good idea.
    If it’s good enough for Shakespeare, Pixar, Eddie Izzard, Apple, Leonardo da Vinci, Hayao Miyazaki, Michaelangelo, Google, Sir Christopher Wren, Valve, Charlie Chaplin, Renoir, Steven Spielberg, Richard Wagner, Sir Richard Attenborough, Wu Cheng’en, Blizzard, M.C. Escher, Donatello, Amazon, and many many more, then it’s good enough for me.

  21. christian says:

    I know where you’re coming from, Foamy. Marketing works great for stuff that deserves an audience. I love a good movie campaign — trailers and poster design is all part of the show. I loved how AIP would make a poster first followed by the film. But that doesn’t always result in good stuff.
    Listening to your audience can work on all levels, from Bukowski to Spielberg to Zappa. It all depends on what your bottom line is.

  22. leahnz says:

    foamy, as usual your responses are well- researched and thoughtful as to make your good points, so just to say i appreciate that about you.
    “but they still need the feedback to tell them what works and what doesn’t.”
    but ‘works’ according to whom? and with what agenda? this is the crux of the matter. you can’t please all the people all the time, and trying to do so is sheer folly, leading to muddled visions and the ‘safe mediocrity’ so pervasive in film today, where so many movies all look alike. there are so few bold, unique visions because it’s deemed ‘too risky’ by the bankers. but without risk, art is rendered neutered and toothless. this is not to say that risk is always rewarded and works out for the best, hardly; but risk is inherent to the progression of film as an art form, for conceptual and technological leaps both small and large. at the moment, the timidity and ‘play-it-safe blandness’ required from the money mongers, marketing mavens and meddlers in order to protect investments is damaging the medium.
    as per some of your examples, they are interesting but don’t really relate to the core issue as i see it. obviously if an artist is commissioned to do a specific work/piece by a buyer, the wishes and intentions of that buyer must place highly in the overall aesthetics of the finished product. but this purview (curse you ‘in the loop’) is quite different from that of a team of artists and technicians hired to tell a story and produce their own vision according to their particular talents and skills; most artists, whatever their ilk, are sensitive to the nuances of popular culture and the zeitgeist of the times, and have some idea where they would like to see their work fit into the ethos. Shakespeare was unabashedly populist, true, but being sensitive to the audience of the day – or tailoring your act for laughs like chaplin – is quite separate from having outside forces such as marketing dictate the direction of the work and quash risk-taking and individuality for fear of failure.
    (and jar jar binks absolutely should be in the SW prequels. it’s lucas’ vision, his world, and if people don’t like it, well fuck them. i can’t stand jar jar, but good on lucas for sticking by that annoying little shit. risk can go either way, that’s the beauty and fragility of it)
    man i’m pooped and starting to ramble off course i think so i’ll leave it there in the gorse

