Let's talk!


PODCAST – MVP presents Sony Pictures featuring Milissa Douponce

Podcast Transcript

James (00:10):

And welcome back to the MVP Podcast everyone. We are again in the quarantine files of our podcast, and we have a very special guest today, Milissa Douponce. Milissa, how are you?

Milissa (00:25):

I’m doing well. Thank you for having me, James.

James (00:27):

Of course. You know, I, I feel like we are amongst royalty here. You know, you’ve built a nice career as being a marketing strategist known for your crazy ideas, your partnership, outstanding thinking, as well as being able to drive results for your marketing efforts. And most recently as the Vice President of International Marketing with Sony Pictures. So thank you very much for being on the show, I should say.

Milissa (01:01):

Thank you. This is a really crazy time. I think the good part is it’s giving, at least for me, it’s giving me a chance to kind of have the solitude to explore new stuff and to look at, you know to be creative and to do this interview. This is a lot of fun.

James (01:24):

Yeah. Awesome. You know, it’s, it’s funny that you mentioned the creativity part as someone who you know, us collectively at MVP or as a creative technologist. But I would say as a marketer and, the overall sort of society, you know, coming into this pandemic, I personally felt within the first, oh geez, maybe the first three to four weeks that I was at a real creative stunt. And, I didn’t, you know, we tried to kind of regroup as a team here and, pivot and think about new, strategies and new technology, and I struggled early on, but you know, it seemed like the fog has cleared to a degree and, we’ve been able to spin out some pretty neat things. But how about yourself? I mean, you know, as someone that has constantly had to think creatively and, really market for large brands and movies, and so when things go on hold, you know, how did you kind of spur, your creativity back up?

Milissa (02:27):

I think for me it was about, you know because prior, I actually, when Covid started I was in Kuala Lumpur in December, and then it really, I was in the hotspot, I went through Hong Kong for a movie. I did an activation in Singapore off the coast on Sentosa Island in Singapore. And, you know, I feel like I felt kind of the Covid-19 stuff early on. <Affirmative>. So as I was coming back there was a lag on what was, you know, then it hit Italy, Europe, and then the United States. So my brain went immediately to like, this is serious, because in early February, even at my hotel, I was getting my temperature taken. We were washing our hands, You know, the Singaporean government was definitely giving guidelines cause they were so experienced with SARS.

Milissa (03:29):

So I kind of, when I was coming back, I was literally like, Oh, movie theaters, You know, depending on how the US handles this movie theaters are, and other places that people congregate are really gonna be challenged. From a creative standpoint, my brain went to you know, a monitor. I was kind of monitoring what the situation was, and then, my brain was going to like, how can I use my skills? How can I help? How can I solve problems? Are drive-in theaters gonna come back, which is actually happening. A lot of people are doing driving initiatives. My husband who is very technical and he’s giving a lot of sound support to and engineering support to a lot of online activations. But he was immediately like, Oh, yeah, we could do a drive, you know, we could do a drive in. You can just run it through, you know you can run it through your phone. And so I guess my point is, is that, you know, whatever creative skills or ideas that I had, I was just thinking like, how can we apply them to, you know, help out and to pitch into what’s happening now? Sure. And that was really early. That was early on.

James (04:53):

Yeah. That’s interesting. I mean, talking about having the foresight of what was coming when you were overseas like that must have been an interesting scenario. And, we’ll actually get into why <laugh>you were overseas. Once we kind of talk a little bit more about your background, and so the new listeners and old listeners are aware that you know, we try to talk about all things experiential marketing in particular with technology as well as other startup business and entrepreneurial type of topics. But you know, what’s so exciting about having you on in particular, is you really speak our language and, and you have a really you know, an over 12-year career in experiential and you know, really driving value for brands. So why don’t you walk us through a little bit of your career and, actually how you ended up in maybe some of the things, you are doing or have done for Sony Pictures?

Milissa (05:55):

Sure. well, I’m a military brat. So I kind of grew up everywhere, all over the country. Oklahoma, San Francisco, you know Germany. My mother is Japanese, so you know, I grew up in a very kind of multicultural background. And I was always drawn to visual arts and specifically intrigued with good design, so especially if it was smart or clever or surprising, or funny. And then I began my career in San Francisco, in New York, working at the madman-type agencies of Great global and Mechanic Erickson back in the 90’s. And I worked on everything in, I was an art director and creative director, so I worked on consumer package goods from cereal to, Hasbro, to over-the-counter foot fungus, cream, you name it.

James (06:49):

That sounds like a lot of fun.

