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David Poland

By David Poland

Will Bumble Bring A New Buzz To Fox Publicity?

I like Bumble Ward. I have since I met her… I don’t know… 15 years ago. I still do business with some of her former associates… and I remember the rest of them fondly. I still quote Bebe Lerner’s “movie friends” from that radical Tad Friend piece that marked the movement towards Bumble “retiring” at or near the top of her game.

I also like the family at Fox’s publicity department. I think Bumble will be the sixth person to hold that corner office in the 15 years or so that I’ve worked in conjunction with the studio. Others have come and gone, but a lot of the staff has been there for a long time already.

But as the years have passed, I don’t think the department has ever really been reimagined. Those seismic style shifts are rare.

Disney has changed and continues to change, after execs from outside of the Hollywood bubble came in to run things about 18 months ago. Mike Vollman fought to change the landscape of Paramount’s film publicity department while he was there, coming in on the heels of a lot of people getting fired after the DW pseudo-merger.

The most radical marketing department -publicity included – in the last decade was DreamWorks, pre-merger. Terry Press created a machine that was an intense, tough, funny, daring, sometimes enraged family. Part of what worked so well was that the studio was small, everyone was in the boat together, for better and sometimes, for worse. So much of the marketing and publicity job has become, at the majors, about managing the talent, that innovation has become harder to embrace.

But while the personalities have changed and new technology has changed the media field a bit, the last decade-plus at Warners, Universal, Sony, and Fox… pretty consistent in tone. Very smart people working their asses off. Occasional moments of radical inspiration. But still, it’s a big machine… throwing out the bath water without the baby isn’t easy.

I don’t want to see anyone at Fox fired or replaced. But I am deeply interested in whether Bumble will push her new team in some new directions, in terms of how the thinking about movie publicity works.

It’s a different world out there now. The value of publicity waned for a while there… just too many marketing dollars defining the marketplace. But with the industry trying to pull back on those marketing dollars, simple awareness becoming less challenging, but actual calls to ticket-buying action on titles that are not pre-sold seeming harder and harder, it feels like it might be time for publicity to reemerge as a dominant force.

But not so much by doing what’s always been done.

I can only assume that Oren wanted Bumble because she will think out of the box… and because he believes she can manage the pressures of this job. Maybe a former personal publicist knows how to manage the personals in a new way.

Should be interesting. We should get a sense of where things are – or aren’t – going by sometime in November.

3 Responses to “Will Bumble Bring A New Buzz To Fox Publicity?”

  1. Semi-anonymous reviewer says:

    Fox are kinda notorious among critics for (a) not sending out screening invites (except at awards season) and making critics chase them down and (b) having screenings at awkward hours (11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.) that people with day-jobs have a tough time getting to.

    It’d be nice to see that change a bit.

  2. Triple Option says:

    David Poland wrote: So much of the marketing and publicity job has become, at the majors, about managing the talent, that innovation has become harder to embrace.”

    With apologies to Sanj, this would make an interesting DP/30. What all would managing the talent include? Is it more about working the stars into the whole marketing campaign? Is it a matter of appeasing the wishes of them from pre-production to the film’s release? It seems like there could be a potential to be at odds with business affairs if that is the case or at least drive up the potential demands. Does this even involve major talent with the development process?

    Next, is it really a matter of the divided job that prevents innovation in marketing? Hasn’t the model of movie budget size and release pattern really determined the course for how a film is marketed? With the dearth of studio dependents and small, indie arms, could a studio take a $50M or $75M prod budget film and “try something new?” I feel like things will be as they are until someone figures out how to reach people another way at which point studios will either try to copy or buy in. Is it really a matter of needing to find someone who can say “what if” but really just a matter of getting someone(s) already there to agree to it?

  3. David Poland says:

    Well, TO… the thing for a major studio is that most movies they release in a traditional way, not matter what the production cost, will cost a minimum of $35m to market. That’s a big budget. Most of it goes to TV. But is there a better way to spend?

    There have been innovative moments. Paranormal Activity is the most recent big breakout. Tyler Perry is one at Lionsgate.

    As for appeasing stars, the personals have become much more powerful and stars less flexible on big movies. But if the personals and their stars are convinced that what they are being asked to do is good for them and the movie, they’ll do it. They aren’t – generally – idiots.

    I am convinced that part of the reason that talent has tightened up is that they don’t see the upside in much of the work they do for films. They feel like they are on a conveyor belt to nowhere… and often, they are.

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