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And the Award Goes To…

Gordon KumpurisFebruary 26, 2019

The 91st Academy Awards have come and gone – and not without surprises.  Oddsmakers had predicted that the joint Mexican-American drama “Roma” would likely take the Best Picture award, but instead the comedic drama “Green Book” upset some as the surprise winner.  It was, as promised, an interesting evening with more than a few surprises.  There was one award that few are talking about the day after that nonetheless always gets my attention – achievement in film editing.  It went to John Ottman for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a film I now must see.

Prior to joining Acxiom I spent decades working as and with video and film production professionals.  This skill set in written and visual communications comes in handy in my role at Acxiom as a B2B global marketer.  It is also not totally surprising that there are many parallels between the film and video industry and the business of digital and offline marketing. After all, they’re both rooted in the creation of meaningful consumer engagement.

First, it occurs to me that, much like an unsung editor in the film industry, Acxiom is the behind-the-scenes straw that stirs the marketing drink.  Editors take an unimaginable number of audio and visual elements and craft them into what you hear and see on the screen.  The editor collaborates with many other professionals to identify, create or source, and aggregate, a mind-boggling array of sometimes seemingly disparate clips and effects.

Given the complexity of it all, the end product always seems a bit magical.  But nonetheless, can you name even one renowned film editor?  The business of enabling people-based marketing everywhere by connecting systems and data, resulting in a customer experience that is rewarding and feels seamless and natural, seems similar to the role of the unsung editor in the film industry.  Editors in essence create meaningful interactions and do so “at scale,” as we like to say.  Not every film is meant for the big screen.  Some are meant to be viewed on your phone.  Likewise, not every advertiser is trying to reach millions of consumers.  Many are meant to target only small fractional and unique audiences.

There are other similarities.  Take distribution channels, for instance. Due to changes in technologies that cross industries and resulting changes in consumer behavior, films – even Academy Award-nominated films – are now distributed in ways once unthinkable.  “Roma” was made primarily by and for the online streaming service Netflix and saw only a limited release in theaters.  Netflix and other online platforms like YouTube and iTunes are now major players in the collection and distribution of both short- and long-form video content.

These channels open up not only mind-boggling opportunities for consumer entertainment but also amazing opportunities for film makers, even amateur and student film makers, to distribute to unique, very niche audiences.  These paradigm shifts have turned the film industry on end, much like the digital delivery of targeted marketing has caused companies around the world to overhaul the way they engage with consumers.  Old-school filmmakers who dream only of seeing their creations on the big screen and who scoff at new and still emerging distribution platforms do so at their own peril, much like marketers who continue to focus on buying time and space on channels in decline.  Filmmakers today must reach viewers where they are via multiple channels – and do so at the right time and place.  Film consumers have flipped the game.

Sound familiar?  Take the critically acclaimed documentary “Apollo 11,” for instance.  In March, for a few weeks, this film will be released and shown in theaters nationwide on giant IMAX screens.  I’m counting the days until its release.  This is a dream come true for director Todd Douglas Miller.  But Miller knows that most people will see it on much smaller screens, so he cuts different versions of the film for a variety of platforms including television, laptops and smartphones.

Another similarity is in the business of analytics.  Marketers today have access to a sea of data that, if used skillfully, allows the marketer to develop, refine, and improve the message for the best possible outcome.  Filmmakers have used analytics, such as focus group analysis, seemingly forever but perhaps never more than today.  And they do so to not just gauge an audience’s reaction to a film and perhaps tweak its final cut before it’s distributed.  Investors will do significant analysis before a script is even seriously considered.  Rigorous scientific quantitative and qualitative research is also done before, during and after a film is released from early concept exploration to deep analysis of ancillary distribution channels.  The analytic nature of filmmaking is fundamentally similar to the robust analytic services now available in the marketing industry.

Filmmaking and marketing continue to experience tremendous change, but the goal for both remains pretty simple – to create memorable consumer experiences that resonate, inspire and move the imagination.

My work these days has moved away from the studio, film set or edit room, but the overarching business of creating, refining, strategically targeting and distributing compelling messages that move people remains, and I’m proud to work for a company that is at the forefront of doing just that.