Milissa (06:50):

<Laugh>. Yeah, it was. I think it was, you know, it was definitely, I always found like the stuff that nobody cared about was the thing that you could do the most creative stuff with.

Oh, interesting.

So, yeah. And it was a brand with a yellow can. And so we put everybody, we put like construction workers and, and military guys and yellow fuzzy slippers. I remember that was the campaign.

James (07:15):

<Laugh>. Nice.

Milissa (07:16):

Yeah. but I also had a small design studio doing advertising and retail. After that, I was doing retail packaging for sporting goods. And then I was so lucky to get a job running the photo department and NBC television in the old days where you know, I worked on TV shows, sports, Olympics, and news. And that was a creative direction job kind of helping and producing photo shoots that provided the assets for all of the NBC marketing, in Burbank and in 30 Rock. And then, so there I was poached from Sony Pictures where I then did the same job. I was producing shoots for, you know, James Bond and Spiderman with the filmmakers and actors. And because I was becoming such a specialist in that part of my career I was always intrigued, as I said earlier, by international business.

Milissa (08:18):

So a position opened up in marketing for a strategy position. And one thing, being a visual arts creative, I liked problem-solving. And the thing I was always missing, and I went to business school was how to quantify any visual executions or creative executions, really how to quantify it from a business standpoint. So this positioned to open up in international marketing and the guy who ran it at Sal Industrial, he’s absolutely just brilliant. He’s, he’s pretty much a legend in terms of the movie world. You know, he brought Crouching Tiger to the United States. He worked on Django Unchained Capote, Kung Fu Hustle, all these kind of you know, highly lauded movies that were Art House. And he was working on movie called Whiplash. And I threw my hat in the ring, and he knew me from, you know, he was a stakeholder of mine when I ran photography.

Milissa (09:20):

And I wrote a plan for Whiplash International, and he took a chance on me and gave me a job. So from then I became you know, VP of International Marketing, where I did strategy, but I also did, you know, activations. I also you know, we were kind of an entrepreneurial smaller department because the types of movies we used to worked on. So we worked on Don’t Breathe, Call Me by Your Name, Searching. So whether it was genre movies, horror movies, independent movies, movies most recently Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino you know, those are the kinds of movies we worked on that required a real specialty type of marketing.

James (10:07):

Sure. Sure. Well, that last movie, I recently had watched not too long ago, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and I thought it was phenomenal in the perfect blend of reality and fiction, and using current events to a degree to kind of weave that into the story. And of course, Tarantino is a, is a master at what he does, But so, you know, what I find interesting, and it’s gotta be a particular challenge, but it sounds like you are almost, you know subconsciously prepared to really view the world in an international sense, you know in, in how you were raised in being a military brat and understanding travel. And so when you look to market a release of a movie, now, is this something that you have one particular region that you have to focus internationally, or is it Asia and Europe and you know, all over, And what does that do to your planning and execution knowing cultural differences? And, you know, what, it could be accepted in one culture is taboo in another. And so talk through that and, and please share any experiences that’s good or bad that you’ve seen in that kind of scenario.

Milissa (11:25):

Well, actually, you know, when I worked back at Gray, I did work, do some international work. So I worked on games and, early in my career found out or just understood inherently. And also having a Japanese mother was just that, you know, everyone’s paradigm in different countries. I call it American glasses, but in each country, they wear their own glasses. and I use that term because when I do interact in, you know, with different countries and different people, I have to always remember consciously that I have to get that emotional quotient and that international kind of mindset. I have to consciously put it on and take off my American glasses. So I love that.

Milissa (12:24):

So you know, that’s about it. So what ends up happening strategically is, you know, there’s some core, you know, treating the film like a product. There’s some kind of core, you know, you do your traditional, you know, strengths and weaknesses and evaluations and research. Positioning is key. But so if you position a particular movie, like this movie is X and you know, here’s the story, there’s some universal truths, but in your market positioning, you keep it flexible enough so that in the territories, in the markets and when, you know, and I do, I did work on APAC, EMEA, you know, everywhere, LATAM there’s enough you kind of have to give up a lot of control in that they, you know, I’m not gonna tell somebody in Mexico what Mexican values are. So in your marketing position, you make it broad enough, and flexible enough that they can adapt and tailor. Sometimes you have multiple positionings. And, you know, LATAM is a family market when it comes to films, family, and family values that matter. You know, Russia is an action market. so there’s some, there’s some, there is some kind of rules and idiosyncracies, but there are no hard rules. Okay. surprises happen all the time. Now I think the one thing

