Hollywood Pivot Should Take Lead From Consumers, Bishoff Says

As the Coronavirus lockdown halts production and delays release dates for major Hollywood films, people like Scott Bishoff are working hard to react with speed and intelligence. Bishoff, VP-Media for a major film studio and a 20-year entertainment marketing veteran, acknowledged to a Brand Innovators Livecast audience that his studio and others “just lost a lot of things that were in our playbook for launching products and trailers.”

The cancellation or postponement of major events like the Olympics, the NBA Finals and multiple music festivals is having a big knock-on effect. “Those are huge tentpoles for a massive number of advertisers. In our industry, we are so good at anticipating trends and planning for them. We just can’t do that right now. The biggest challenge is that we don’t know what’s next.”

“An economic downturn is actually a great time to lean in and do more. Companies who don’t do that often pay a price. It is an unprecedented time right now. Life is not going on so it’s not easy to say ‘Just keep advertising and keep building your brand.’”

Consumer Behavior Key

Bishoff says it will be critical going forward for brands to understand consumer needs and behavior in great detail. “The future of media is as much about the consumer as it is the CEOs and all the people who do this for a living. So, the more we listen to consumers, the more effective we will be.”

What will the consumer mindset be around data privacy? “The big question I always grapple with is, ‘What will the consumer mindset be two years from now?’ With all the new privacy laws, we are moving from a world where we must opt out to one where we must opt in. There’s only so much data we can get without consumers opting in. The more personal we can get, the better it will be for consumers. But it’s all about what consumer thresholds are for this. We have to be respectful. We must get better about who we’re talking to and how we’re talking to them.”

Austin, TX  – March 9, 2019: Scott Bishoff (R) at Brand Innovators Mega-Trends at Lambert’s Restaurant

Bishoff challenges marketers to look at their own inevitable biases in an effort to keep them at arm’s length. “We all have bias in our life. As marketers, it’s impossible to not let that creep into your work life. We’re all guilty of it.”

Marketers must find a balance, Bishoff says, when trying to attach themselves to new consumer trends. “A lot of times we lag behind consumer trends by one or two years. When something new launches like a new social network, we try to make sure it’s not a fad. For every Facebook, there’s a Friendster. Look at our industry. 3D is fantastic but I don’t know that today it’s where people thought it would be 10 years ago.”

So how long should marketers wait until something grabs hold? That’s the question. “Just because a trend emerges in pop culture doesn’t mean [marketers] need to be there right away. Speed is important but, by the same token, we don’t want to infiltrate too soon before it has a chance to grow organically.”

Esports: Not a Fad

When the discussion turns to the rise of esports, Bishoff dismisses any idea that it’s a fad and invokes lessons learned from those who dismissed influencer marketing out of hand at its beginnings. “The year of mobile lasted a decade,” he laughs. “The year of influencer marketing lasted a decade. The year of esports will too! Esports is here to stay and it’s only going to grow.”

Bishoff cites esports as a potential example of bias. “I grew up gaming but the world of esports gaming is like a different planet to me. I don’t get it as a consumer but I 100% do get it as a marketer.”

Esports is at a precipice right now, Bishoff contends, in terms of how it will allow commerce and sponsorships to shape its future. He urges restraint on both sides. “What’s more important for them, the business or the integrity of the competition? And marketers must decide: where is the right place to insert ourselves? Over the next few months and years, we will find a way to put ourselves in there at scale, hopefully without going too far.”

Data & Measurement

On data and measurement, Bishoff points to two key themes: lifecycle and understanding what is happening at different points in the funnel. “Who controls the transaction?” he asks. “Who controls the data? What is the lifecycle of that data? When you’re launching a film, it’s very short. That’s way different from, say, the auto industry where they are trying to track a consumer for a lot longer than 4-6 weeks.”

Los Angeles, CA  – February 13, 2020: Scott Bishoff (L)  at Brand Innovators Entertainment Marketing at NBCUniversal

He stresses the value in digging deep into data for less obvious nuggets of wisdom. “What can we get from the data we do have that informs what we can’t measure as well? I need more information at my fingertips, those proxies that lead me to my end goal. As much as I would like to say sales or conversions are my end goal, there are a lot of steps that get us there.”

The Promise of AR, VR and AI

Ask Bishoff about new-gen technologies like AR, VR and AI and you get a sober, balanced answer. “Anything we look at, we have to ask, ‘What is the benefit to the consumer?’ AR in particular has some interesting utility around it. Home Depot allows you to virtually paint your wall. I bought a new couch and was able to put it virtually in my living room. That’s a utility.”

He applies the same methodology to storytellers, in Hollywood and beyond. “We still have to ask: is it helpful or is it just fun? As a marketer, I want to put something in the wild that lets people express themselves.”

Bishoff’s words about artificial intelligence are more effusive. “AI is transformational. Anytime you have something like that, it makes you better at your job. It can help with speed to market, getting on top of trends or looking at how something like COVID-19 changes consumer behavior. For storytellers, it gives us the tools to do better, to be better, and that’s better for the consumer.”

Return to normal

Speaking of Coronavirus, Bishoff freely admits he has no idea what “new normal” people will return to or how the film industry will coalesce to solve these new challenges. “We all have to work together within the ecosystem. Will people want to go back to the theaters, stadiums, parks, etc.? What will the consumer appetite be for any of this? It will be trial and error. We’ll have to make sure the whole ecosystem stays strong. And we’ll still have to deliver a great experience on the big screen.”

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