  23. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Meh… it’s the result of a misspent youth. I told the story a while back of how I spent a university semester in LA and spent the entire time so off my face that I can no longer remember which college I supposedly “attended”.
    I would agree that “executive meddling” damages art more than it helps it – but the issue usually isn’t that the underlying principles of marketing are flawed, but rather that the people using it fall into the very “mediocre” class of marketers. It’s something that I personally rail at, and as a result I’ve managed to cultivate a reputation with the local branches of the Big 4 strategy consulting companies (Booz, BCG, Bain, McKinsey) to the point where partners will hide if I’m one of the people to which they’re presenting. After a few drinks, I’ve even had one of them confess he thought I was a saboteur from a rival firm.
    Bad marketing tends to come in two delicious flavours (with an assortment of minor samplers on the side). The first is the “Logo Cops” – bossy outsiders who come in and demand that the creative people “do it this way” because “that’s what the audience wants”. Good marketing shouldn’t be a 1-way process – it’s bringing together something your art has, with an audience who finds that valuable, in a way that your competitors don’t. As such, it should be integral to the creation process rather than someone standing with a big stick saying “don’t do that”. Pixar are very good at this – instead of saying “Will this work?” they say “How do we make it work?”. Where other studios would have rejected flat the concept of a cooking rat, Pixar says “That’s a really neat concept, now how do we bring this ‘Ratatouille’ to the audience?” – making them both remarkably innovative and commercially savvy at the same time.
    The second delicious flavour is the “Hammerers”. These come from the old adage “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. These are the people who say that “audiences don’t want to see science fiction”, “3D brings in the punters”, and “girls don’t watch action movies”. People are pretty diverse, in much the same way as art doesn’t always fit into nice neat categories. Just like Star Wars and 2001 are both technically sci-fi but have vastly different characteristics for audiences, so too can one teenage girl vastly differ in her preferences than another teenage girl. Demographics (age/sex typically) and genres are nice basic tools because it tends to be easy to put people (and art) into their respective baskets (with exceptions for those that are transgendered and transgenred) – but they’re exceptionally blunt tools that aren’t always appropriate. Bad segmentation leads to generalizations and poor decisions – “garbage in, garbage out” as it were. The example I’ve used before is that the “average person” has 1 testicle – but if you start creating something for the uniglobular consumer you’re probably not going to be very successful.
    The best example I’ve ever heard for good marketing comes from a guy called Mark Ritson, who trains all the LVMH brand managers in Paris:
    Consider two women, in their early thirties. Both recently married, of anglo-saxon decent, with white-collar junior manager corporate jobs. They play sport infrequently, like mainstream music and movies, have no significant medical conditions, and if they’re honest have a weakness to chocolate. However, they differ in one crucial respect.
    They both want to purchase a particular chemical. Despite the wide range of products in this category, they all use fundamentally the same process and it’s something of an industry secret that chemically there’s less difference between any two products than between Coke and Pepsi. This chemical is the active ingredient in a home pregnancy test.
    One of the women wants the result to be positive, and one of the women wants the result to be negative – and that makes the world of difference in how two different kits are marketed. One will be distributed primarily through doctors and fertility clinics, the other through drug stores and sexual health clinics. One will be packaged with images of the child that they may be bringing into the world, the other will be plain and sterile. One will talk about how it wont give you a positive result if you’re not pregnant, the other will talk about how it wont give you a negative result if you are pregnant. One will have a high price to represent the value of the child it heralds, the other will have a low price to represent its functional efficiency (and you should buy this brand next time too). And if you tried to segment and market to these two women based on traditional demographics, you’d miss all of these nuances.
    In the end, all art is intended to be seen by audiences, so if you fail to understand what is driving your audience then you have a good chance of failing to establish an emotional connection with them. And that’s what all good marketing should do.

  24. Foamy Squirrel says:

    That should probably read “And establishing an emotional connection is what all good marketing should do”. As originally written, it means the exact opposite of what I intended.

  25. christian says:

    “but the issue usually isn’t that the underlying principles of marketing are flawed”
    Well, that’s a matter of serious opine. I personally dislike the fact that I’m assaulted by advertising every few feet and worse, every bar or cafe now has to have at least one giant screen trying to sell you crap you don’t need, filling all public space with consumer noise, and as a rule I don’t feel any emotional connection with marketing. And I’ve worked with marketing people and we just see the world differently. I
    Though I do appreciate your clear insight Foamy. You sound like one of the good guys. I have no problem with the messy alliance between art and commerce except when it comes to who’s dictating the terms, so leah’s preaching to my choir.

  26. LexG says:

    I have NO FUCKING IDEA what anyone is talking about here but I liked the part about Foamy getting wasted and fucking chicks in college.
    YEP YEP TAX THAT SQUACK.
    Christian, do you ever get tired of BEING ANTI-THE MAN?
    How’s that working out for you?