James (13:57):

Yeah, I’m, I’m sorry. I was just thinking, you know, in terms of say, one release for a particular movie, have you executed two completely different activations in, in different markets you know, with maybe, that overlining, overarching theme that you had mentioned

Milissa (14:18):

Yeah. So sometimes when we, you know, that’s the scalability of the marketing position and objectives yes. That probably leads into I would say we did well, let me go back to the positioning. So we had a movie called Baby Driver. And Baby Driver. One, That’s a challenging title, so it doesn’t always translate well. So the marketing leadership in that territory kind of advises on a different name. And it’s not necessarily execution, but it was positioning. So for example, Baby Driver in France was a romantic heist, getaway, sexy movie in Latam, the research showed there are tons of gearheads. They were all about the cars. Okay.

James (15:22):

And then, so for some of us ignorant people, Latam could you? Okay, Got it. Got it.

Milissa (15:26):

Latin America

Milissa (15:28):

So, Latin America is the region and in Latin America, what is kind of unique is there’s Brazil and Brazil, from a marketing standpoint, culturally, it’s kind of an island within LATAM and they don’t speak the same language. And so when I refer to Latam, it’s the region and EMEA, obviously Europe, Africa, and then APAC, AsiaPac, Australia, Asia. So if I’m talking about the regions

James (16:03):

Thank you for that. That’s very helpful for a lot of listeners, So now we know, I’m gonna say LATAM constantly now.

Milissa (16:08):

Yeah I mean, I think in the United States you have the same kind of, you know, regionalities, you know, obviously, I’ve lived on both coasts and you know, definitely. So if you think of it as the regionalities of a large country like the United States, it still applies. Sure. <laugh>, You know, there’s Portlandia, Portland, <laugh>, quirkiness you have Texas, but then you have Austin in the middle. So The cultural nuances. But, you know, going back to Baby Driver, my overall point was just that you emphasize different things. There was the music in the UK, music is such an, you know the director was British, so there were different things and different attributes we could lean into. So Executionally we did in Singapore, which was about the romance and the sexiness of the lead stars.

Milissa (17:07):

 It was just a full-on premier. And we’d brought talent there and did a big mall visit, and really approached the lead actors cause they were young and sexy in a matinee idol approach. But in Mexico, we ended up doing a car junket, and meaning we brought in the stunt driver Jeremy Fry, he’s one of the best, you know, most famous stunt drivers. And we brought the cast and then we did, we brought in car magazines, LA in from Mexico. It was in Mexico City. And then for content and influencers, we had everyone go-kart race with the talent, the director Oh, and the stunt driver. Yeah. so that was, you know, that was an example of two very different executions. Very simple executions.

James (18:00):

Yeah. You know, I actually love that you had referenced the music, because the one thing that points out to me with the movie Baby Driver is the soundtrack and actually in my, you know, small circle of friends that you know, enjoy movies, that was the calling card like, Oh, the soundtrack really made the movie. And so it was interesting that you had said that, you know, the UK’s deep history and with rock and roll and indie music and all the cultural influence that music has played there made a lot of sense. And so, what type of programming or activations did you do there tied into the music? Was there anything?

Milissa (18:39):

Yeah, we basically and I mean, once Upon a time, another example in terms of music, but in the UK we really promoted the soundtrack. If you looked at the soundtrack of Baby Driver, I don’t even know if they were Deep Cuts and B sides. And so we had to really do you know, radio terrestrial radio shockingly is still huge in the UK and as well as it’s a newspaper culture. So we really leaned heavily into promoting the album there, having the cast you know, autograph albums, do playlists listener parties, you know, really kind of old we would call here in the United States old style traditional radio promotion. Sure. But if it fits, It really fits.

James (19:32):

Yeah. I’m looking at the soundtrack now, and you wanna talk about Deep Cut. You even have a Young MC, and it’s not the popular song Bust a Move. It is know-how, which I couldn’t tell you what that sounded like, but it’s, it’s a great playlist and highly recommended. I mean, obviously, watch the movie, but you know, I thought the music was woven in perfectly to the action and you know, the setting of the movie and, and everything. So so that, that’s, that’s really cool. So have you had other experiences? Talk to us a little bit about some o your other favorite activations that, you know obviously were technology company and we, we drive you know, a lot of our engagements through the lens of technology. But one of the things that we really try to talk to our brands about or our clients is yeah, you know, we’re constantly tech first, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to shoehorn technology. And sometimes analog experiences are just as effective and fun and, you know, when you can merge the two, you know, in my opinion, that’s where the magic really happens because it’s both tactical and you know, futuristic and all of that. But so maybe tell us a little bit about you know, that range, you know, of activations that you, you know, were pretty analog and, and maybe pressing the, the limits on tech.

