Finally, A Summit That Almost Reaches The Top

Yesterday, iMedia presented the newest Entertainment Marketing Summit under the header – For Entertainment Marketers by Entertainment Marketers and the difference was palpable. At many summits or conferences; the subjects often blend into each other, the same buzzwords are said too many times, the presentations seem too much like lectures and not the sharing of ideas or conversations, and there seems to be too much company marketing and no real takeaways from presentations.  Perhaps it was iMedia’s format of having members of the community host the entire day that made the difference – making the whole day seem more familial and interesting. For the most part, the sharpened model worked in bubbling this conference up near the top.

iMedia had done something similar for the Video Content Summit in March during the In-Focus breakout – with AJ Vernet hosting and setting the tone for sharing and growing together – but the presentations seemed more like company demonstrations and not data or best-practices sharing. Also at the Video Summit, Shelly Palmer came across as more adversarial as a host. In this case, Bettina Sherick and Kevin Doohan tag-teamed a warm and engaging set of transitions from one session to the next.

It was probably by accident, but the fact that the Keynote Fireside Chat featured two people who don’t just work together – they grew up as close childhood friends – helped establish the familial feel further.  Those friends were Jake Zim and Elias Plishner of Sony Pictures, and you couldn’t find a more respected person to leaf the chat in Gordon Paddison. Jake and Elias did provide insight into some specifics of how Sony works in ways that other studios might not, their challenges were not unique. They provided a sound basics for anyone who did not know them and because of their comfort with each other, Jake’s straight-shooting style was right at home.  He rightfully stated that “people only need one reason not to go to the movies these days.” While it doesn’t make sense to go through everything here, the retweeted quotes from Jake’s mouth cover a lot:

“Fish stinks from the head”
“We have to provide an experience that’s better than free”
“Two commas or spare me the drama”
“No movie sells itself”

I leave it to you to have fun with trying to assign context to the quote…

Brad Berens did his usual solid job with an engaging presentation of the state of entertainment, and more specifically, where the audience is. Between the way viewership has changed in the last 5 or 6 decades and the forms in which entertainment is now available, there is so much change and we still have room for so much more of it to happen. His bit of prescience at the end was his stated belief that XBOX 360 is going to continue to grow and be an even larger property.

Peter Stouggard Presenting – All Pictures Courtesy of iMedia

Peter Stouggard should be applauded for actually using technology for full effect by building an app to house his presentation. His compelling review of what he sees as the “best of” was refreshing just because of his willingness to not only laud the achievements but also look at some of the “what could have beens” to make those even stronger.  He didn’t present it as a negative for what was already done, but as a celebration (or challenge) relating to what opportunities could be advanced in the future.

This year’s visionary  Marketer Award went to Doug Neil of Universal. it was the first Powerpoint/Keynote acceptance speech that I’ve seen. But other than not being able to play a piece from Les Miserables, it was a successful turn of technology.  Or, it at least embraced the spirit of sharing and community in how he used the forum to discuss what he sees the keys to success are.

Unfortunately, after lunch, the programming fell into the same traps we’ve seen at lesser forums and conferences.  It turned into much more presentations of case studies that felt more like business pitches than sharing of best practices.  I won’t go into specifics here out of respect for the presenters and iMedia, but there was far too much general commenting and ideas with no real metrics that can help us determine which way to move forward (or, at least sell the concepts upwards.) It seems that the biggest hiccup that arises all the time is measurement understanding or strategies. Many of those items are nice, but not truly helpful without placing them in context of some clear metrics.

When the day grew later and started veering far off-schedule, the presentations and panels just seemed to grow longer and without as fine a point as those in the first half of the day. Mark Silva brought up some interesting concepts about the collaboration with startups in Silicon Valley. Yet he even acknowledged that he needed to spend more time in Los Angeles to understand how things work to see if it would make any sense to engage on such partnerships.

The day closed out with Lori H. Schwartz interviewing Dane Boedigheimer of Annoying Orange fame. It was presented almost as if it were the highlight of the day in terms of how complete it was and how long it was, but half the attendees had left by then. I was glad I stuck around for a couple of reasons: First, it was good to see Dane still laugh at the humor of an old episode – often creators don’t seem to enjoy their own product as much in public; Second, Dane was able to provide some bits of insight into a group that is ordinarily quite challenging to reach socially – boys 6-11. He named his engagement at his site in the hours after posting new videos was key in building his base. From that, he was able to leverage the deep base to do other UGC and contest mechanics to more deeply involve them in the brand. After a line-up of seasoned vets, it was truly refreshing to see someone who is talented and, perhaps, has a less jaded view on things.

Bettina Sherick stated that “the playing field keeps changing” during her opening remarks and it certainly seems true that we cannot afford to work alone within our silos.  There’s just too much information and development to afford to do such a thing. In entertainment, we are all in this together and, while we are a competitive bunch, what’s good for one is good for all.  In as much a way as it is impossible to have a film that doesn’t need marketing, it is not possible for one studio or another to beat the odds and have huge successes every year.  A few years ago, it was Fox with AVATAR and this year it’s all about Paramount/Disney/Marvel with THE AVENGERS. As such, it is important for everyone to be familial and friendly – along with the competitive.

Just like anything else, there is constant tweaking and development to be found in forums and conferences. iMedia is doing a solid job of not resting on their laurels and getting stronger with each event.


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