  27. Foamy Squirrel says:

    “Well, that’s a matter of serious opine”
    Heh… fair enough. I’d probably be one of the first to admit that there’s no such thing as the perfect theory, especially in something like marketing.
    The advertising assault is something of a problem for media and comms agencies, it usually ranks #2 or #3 behind access to BRIC countries and ROI for ever-fussier clients. It’s especially bad for mass-market products like movies – If you think about a fairly big studio movie, if you have a $50mil P&A budget and it does $200mil domestic, at Boxofficemojo’s $7.61 average ticket price that means you spent a bit under $2 each on slightly over 25 million people. In fact, your ads were probably seen by over 100million people, so you probably spent (well) under 50 cents per person. You can’t buy a lot of personalization for that.
    It’s estimated that these days we see over 15,000 marketing messages per day – a threefold increase from the 90’s and a tenfold increase from the 80’s. With those kind of numbers, and that kind of per-person budget, for mass products usually all the agencies aim for is that you recognize the name in a line-up. Probably only half or people who see the comms messages will remember the tagline or slogan, and less than a third will have already formed some kind of emotional connection (either positive or negative) – and that will probably be pretty basic, along the lines of “It reminds me of X movie, and I liked/disliked X”. Believe me, if marketers could stop spending 50cents on every person who can’t even remember the tagline then they would.
    The pervasive marketing depicted in Minority Report – where eye scanners detect your identity and immediately start displaying ads – seems like some kind of Orwellian nightmare, but the second (decent) marketers know that you’re not worth their time and money then they’re going to stop targeting you for ads. No more junk mail, no more billboards, no more annoying popups at the bottom of TV shows – they know you don’t care, so they’re not going to bother. Tesco in the UK and LL Bean in the US are getting pretty good at this. Of the 20million or so mailers that Tesco sends out each month, there will be 19million different ones – tailored to the buying habits of the individuals, because they know that you like buying those groceries. Where most direct mail agencies consider a 3-4% coupon redemption rate pretty good, around 30% of all coupons that Tesco send out are used. Similarly, LL Bean will track your purchases – if you buy a leather jacket from their catalogue, they’ll work out that it’ll probably start wearing out in 2-3 years time. 2-3 years later, they’ll send you a little note saying “Hey, if you want a new jacket we’ve got one in stock that’s just your size”. They wont pester you every 2-3 weeks with similar products because they know that you only make purchases on rare occasions, so it’s not worth their time and money bothering you.
    Of course, a lot of this is idealized – there’s hard realities that can’t be overcome at the moment. It’s hard to predict anyone’s behaviour with anywhere near even 50% accuracy. There’s always people happy to play the numbers game – if you harass 2 million people and 1% say “Yes”, that’s still 20,000 people. And god knows there’s privacy issues with recommendations – no-one wants to be greeted with a recommendation of German anal porn based on friends’ viewing habits. But just like the internet and social networking has its triumphs and cess pools, there’s hope that marketing will fumble its way towards a better world.
    In an ideal marketing world, making a film would feel like a personal project with you and your mates – except you just happened to have 10-20 million “mates”.

  28. The Big Perm says:

    Foamy is rocking the joint around here.

  29. christian says:

    “Christian, do you ever get tired of BEING ANTI-THE MAN?”
    What do you know about being a man?

  30. leahnz says:

    foamy, you make some interesting points, but one thing is clear: we are looking at this issue from two very different perspectives. as an artist by nature and profession, i think you are mistaken in your belief in the relevance of the ‘marketing ethos’ in the creative process of film-making.
    “In the end, all art is intended to be seen by audiences, so if you fail to understand what is driving your audience then you have a good chance of failing to establish an emotional connection with them. And that’s what all good marketing should do.”
    this is probably the best general example from your passages to use for a retort (you self-corrected in the next paragraph, but i didn’t really understand the difference as it pertains to your intent, so hopefully i’m not misreading your meaning here), and i could not disagree more.
    you appear to be making a spurious correlation between marketing paradigms and art that successfully elicits an emotional connection with the audience. in so far as the creative process of film-making goes, this correlation is false, and demonstrative of the very way of thinking causing problems with the film industry today.
    no amount of marketing concerns and trying to figure out what ‘drives your audience’ makes one iota of difference to ensuring an emotional connection with the viewers of a film, because the viewers are a myriad kizzilion different individuals and personalities, each of whom brings their own subjective character and background and sensibilities and emotions into the cinema (or home theatre nowadays i guess, whatever)
    what people connect with is not quantifiable using marketing techniques, what people connect with the world over is emotional truth, however that manifests for each individual.
    the only way to achieve a ‘core of truth’ is for film-makers to create a vision that rings true to them (even in the most fantastical of settings), with characters that hit notes of truth, action that feels real, telling a story they care about and pour their hearts and minds into. great films are those that achieve this elusive ‘core of truth’, in which inevitably the film-makers make the movie THEY want to see, with a story and characters that excite them, move them, thrill them, challenge them, etc. this is what’s genuine, this is what the audience (hopefully) feels, the truth viewers connect with and embrace, individual to each subjective interpretation.
    ratatouille is a good example, but not in the way you stated. from a marketing standpoint, an animated flick about a rat chef is just weird, almost creepy, but pixar pulled it off beautifully. and NOT because the artists put on their marketing caps to figure out how to best make the character of remy ‘saleable’ to the ‘target audience’, hardly.
    no, the filmmakers succeeded by asking themselves, what is remy’s truth? what is so special about him and his love of food, his friendship, his character, that we should tell his story? this emotional truth is what makes remy a great character and acceptable protagonist, not figuring out how to best market remy to an audience of rat-haters so that they like him. this is not how effective film-making works.
    the ONLY place marketing has in the film industry – and the only influence it should ever exert – is in SELLING the movie. period. sorry if that sound harsh, but marketing mavens need to butt the hell out of the creative process and do their job, which is figuring out how to effectively sell the story.