Milissa (20:52):

Yeah. Well, I’ll start with, like you said, I’ve done stuff. There was a, a movie Resident Evil where you know, Sony, R and D in Tokyo opened kind of the vault to me and, and showed me some really cool technology they were developing like high in early, early stages. And my part, my kind of partner in crime over there, who was the biz dev person he was like, Come over, I’m gonna show you a range of technology. And Resident Evil was probably, you know, it’s Mila Jovovich. It was probably number four or five in the franchise, very popular game, but there were rabid international fans. And Hero O’Hara the biz dev person basically gave me this deep, deep tour of Sony Engineering, and you would go into these rooms and they look like garages.

Milissa (21:53):

And these guys were just tinkering and being creative and, and, these engineering geniuses were making some phenomenal things. One thing that was happening in the audio department was they were playing with haptics, but from an and I always thought haptics, like on your phone, I always, you know, the vibrating. And I always thought, I don’t know why, I always thought as, you know, a non-engineer, it was a mechanism, it was a physical mechanism of vibrating mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. But the way the, actually the haptics that they had were all audio. So they had embedded multiple speakers into a vest, and you would feel the vibrations and the pings from, you know, and then match it to a visual. Well, what they were missing was the visual. So for me, my marketing problem was I had a matured franchise with Zombies.


And I wanted to really create, it had a gamification sense to it because Resident Evil, the movie, and Resident Evil, the game, fans of the game weren’t that interested in the movie. And fans of the movie were not actually in a lot of markets interested in the game. But so how could I revive, get something newsworthy create content and use Sony technology? So basically we created a fake game where you put on this vest, You, we got the filmmakers to provide us the CGI zombies. You played the game as a consumer, you didn’t know the game was rigged, but you wore a vest and you started to feel the zombies killing you.

James (23:39):

Oh, I love that. Talk about a 4D experience, right?

Milissa (23:44):

Yeah. And it was totally like people were screaming. I mean, as a studio from a marketing standpoint, we got great content. We got to showcase Sony tech, early Sony Tech that hadn’t even gone out, you know, that wasn’t ready you know, to go to market yet. And then I got a layer of earned media value. I got the talent to do it, and it was integrated with, you know, high-level CGI from the movie. So it was kind of this perfect storm. And then as we talked about it was scalable. So we went to movie theaters. We went to India, Spain, Mexico, and Japan I can’t even remember all, but cause it was such a blur.

James (24:31):

Yeah, Yeah. Yeah. Wow. So how many total vests <laugh> did you travel with? I mean, did you have freight loads?

Milissa (24:38):

I think we traveled with more engineers than vests. Because the vests would die. So it was probably like 10 vests and it was long days because people thought they could win the game and they couldn’t. Sure. But the thing was it was the challenge of moving high-level equipment. You know we were gonna go to Brazil, ComicCon and, and through different countries and the logistics of that, and then having these engineers who, although speak English, you know, it’s not their first language mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, these Japanese engineers, but a lot of them got to travel the world for the first time. They got to see people having an emotional and physical reaction. And screaming and laughing to work that they had been developing for years, in the recesses of, Sony Engineering and R and D.

James (25:29):

Yeah. You know, imagine getting that project brief across your desk and, you know, you’re six weeks into developing something and you just not know how the heck this is going. Like, what am I even doing? And then you finally see the culmination of your work. It’s very cool. And I thought it was interesting that you would mention sound because just, just recently you know, we do, we work within a lot of touch screens, right? And so, given the environment, there’s a lot of sensitivities with germs and people wanting or wanting to avoid, you know, <laugh> touching any particular surface. And so we’ve been doing a lot of research and development in gesture control, right? So you wanna, you know, be able to use your hand movements in your body to control a piece of content. And so, you know, traditionally we would use 3D cameras, you know, most popular, the Microsoft Connect cameras is probably one of the ones that we repeatedly use. But, you know, there are advancements in all the types of gesture registration. And so we recently came across a platform that uses radio frequency to break the plane of where you’re moving. So that is the tracking module. And I was just so blown away that I would’ve never thought for a second, you know, infrared light, you know sure. All day long. But you know, so radio, audio. Yeah. So I thought that was really, really interesting. And so,

Milissa (26:55):

Yeah, you don’t think of audio as being able to constrain anybody. You just, at least, And you know, it’s so funny cuz my husband was a sound engineer dialogue editor for Rugrats for a long time and sound engineer for Universal and <Affirmative>. so yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. Well, what happened from that, And also too, we did, I had the advantage of you know, I had Sony projectors and Sony, you know, we had all these fantastic products. So that was a good activation that really and then the more important thing from the, from the marketing standpoint, is the earned media value. We got great stories, we got influencers, the talent. So it was, it was scalable and special. And then that actually evolved into, I was like, again, my colleague Hiro O’Hara, who’s a genius, I think he’s at Rakuten now, but he’s amazing.

