Universal's Suzanne Cole On Grabbing Attention

Suzanne Cole of UniversalThe biggest challenge Suzanne Cole sees stepping into a new role as EVP of media for print, TV, online and outdoor at Universal Pictures is attracting the attention of today's consumers as it becomes increasingly difficult to make campaigns stick in their minds.

There's no guarantee, even with two potential blockbusters--"The Mummy: Tomb of the Emperor Dragon," which opens Friday, and "Death Race" on Aug. 22--on the horizon. "We're trying to figure out how to reach someone who has 10 things going on simultaneously," Cole says. "How do you make the 30 or 60 seconds of time that you have with consumers impactful?"

Cole recently stepped into the studio's lead media buyer role to oversee 19 theatrical releases this year. Some include "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," and "Mama Mia!" She had served as senior VP of media since 2004, joining Universal in 1999 as VP of media following the studio's acquisition of Polygram Films.



Determining the type of media Cole's team of nine buys begins by defining the audience from age to gender, targeting the easiest segment first. For "Mama Mia!," which landed in theaters July 18, the ads initially spoke to those attending the Broadway play--expanding to mothers and daughters, followed by frequent moviegoers.

Universal's adaptation of the Broadway musical "Mamma Mia!," starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, took second place in the box office the opening weekend with about $27.6 million in North America on support from a star-studded cast and the music from ABBA. "The Dark Knight" broke records the same weekend, ranking No. 1, and raking in more than $155 million.

Getting consumers to see the movie in the opening weekend is the "ultimate" goal, Cole says, no matter what the movie. "We will select a mix of media that hits all the individual segments with a creative message that breaks through and compels the audience not just to go, but go opening weekend," she says. "We all know how important opening weekend is for our business. It sets the bar for everything that happens in the life cycle of the film" because rarely do box-office sales rise after opening weekend.

Cole says DVD sales after the theatrical release hits home entertainment also tie into how well the movie did opening weekend.

In the past few years, Universal Pictures, like other advertisers, has shifted marketing budgets away from newspapers. Network television and cable remain the core for its advertising and marketing campaigns, although less people are watching traditional television.

In a TV spot the viewer gets 30 seconds of the movie, which Cole says proves to have a strong impact on the consumer's decision to see the full-length feature in theatres. During the past few years, Cole has shifted "a pretty decent amount of money" to her counterpart who oversees digital marketing. The bulk of the money has come from newspapers, which does well for adults--but not the average moviegoer, ages 44 to 49, who typically finds the information online, she says.

Billboards work well for some campaigns. Take "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," for example. Universal took the persona of the film's protagonist, who gets dumped by Sarah Marshall, and made it appear as though he had plastered slogans about the woman throughout major cities where billboards appeared. "Typically we don't run billboards outside of New York and Los Angeles," Cole says. "The size of the campaign was much larger than we typically do outside of summer."

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