  31. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Let me put it this way – if a New Zealand director or writer has a “core of truth” that they wish to communicate to the audience and they make a fabulous film… and they make it in Te Reo Maori, would most audiences who would normally connect with the “core of truth” be able to do so for this film?
    Marketing isn’t about selling anything – it’s about removing the barriers that are preventing the specific people who would find that “core of truth” valuable from doing so. Part of that is finding those people. Part of that is telling those people about the core of truth. And part of that is removing the barriers that are in the art itself.
    For example, first draft – “do I deserve to live or should I seek death?”. Final draft, after marketing feedback “to be or not to be, that is the question”.

  32. leahnz says:

    christ no, foamy! aaaaarggggggghhhhhh!
    pretty much everything you just said is the devil! the intrusive marketing you just described is THE PROBLEM, not THE SOLUTION
    (seriously, i order you to go hang out at an artists colony, then on a film production for a year. i NEVER get worked up while blogging, i’m cool as a cucumber 99% of the time, but you just about gave me a heart attack and caused me to hyperventilate and spill my cuppa. i’m going to find a paper bag and a serviette now!)

  33. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Haha… fair enough.
    The problem most people have with marketing is that mediocre marketers try to impose an external influence on the “core of truth” without regard for the core itself. Good marketers don’t worry about trying to sell to “the rat haters” – if they hate rats, fuck ’em. It’ll cause more harm than good trying to placate that segment, and they recognize that. Good marketers don’t say, “American audiences don’t like foreign languages, make it English”, they say “Let’s find the audience members who are willing to watch a film in a foreign language”.
    Intrusive marketing is BAD, I totally agree with you. Good marketing is entirely collaborative – I’ve worked on sets back in Ye Olden Days, and it’s the equivalent of the guy who says “Hey, how about if we try the scene this way…” and it works really well. Good marketing should never compromise the core essence of what is valuable to the art. If you’ve had a bad experience with marketers in the past, then I apologize – but not everyone can be the marketing equivalent of Quentin Tarantino or Akira Kurosawa. Most of them are trying to do their job the best they can, but saying “Your job is to stand as far away over there as possible” is missing out on the ability to express the creative vision in a much clearer, effective way. It IS the artists colony.

  34. christian says:

    “Marketing isn’t about selling anything – it’s about removing the barriers that are preventing the specific people who would find that “core of truth” valuable from doing so.”
    Aw, come on. That’s jes’ academic marketing jargon designed to filter the reality that marketing is indeed all about the sale.
    Foamy, you’re clearly brilliant at your job, but your answers are still selling, not tellin';]

  35. christian says:

    “Good marketing should never compromise the core essence of what is valuable to the art.”
    That I agree with.