Milissa (27:50):

But he, and we actually won the chair. Kaz Hirai gave us an award for this collaboration. It was cool, the chairman of Sony. But that actually evolved into, I was, we were both, like, we had another movie Insidious, and it was either number four in the franchise, It was a Bud a horror movie. And both he was like, and I was too. He was like, Hey, if we could have to size one experience, I said, Could we have to size the whole movie? So we evolved that into having, instead of 10 vests, I was like, Can you make a hundred vests <laugh>? And we put them in the theater and then you orchestrate the entire movie. to feel the jumps and the, you know, to really feel the jumps and the scares and you know, maybe you know, create an experience where everybody wears these vests. The challenge there from an audio standpoint was how do you have to actually orchestrate the haptics so that you didn’t foreshadow the scares and ruin it for the audience.

James (28:53):

Right. Right. Yeah. You, you didn’t wanna telegraph someone jumping out of us. Right. <laugh>.

Milissa (28:58):

And you could actually play jokes on them too, where they didn’t think it was coming. And then they were like and that we did, we launched in Hong Kong, and, you know in Asia, a lot of audiences don’t react in a big way. <affirmative>. When I was young, I saw Empire Stripes back in Tokyo, or I’m sorry, in Osaka, in a theater. And it was the first time people they clap. But there’s very, they’re very polite. They don’t laugh out loud. Sure. They don’t have big reactions. What was great about this haptics vest experience was they were squeaking and yelling and cringing, and you saw a lot more emotionality than you normally do in Hong Kong audiences. And then we also took it to Mexico and Mexico, and again, the engineering challenges there you know, again, just moving things into Mexico and, and with Japanese engineers. But the audiences were there lined up around the corner. They were like, We’re in, This is like, Yeah. You know, it was almost like a theme park experience.

James (30:00):

That’s awesome. That’s awesome.

Milissa (30:01):

Yeah. So those are, probably my two biggest techy ones. And then sometimes you just gotta go lo-fi <laugh>. And you know, for me it was I had a movie called Escape Room where there was no, there was no real known talent, and it was a young director, but the room was really innovative and the concept of escape room was sticky. And so what we did and also the movie was launching in January, which, you know, January movies, if you don’t have a big star or a lot of what we call theatricality you know, you really have to put on your marketing hat because people are cooked from seeing all the movies in December, it’s back to school. So for Escape Room TikTok was really emerging as just you know, a great social platform.

Milissa (30:55):

So I do a lot of influencer creator campaigns, and this was the first one TikTok had ever done. <affirmative>. They had never partnered with the movie before. So what we did is we took TikTok influencers, I think from 17 countries. So we had 20 plus TikTok influencers from around the world, brought them into Madrid in January, and then had built a escape room. And the escape room essentially was very lo-fi <laugh>, meaning you know, they had to complete some challenges. But you know, in the movie, there’s a room where the walls start collapsing if the victims don’t solve a problem. But in real life, we had, you know, two guys, two construction workers behind these walls, and they were pushing the wall in <laugh> you know, and laughing. And then put you know there was we had to drop, We did a thing where if you didn’t answer a question at the end, the pinnacle was if you didn’t answer the right questions about just like in the movie you drop through a trap door you know, about nine feet.


So that was kind of an example of a low-tech version of you know, doing an activation with influencers.

James (32:16):

Yeah. Well, it’s always about the front of the house, right? It doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter how it works and what’s happening. It could be a hamster in a wheel <laugh> running the engagement, but as long as the experience is good and the customers or the consumers are having fun, I mean, that’s what it’s all about. So you know, even on our tech side, we can relate to some of those lo-fi, <laugh><Affirmative> parable engagements where, you know, behind the scenes it’s one thing, but on the front of the house, it’s, it’s a fun experience. And that’s all that really matters. So, so let me ask you this, You know, obviously with movies in particular you know, I, I think as an industry you see such a far wide and scalable promotion and media buy of big release movies, Anything from your traditional billboards and your print ads, you know, to TV junkets as you had mentioned, and, and from our purview and, and where, you know, the industries that, that we involved in, you know, how would you say over your career that experiential marketing has become, you know, maybe, you know, 10 years ago it was a bit of a niche thing.

