Harnessing Hollywood Hype: Film Marketing Meets the Challenges and Opportunities of the 21st Century
Media Industry Studies
Marketing is a vital commercial activity and source of competitive advantage within the Hollywood film industry, serving to create, circulate and translate symbolic meaning around a film and its ancillary products, construct and target key audience segments, guide audience expectations and viewing choices, and mitigate financial risk. Marketers thus play an increasingly central role in all stages of the filmmaking process. To examine the often overlooked structures and practices of Hollywood’s marketing arm, this study adopts a media industry studies approach, employing interviews, fieldwork, and textual analysis to explore the social, technological, organizational, economic, and spatial forces that shape the contemporary context of Hollywood marketing materials’ creation. In the early 21st century, Hollywood studios face profound challenges and opportunities wrought by the dual forces of globalization and digitization. In response, marketers have developed a novel view of their audience: as increasingly global and empowered. Globalization and digitization are thus treated as centrifugal forces, diffusing production and meaning-making capabilities across geographic space and media platforms, and threatening the centralized control traditionally held by Hollywood studios. Marketers are incentivized to embrace these decentralizing forces and the cultural labor now provided by third party marketing agencies, international distributors, and audiences. However, Hollywood studios’ institutional inertia, risk aversion, and inclination to maintain firm control of their marketing messages and intellectual property preclude a whole-hearted embrace of these changes. Studio marketers thus act with deep ambivalence toward these outside players, attempting to capitalize on their cultural labor while simultaneously acting to circumscribe their power.