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Paramount Pictures' Vice-President of Interactive Marketing Latham Arneson spoke to Kellogg's Media and Entertainment Club.

Latham Arneson

Big data goes Hollywood

From zombie-less marketing to tweeting tweens, Paramount’s Latham Arneson explores how big data affects film

By Paul Dailing

5/28/2014 - Latham Arneson groaned when he heard that the studio named one of its movies “Flight.”

Yes, it was probably an appropriate name for the 2012 Denzel Washington flick about an airline pilot. But since Arneson’s job is gathering and curating data everywhere a movie is searched, discussed or mentioned across the Internet, the common word was problematic.

“For social conversation, that was the worst,” Arneson said. “How do you know someone’s mentioning ‘Flight’ and not (an actual) flight?”

Arneson, Paramount Pictures’ vice-president of Interactive Marketing, spoke to members of Kellogg’s Media & Entertainment Club in a talk moderated by professors Derek Rucker and PJ Lamberson, sharing lessons learned from a job that covers everything from tearjerkers to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

“It’s 12 campaigns a year. It’s 12 new brands, most of the time,” Arneson said.

On tracking social media for trailers:

“We just released (the ‘Interstellar’ trailer) on Friday. We released ‘Transformers’ on Thursday. It’s gotten to the point where people are so aware of the social conversation that they want a response to the trailer 10 minutes after it’s released.

On market research:

“’World War Z’ never mentioned the word ‘zombies.’ That was part of the campaign’s mantra. That was a battle all the way through: ‘Should we or shouldn’t we?’ but it was not a zombie movie. Because market research showed zombie movies don’t make that much money… ‘Zombieland’ is a really great zombie movie, but it only made around $70 million. So, if you’re trying to make a big Brad Pitt action movie, you want to make a lot more than that.”

On data sources for predicting performance:

“The key factors, at least since I’ve been there, that make the most sense are Google searches and then social data, but it’s really Twitter..
From some of the (research) we’ve done internally, that’s the most predictive. You look at reviews, those aren’t necessarily even predictive. ”

On where to release trailers:

“For big movies releasing trailers, it’s either Apple, Yahoo! or YouTube. It really does get on YouTube and then go everywhere. You see that with ‘Interstellar.’ We released ‘Interstellar’ on Yahoo! and within seconds it was on YouTube. You see where the conversation spreads from there.”

On genres that generate more tweets than ticket sales:

“You’ll see some cases of over-performance online than in an actual box office. Family movies? Less conversation online. Movies like, for lack of a better term, teen girl movies like ‘Endless Love,’ had so much conversation… those can fool you sometimes.”

Further reading on Kellogg and big data:
  • The four elements of a big data mindset
  • Faculty data immersion trips
  • Three Kellogg teams place at Adobe Digital Analytics Competition