James (33:29):

You do something stunty, maybe do a, a, you know, a station domination or something along those lines, handout tchotchkes. But talk about the evolution of, of experiential marketing in the movie business from your experience.

Milissa (33:43):

Yeah, I think you know, I think the evolution of it is, you know, I feel like as a marketer, my only job really because of the nature of the economics of you make 50% of your box office gross, the first weekend you open, no matter what country you’re in, my job, is to create fomo, is to create fear of missing out as the kids say. To create an urgency. And so I think you’re absolutely right, the experiential part has evolved. I think one with the fragmentation of media gen meaning, you know traditional advertising doesn’t really work in the sense you know, ossification used to be the if you had a not so great movie, you kind of hide it in the trailer. But then the rise of social media, how many times have we all gone to a movie and we’re like, Oh, that’s not like the trailer.

Milissa (34:39):

So the rise of social media, and which means the rise of accountability to filmmakers and movie studios, that word of mouth, you know, Twitter will kill a movie, everything will kill a movie. So I think there’s that. I think fragmentation, you know, traditional advertising streamers, mobile, the evolution of mobile, definitely. I think experiential just shot off. I think once the digital natives of Gen Z and mobile smartphones and cameras got really good, I think that’s when experiential marketing was required to break through. In my opinion. So you couldn’t, you know, remember the unboxing videos, I mean, they still happened, but I think when people were able to broadcast their opinions themselves in a high-quality way through the mobile phone, I think it was, in my opinion, absolutely essential as marketers in order to create that FOMO was and it’s coincidentally my background’s photography, so I’m always about the shot, or I’m always about the visual because it’s the quickest delivery of the message. But I think that’s when experientials was required.

James (36:00):

Yeah, I agree with you because, you know, I, what I like to say, you know, back in 2008 or right on the onset of the iPhone where apps was the big rage, and, you know, there was just, it was going to change our way of life. And, you know, we had seen a trend in where brands were looking to capitalize on that, but the delivery methods were fairly limited, in terms of what you can do. I mean, who’s gonna download the Sony picture app, Right? For the hell of it<laugh>, You know, that’s a tough ask. But what it did was open up the eyes of technology and engagement knowing that our culture has shifted and changed because we’re now, you know, leveraging, a handheld computer to interface with on a daily basis. And so to me, that felt like the onsite and growth of experiential and, and shareability and, and memory in terms of using technologies, brands, getting behind it to promote their product or services and consumers being able to interact with them in a much different way.

James (37:10):

And so you know, and that’s, it’s still fairly new. I mean, we’re under 15 years. I mean, heck, I think 2008 <laugh>. I mean, it’s 12 years ago. And so it’s still very new and early and exciting because I think as technologists, even over the last five years, you’ve seen so many different technologies come to front. And you know, some even die, you know, <laugh>, they come and go, Right? And so you know, speaking about the past, I mean, this is always a challenging question when looking forward to the future, but where do you see, and who knows what the new normal is going to look like, but in terms of where our current environment is and the movie industry, where do you see marketing efforts heading maybe in the short term and then maybe 12 to18 months from now?

Milissa (38:03):

I mean, I think going off of your, actually, the perfect lead-in was your experiential question. I personally think that you know, with programmatic ad buying now, you know, of traditional, you know, the old way of buying media’s gone. And if as a marketer your competitors can afford programmatic media buying, then you need to find different ways to go beyond that. And I think again you know experiential is really the goal for marketers really is unique content, user-generated content. You wanna kind of, my, I always think I wanna create a, you wanna create cool or trending or viral, which is pretty impossible cuz the audience determines that. Sure. But I think experiential is gonna is so essential, one, because it creates a perception of ubiquity, but it’s still special<Affirmative>, and then that creates kind of the hype.

Milissa (39:08):

And, I think that is what was required since traditional paid advertising and paid media is programmatic. So if you wanna be competitive, sure, you gotta do programmatic, make sure you’re advertising or your marketing communications are being received by the right audience. But I think you have to go beyond that to be competitive. And you also have to, I think as a marketer the future of it is we’ve had to, you know, in the old days it was about controlling the message. And now I think for me, I have, I am okay, you know, brand safety and all that, but you, you have to loosen a bit more and more about the specific narrative in your marketing needs or your content, and now allow your marketing narrative strategy to be more dynamic. And I think in that, that’s where you start, because user-generated content is here and it’s gonna keep going and going and going, and it’s gonna get more sophisticated. I think the thing that I feel like with Gen Z, they’re just looking, personalization is so important to them and they’re so discriminating and sophisticated. So I just think that you kind of have to up the game beyond the automated tools and the AI that is coming to you. Yeah.