  36. palmtree says:

    Great discussion…
    I would just say that it’s hard not to see the two sides here having merits.
    I think today we have lots of people who want to feel like they are a part of the creative process, hence American Idol, etc. So a lot of marketing these days is around working with the artists to produce materials that will give them an inside look to the art.
    For a film I worked on we created a new comic book for Comic-Con, made by the director and creative team of the movie. It effectively introduced the look of the movie to core fans of the original comic book. In other words, in popular mass-media art it seems in the artist’s best interest to generate marketing materials for the marketer to use.
    But in some art, it seems to be the opposite. If you are too calculating in your marketing, people start to smell it and back away due to the lack of authenticity of the piece. Of course, Foamy could easily argue that any art with “authenticity” achieved it due to sly marketing.
    All in all, I don’t think it’s the work of the devil so much as a ubiquitous evil of modern consumer driven society. Maybe I’m biased because I worked in marketing, but I’ve also seen good movies that died due to bad marketing so can we agree it’s not just all about emotional core.

  37. Foamy Squirrel says:

    It’s probably true that at the end of the day you can boil the ultimate goal of marketing down to “Putting bums on seats”, but I would argue that there’s a philosophical difference between having your measure of success being “dollars in your pocket” and going a step further and saying “dollars in your pocket is just one way of telling if the audience appreciated the art”. One puts the goals of the audience in the driver’s seat, the other puts the goals of the artist in the driver’s seat. The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but they do occasionally come into conflict.
    The irony is that I don’t really work in marketing – the last marketing contract I worked on was actually in Wellington, NZ, and may have even been just across the road from Leah (depending on which building she works in). But I realise that it’s something of an uphill battle when so many people have been burned in the past, so it can be hard to imagine how it would be different if every encounter with marketing has worked *this* way.
    Tivo had much the same problem when they launched – no matter how much they told people about how great their DVR was, the reaction by most people was “Why would I want to pay an extra $200 for a digital VCR?”. After 5 years, they were still 65% below projected sales, and massively in debt. So the Tivo guys set up deals with distributors so that people could use the device without paying full-price up front… and once people tried it they understood. Today about half of all US homes have some form of DVR device, and most people can’t imagine going back.
    If at the end of the day, all I’ve managed to do is opened you up to the possibility that marketing has the potential to be better than what you’ve experienced in the past, then that’s a win in my book.

  38. leahnz says:

    quik to say no offence intended to foamy there with my little freak-out (hopefully you ‘know’ me well enough by now to know when i say ‘the devil’ it’s just my extreme version of ‘not right!’, i’m not seriously preachin’ on evil), i appreciate your point of view even if i don’t agree with it

  39. Foamy Squirrel says:

    NOW you tell me – do you know how much it costs to lease a genuine voodoo doll these days?

  40. leahnz says:

    i make my own!

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“Yes, yes, yes. Now I am also the producer on Jean-Luc’s films, so I need to raise the money. Yes, there are two projects in preparation with the pretext of virtual reality. We are beginning with two approaches: we can either do or undo VR. Maybe we will undo it more than we do VR, because thinking about VR leads to the opposite of VR. Is there concrete imagination in virtual reality? For me, cinema is concrete imagination because it’s made with the real and uses it. VR, virtual reality, is totally the opposite of that, but it might be interesting to use this and then to destroy it. No, we’ll see, we’ll see. First, it’s just an idea of a beginning. There is a forest to cross, and we are just at the beginning of the forest. The first step is development. As they say in business, first there is development and research. We have to develop somehow an idea for the film; I won’t say a script, but to see what we can do with this system, and what we can undo with this system.”
~ Fabrice Aragno On Godard’s Next Projects

“Why put it in a box? This is the number one problem I have—by the way it’s a fair question, I’m not saying that—with this kind of festival situation is that there’s always this temptation to classify the movie immediately and if you look at it—and I’ve tried to warn my fellow jurors of this—directors and movie critics are the worst people to judge movies! Directors are always thinking, “I could do that.” Critics are always saying, “This part of the movie is like the 1947 version and this part…” And it’s like, “Fuck! Just watch the movie and try and absorb it and not compare it to some other fucking movie and put it in a box!” So I think the answer’s both and maybe neither, I don’t know. That’s for you to see and criticize me for or not.”
~ James Gray