February 29, 2024
As Marketing Migrates to New Platforms, Its Purpose Stays the Same
Panel of marketing executives discuss how art and science of marketing is evolving in today’s ever-changing digital ecosystem.

Even though marketing is more driven by technology than ever before, it’s also still doing what it’s always done: appealing to people on an emotional level, said executives on a panel at G.E.M.A.’s live launch event at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“I think that evolution is all about what’s maladaptive – shedding it and holding on to what you want to retain. What we all do here is sell human emotion,” said Stephanie Gibbons, president, creative, strategy and digital, multi-platform marketing, FX Networks, and Promax chair emeritus. Gibbons was speaking the day after FX premiered its new limited series, Shogun, to rave reviews.  

“No matter how the delivery systems change, allowing us to get more specific about how we reach audiences, what it always comes down to is what are you selling, is it something people want and is it going to make you feel something?” said Gibbons, who has led teams to winning Marketing Team of the Year 12 times.

Still, today’s young audiences are hanging out in entirely new places. They are, of course, on TikTok, “but they are in a lot of other places too,” said Matt Edelman, president and chief commercial officer of Super League Gaming. “A lot of what we do is help companies reach young consumers, and they are inside 3D spaces and predominantly games.”

According to Edelman, Gen Z can be found on Roblox, TikTok, Fortnite and YouTube – in that order. “If you’re not in 3D spaces, you aren’t where they are,” Edelman said.

Platforms like TikTok and Spotify are where Mamie Coleman, executive vice president of music at Fox Entertainment, goes to discover new talent. “It’s a fun time for us to be searching for music on all social media platforms,” she said.

For Gibbons, it’s about using new platforms to pull the same heartstrings, while for Edelman, it’s about understanding how audiences are using those platforms.

“Some members of Gen Z have had a device in their hands from the moment they knew how to engage with the world,” said Edelman. “That’s changed everything about consumer activity and changed some things about what young people seek. Because of the way devices impact young people up to a certain age, life has been entirely algorithmically influenced by a fraction of people creating content.”

“TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube – these are not social platforms, they are content platforms,” he continued. “Conversation is taking place in messaging apps, in texts, on Discord and in games. Those are the primary social dialogue forums for under-25-year-olds on a device. As a result of that time spent on these open gaming platforms, film, TV, music and sports marketers are all spending an increasing amount of money on these 3D environments in order to drive fandom.”

Regardless of where they are hanging out, they are voicing their opinions and it’s something marketers have to take into consideration.

“Audiences are more savvy than ever but they also have more opinions than ever. Fandom is a great thing but it’s a double-edged sword sometimes. How do you walk that fine line?” asked moderator Mike Schneider, senior editor at Variety.

“As marketers and creatives, you have to understand the product through the eyes of the fans, not your own eyes,” said Kjetil Njoten, global head of creative for Imax. “As I once heard Stephanie say on a panel, ‘every campaign has to slap people across the face, otherwise they don’t notice.’”

Those organic conversations on social media, messaging apps, Discord and so forth, can also help marketers achieve their goals.

“What is the most powerful kryptonite when it comes to marketing? Having someone you know tell you they like it,” Gibbons said. “As new as where they are doing it is, the action is as old as the primordial sea. You are saying it in a different world, but if someone you trust says it, you are still connecting. If someone you know says, ‘I love this, you have to try it,’ that is still the most powerful thing that exists.”

"What is the most powerful kryptonite when it comes to marketing? Having someone you know tell you they like it.” -- Stephanie Gibbons, president, creative, strategy and digital, multi-platform marketing, FX Networks

For example, said Fox’s Coleman, a young woman on Netflix’s reality dating series Love Is Blind told her suitor, who had not seen her yet, that she looked like Megan Fox. “She did not look like Megan Fox, and the fiancé was very disappointed. Everyone was talking about that moment. Conversations like that on social media drive people to go check out these shows and products.”

In fact, those kinds of viral moments drove Love Is Blind to the top of the streaming charts in the week ended February 25.

In today’s marketing environment, all of these things can exist together, said Gibbons. “We want digital and we want real. We have a virtual life and we have a physical body. We’re ancient and we’re ever new. You want real events that bring people together and you also want to connect with people at scale. Now we can do both.”

Speaking of change, artificial intelligence (AI) is the next technology that’s well on its way to once again disrupting how everything is done. While much has been reported on the angst that AI is stirring among the creative classes, Wednesday’s panel seemed open-minded about it.

“I’m mostly like ‘bring it on,’” said Gibbons. “There’s no way out but through; it’s coming regardless.”

Gibbons warned that AI needs to be regulated, but thus far Congress has failed to put meaningful guardrails around social media, a trend that looks to repeat with AI.

“There’s nothing that civilization has developed that didn’t have two sides to it,” she said. “Where we have fallen down is legislation -- there is no other industry that has emerged with no regulations. In the digital realm, we need speed limits to protect us from ourselves.”

Imax’s Njoten agreed: “AI is a tool that we can use for good or for bad. There will be pressure to make more for less and it’s up to us to fight the fight.”

“We need to use it in a way that’s additive. There are ways to make AI part of our ecosystem and amplify the innovation we already have,” said Michele Kajiwara, senior vice president, premium business and events at Arena at AEG.  

Said Edelman: “I don’t think generative AI is a tool, I think it’s a partner. And that partner is going to help us generate ideas, create and deliver assets and help to refine those assets.”


Image courtesy of Maya Meyers

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