James (40:34):

Absolutely. And just I’m sorry to interrupt, but you know, I think some of the market research too has really honed in on, you had mentioned the Gen Z, but the millennial market, which is now the coveted <laugh>, you know, demographic and all. But I think study after study completely validates that experience. Far outweighs many, many other things from a traditional consumer standpoint, right? It’s less about things for the younger generation, it’s more about the experience. And so when you, I mean, we’re all in the experience business to a degree, right? As a movie house or studio, you know, you want to create that movie experience and bring people out of their homes and into a theater or even, you know, suspend disbelief at home, Right? But you want to create that experience. And so when you tie in your marketing efforts to a visceral emotion and memory, it’s such a powerful thing because it lives beyond the 60, 120 minutes of a movie or, or a game. Right? And then of course you add social to it, and then there’s your scalability and amplification and all of that good stuff.

Milissa (41:47):

Yeah, I agree. I think emotional affinity, it’s one of the hardest things to do. You know, there are people who love Nike. They are, you know, sneakerheads. So I think the future of marketing in, or at least the opportunities is how do you foster extreme fanship and how do you pay attention to the, how do you get those customers to evangelize beyond, like, I was talking to some sports entertainment bachelor degree candidates, and their final presentation was on a sports brand. But they were just talking about sneaker culture. And so that’s one thing I think as marketers is as like you said, millennials and, and Gen Z the affinities it, or at least the good marketers, the affinities for brands become, you know, how do you get them to become consumers and evolving to fanship?

Milissa (42:52):

I think, you know, obviously, you know, sports marketing and that sort of thing you know, Fanship is a little more obvious, but to have Fanship for a brand like to think of it, you know, like women who love Louis Vuitton Sure. Or love certain designers, or there’s even a brand, there’s the movie studio called A24, and they’re one of the first movie studios, and I think they’re amazing where they are developing their brand. Most people who go to the movies, at least in the past, they don’t really know. They know what a Disney picture is, but they don’t really know that Paramount and you know, Fox or, you know, they don’t really know that those types, that’s that movie. They know what a Disney movie is. Well, A 24 is a small brand, it’s a movie studio, but they’re really, you know, they’re creating a slate of movies that are creative, unique Atour high-level art house, but at the same time, they’re developing their brand where they’re really you know, people really identify their fanship, Oh, I’m an A24 fan. What?

James (44:02):

Yeah, <laugh>Yeah.

Milissa (44:03):

So I think it’s just, it’s, it’s evolving brand affinity to an emotional level, and, and that brings it to extreme fanship. And that’s where I think the future of marketing, in general, is going, But what do I know?

James (44:17):

Yeah, no, absolutely. And it’s so funny that you say that because maybe I’m just an oddball too, but I remember towards the latter half of college and that, that kind of timeframe for me, I would always say Lionsgate films. I loved any time that there was a Lionsgate film because, you know, they were, you know, a bit indie big studio slash edgy, you know, it wasn’t like you are running the mill romcom type of studio, but,

Milissa (44:41):

Well, what, it’s funny you mentioned Lionsgate. I, I know two executives there. The president of marketing is Damon Wolf and the president of Earned Media and Publicity and content is Marisa Liston. And what they have done, to your point, they have also been doing brand building with Lionsgate during this crisis where they’re doing, they’re presenting movies for free and they’re, you know, on YouTube, Dirty Dancing. They’re creating content that, you know, Lionsgate as a studio cares about movies, but they also care about people and they’re reinforcing what you’re talking about. So there’s an emotional affinity. They’re creating, you know, you see stuff on LinkedIn, but they’re creating movie nights and, you know, really embracing, even though you can’t go to the theater, you can, you know, they’re kind of eventizing, showing special movies on YouTube. And they’re doing a lot of marketing to promote that brand. They’re, another one, they’re like an A24 where they’re starting to build that. So he’ll be happy to hear that you mention that.

