- Presented by Snap

How to Keep Digital Campaigns Innovative and Exciting

Universal Pictures on using advanced tech to build brands

This story is part of a series of interviews with 2022 Clio Entrainment supporting partners about the evolution of entertainment marketing. 

Muse: What is your guiding philosophy or approach to creating entertainment marketing that makes a difference for fans?

Alex Sanger, EVP, global digital marketing at Universal Pictures: In my role for Universal, I lead a team that is responsible for all facets of online marketing—from digital strategy, social tone of voice and creative and platform integrations, to emerging tech and trends, digital publicity, creator and influencer partnerships, mixed reality and more. Having this broad range of responsibilities allows my team to create highly relevant and bespoke digital campaigns for each title we promote, depending on the film's audience. To that end, we strive to have everything we do be authentic to the film, its tone, story, and themes. And authentic, as well as relevant, to the platform we are "advertising" on. Online audiences, especially millennials and Gen Z are very savvy. They can smell artificiality a mile away and brands get sent to internet jail or relegated to irrelevance on a daily basis.

Personalization is also critical, and something that audiences increasingly expect as technology matures. Repurposing traditional marketing materials for digital audiences is never the answer. We have to create custom materials and deliver innovative tactics specifically designed for the platforms we are on. We always look to use the platforms for what they do best, not simply replicate the same digital execution across each.

Digital marketers are fortunate to be able to do things that other mediums simply cannot. Something as simple as a real-time conversation or as immersive as a unique AR experience can draw people into the world of our films in meaningful ways. We can make an emotional impact on our audiences through that personalization and deep engagement.

When we are working with our partners like Snap, we always look to do these things, and we know that when we get excited by an idea, or new tech, or something that has never been done before, we are on the right track.

We always want to take a few big swings on every digital campaign. Those are ways to break through, be innovative and reach audiences that are averse to advertising.

We know we've done it right when we drive earned media, go viral, penetrate the zeitgeist, and generate a "moment" that can help propel audiences to get off their couches, spend their hard earned money, and go to the theater to enjoy our movies in a communal setting with like minded fans.

Describe a recent execution that embodied that approach.

Our digital campaign on Blumhouse's now instant classic, M3GAN, is a perfect example of my team thinking in this fashion. Blumhouse are amazing partners and they delivered such a phenomenal asset in this sassy, sinister killer robot that was like catnip for the internet. For Snap, we created a custom AR lens that had fans "pairing" with M3GAN and had her doing her now famous M3GAN dance in the world lens. We deployed M3GAN chat bots on Twitter and IG/FB Messenger. We leveraged synthetic audio using the voice actress from the film so we could have M3GAN say anything to anyone, anytime.And, we built out a video-based A.I. bot so M3GAN could create relevant TikToks and respond to fans, brands and influencers in a reactive, always-on style.

For DreamWorks Animation's Puss in Boots, we worked very closely with the filmmakers to produce a great deal of unique, impactful executions. One of my favorites was an integration we did into Roblox's globally popular game, Adopt Me. We integrated our characters into the gameplay for fans to interact with, and ended up driving well over a billion impressions and tens of millions of gameplay sessions for those very hard to reach young kids.

What excites you most about the future of entertainment marketing, and how are you preparing for that future?

It is as scary as it is exciting, but more advanced A.I. is coming, whether we like it or not. With the developments of synthetic audio, deep fakes, and chatGPT coupled with the proliferation and accessibility of wearable tech, much more amazing digital marketing experiences, as well as immersive mixed reality, are on the horizon. We are closely keeping our eyes on these developments and dabbling when appropriate. I think technologies like this have the ability to shift the conversation in marketing as we know it— and I'm fascinated to see how it all unfolds.

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