James (45:46):

Yeah, of course. You know, and thanks for the tip, because I have a 10-year-old, well, she’s gonna be 11 in a couple of weeks, but one of <laugh>, one of her interests is really learning about movies that I grew up watching, right? So last weekend we watched the Back to The Future Trilogy, and like. So she loves going back in time and watching the movies because, you know, she’s growing up in a generation where CGI and, you know, Pixar and all these wonderful advancements in cinema are right in front of her. So I love the fact that she kind of goes back and can kind of laugh at some of the props and <laugh>, you know, some of the movies. But in general, you know, she can really appreciate the the older movies.


And so Dirty Dancing’s probably a little bit, you know, beyond her parental guide there. But that’s a good thing to look into. So thank you, for sharing that. Okay, so we’re, we’re nearing our time here, but I’m gonna put you on the spot because this all kind of came about last night that the light bulb went off and I’m, and I don’t, this isn’t premeditated for the listeners, you know, I just want to throw a name out. But this past holiday season, my wife and I went to visit a girlfriend of hers that she went to college with. And it was at that time, you know, it was the first time that I got to meet her significant other or boyfriend and what have you. And so he and I hit it off pretty well. And, you know, we you know, grabbed a beer you know, down the street from their apartment. And you know, he told me that he worked for Sony Pictures. And so last night it kind of dawned on him, and I’m like, Wait a second. This is, is one a million? I don’t know how many employees it’s with 30,000 employees. I don’t know, but does the name John Fredberg mean anything to you?

Milissa (47:39):

John Friedberg?

James (47:41):

Friedberg, Yes.

Milissa (47:42):

Is he of, yes, yes. If it’s the same person, <laugh>,

James (47:49):

I can’t imagine there’s many John Freeberg Freeberg that work in

Milissa (47:53):

He is head of SPIWAQ so he actually I worked very closely with him. He actually is head of he acquires, so he, so Sony does, Sony produces movies. They also acquire movies. He goes to Sundance, sits in the Dark for, I don’t know, 20 hours. He’s an amazing, really smart guy. And then watches movies one after another and after another, and then decides not only from the creative standpoint and the theatricality of the movie but the kind of the long tail of profitability. And he has to make these decisions really fast. And he basically acquires a lot of movies for yeah, for they call it Stage six or Sony Pictures Worldwide acquisitions. Yeah. So That’s so funny.

James (48:46):

Isn’t that small world, and you know, it was you know, our intention was one beer, but, you know, he’s such a great person to talk to and you know, we can just riff on different ideas. And so it was the first time we hung out, and I think it was probably about six beers, like <laugh>.

Milissa (49:01):

Yeah. he’s definitely, he’s one of the smart, he’s one of the smart guys in the room, and he is also he’s also a cool guy. He’s a really nice guy. And

Milissa (49:11):

You know, always find that combination in the movie business Yeah. That they’re smart and nice. <Laugh>

James (49:16):

Yeah. You know, I joked with him, I said, you know, he reminds his personality, he’s very much of a writer, you know, he’s got this cynicism about him and he is sharp and he is quick. I’m like, You should be a writer. <Laugh>.

Milissa (49:27):

Yeah. And he is also passionate, but I think that’s why too, he’s such a good deal maker.

James (49:31):

Yep, yep.

Milissa (49:32):

You know and yeah. No, that’s so funny. That’s very random.

James (49:35):

So, we’ll have to share this when we post it over the weekend. And so Milissa, this was awesome. Thank you so much for being on the show. Is there anything for our listener’s social media or any way to contact you? Is there any method that you prefer or, So go ahead and

Milissa (49:50):

Yeah. Well, James, first of all, thank you so much for having me, and I wanna shout out to Natascha as well. So thanks for inviting me. No, it’s fun to, you know it was really fun to kind of reflect back on all the stuff that I’ve done and you know, some, you know, LA and New York, you know, the coast are such a bubble. And so it was really fun to look back on the work that I’ve done and, and talk about it. I would say the best way to contact me I do consult with a company called Summer Company, and we just provide global film marketing services from strategy to, you know, executions for the entire ecosystem of the entertainment industry. I would say right now the best way to contact me would be on LinkedIn. And I have a weird spelling to my name. It’s M I L I S S A and last name Duponce. And yeah, just link into me, and no, this is, this was a lot of fun. Thank you so much, James.

James (50:54):

Awesome. Well, our pleasure and this will be posted over the weekend, and as you know past listeners, you can find us on SoundCloud, Google Play, all of the fine places, Apple Music that you can listen to podcasts. So we’ll get this uploaded. And of course, I’m James Giglio at every social media you can find MVP Interactive at every social media. And have a nice weekend everyone. This was great. Thank you, Milissa.

Podcast - Sony


Want More?