Series Mania 2024 - Day 2: Marketing strategies for series' development, production, and sales

Marketing experts, producers and broadcasters shared their experiences about using AI in early stages to help to develop a show as well as the successful mechanisms to turn the IP into a brand.

20 MAR 2024

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Series Mania highlighted in its second day the marketing strategies behind the successful series and how important is the marketing to make a title, a hit. Marketing experts along with producers and sales executives, analyzed the AI options currently available to be Marketing more effective. AI has allowed the production of mood reels or mood decks in record time, making these tools more immersive and visually closer to the author’s intention and it has allowed marketers to be creative with a very limited budget which is crucial during the development phase. Emilie Martel, Marketing & Brand Executive from Newen Studios is in charge of set up B2B international marketing strategies on the line-up of 40 new titles every year across all genres. "When we are working with producers and showrunners at very early stages of the process, when they come to us with a pitch, and they need to sell the series to co-producers, financiers, we help them create assets, and then, in that case, we use AI", she asserted. "There is no question about whether we need to use AI or not, because the revolution has already started. Technology is here. It can generate fantasies, fears sometimes, but we have to learn how to use it, to test it. At the end, AI is really an amazing creative tool for marketers, creators, to help us work quicker, better, and cheaper," she said. In the same line, Harrison Kelly, Marketing & Brand Executive from Sky Studios has agreed with Martel in using AI in early stages. "At Sky, we don't use AI in any consumer marketing but within Sky Studios, when we're in the art area, which is the brands team, we similarly use it when we're thinking about the positioning of the show, thinking about the comms for the show, thinking about how we may position it and then take it to market," he expressed.

To create a strong IP, owners need to think of their series as a brand. By skillfully employing marketing strategies, series can not only generate revenue for their production and promotion, but also extend their reach and impact, helping to ensure their long-term financial viability. Caryn Mandabach, Producer of Caryn Mandabach Productions (“Peaky Blinders”) affirmed that what constitutes a strong IP will depend on the audience that you're trying to reach. "If you're doing a children's program, you're trying to attract children, they are the same everywhere in the world. So to a certain extent, the easiest target would be children", she explained. "The second-easiest target would be teenagers. I also did 'That's 70's show' and teenagers keep changing", she continued. "Then once you get to an adult, that's harder. Because certain adults are different than others. I think the hardest is to achieve an adult IP that travels globally," she added. "The cornerstone of all successful IP is going to be family, because everyone has one. No matter what at all you are, you have a family. So the cornerstone of this feeling for the truth about the family", she said. "Luck, timing, and something that somebody wants to watch, if those three things come together, you've got a hit on your hands," asserted Adrian Last, Chief Marketing Officer at ITV Studios but he also secured that there's things that, from a marketing perspective, companies have to take a look at. "The number one is marketing, because it's about matching up the needs of whatever your product or service is with your consumers and customers, and if you do that in the right way, then hopefully that's the start of your brand," he explained. "Second thing is to say that everything is a brand. 'Peaky Blinders' is a brand, 'Line of Duty' from ITV Studios is a brand, we are all brands, and we all have a story that goes alongside that, and with brands, there is a simplicity in the communication. And then the third thing is how you create a successful brand from IP. And the way we do it at ITV Studios follows a kind of typical branding model, albeit with some tweaks", he concludedHugo Orchillers, Financial Executive, Financial Executive at Place To Be Media ("Emily in Paris") brings more details about the collaborative process of the agency with producers and distributors. "As agency, we have several ways of working with producers. The most basic way is producers send us a script, we read it, we identify product placement possibilities, and then they validate the sectors of activity we can prospect. And we approach all the brands to have a proposition to be part of the series," he explained. "We have another kind of way of working with producers, like for 'Emily in Paris,' for instance. Before anything is written, we collect interest from brands, offers, and then we go to the producer, which is Paramount for Emily in Paris, and then we say, for instance, we did McDonald's on season three. This is the most integrated way to have brands into content," he continued. "We also work on post-production, because we can use AI or we can use the human eye to identify signage possibility to add them into a content that is already shot," he concluded.

The most-effective marketing initiative to promote a series, whether original, ground-breaking or impactful for the audience, was honored at Series Mania Forum. BtoB or BtoC promotional marketing initiatives from series like "Dark Hearts", "Watch me Disappear", “Lupin”, "Rave"; "Sex Education", and "Those Who Stayed" were presented and "Dark Hearts" Season 2, Newen Connect (France) has received a Special Mention while "Sex Education" - Season 4, Netflix (France) was awarded with the Series Mania’s Best Marketing Initiative Award.

From docudramas to documented fiction, an increasing number of true fact stories are being transformed into captivating fiction or compelling documentary series. In addition, some fiction directors are turning to series and vice versa. Producers Elodie Polo Ackermann (Imagissime); Natasha Bondy (Little Gem); Peter Beard (Story Films) and Alex Florez (100 BALAS) shared their experiences on these genres.

Elodie Polo Ackermann presented its true-crime series "Unspected" that will be premiere in France Television and it's about a French series killer. "We try to give the meaning around that story by inventing a character that is a psychiatrist, that is specialized in serial killer," she said. Peter Beard mentioned that Story Films has scripted drama that's fictionalised, they do true dramas, they do retrospective documentaries and observational documentaries. "Being there at the moment when someone's life is changing in front of your eyes is still the most powerful thing. And if you can find a character that is engaging enough to an audience, so it's the right character at the right time with the right story, if you're filming observationally over a period of time and you see change happening and you feel an intimate connection to that person, I think it is the best way to articulate that story," he described. "The trouble is, having the right story with the right character at the right time, the right access, is really hard to get," he added. Alex Florez presented the thriller docudrama "Matar al Presidente" that was premiered last Christmas in Spain, in the 50th anniversary of the event that happened 50 years ago on the bomb killing of the prime minister of Spain. "'Matar al Presidente' is a big success in a much broader audience than we expected," said Florez. "The audience, the spectator, feels like it's watching a scripted, but they are telling real stories. So at the end it has become one of the biggest successes for Movistar Platform," he affirmed.
Regarding the election of using one genre or other, Beard explained that in scripted projects, big stars can to draw an audience to a story who might they don't watch it otherwise. "You've got far more control in how you tell the story. You can get around a lot of legal issues when it comes to identifying people and things like that," he said. "But on the other hand, people do want real as well. They like real people. You can be very authentic with drama, but we are living a sort of middle ground where you can do a retrospective story for Netflix and you can write your documentary almost as if it's a drama, because as long as the story is good enough, you have the resources at your fingertips because the budget is big enough. So you can do something in between the two, where you have the same sort of scale and ambition and the audience comes to it in the same way, but you get to stare in the eyes of the real people". Natasha Bondy stated that there's also a trend in the UK, that started with ITV and now the BBC are doing it, which is to do the drama and then have a documentary. "As a viewer, I find that really satisfying because it's great to see how they've cast people, and if they do look like that people", she said.

Series Mania was the perfect frame for the Keynote of Wayne Garvie, President of International Production at Sony Pictures Television (SPT), who oversees SPT’s global network of production companies outside the US, covering Europe, Latin America and Australia. He affirmed that Drama is being commissioned now than at most times in human history. "It's a wonderful time and we gotta be a bit more optimistic about the future,", he expressed. Garvie also confessed that he's a great believer that competition is good and that great ideas always find a way of getting to the screen, so it ups the quality of the content. "There's been a lot of money spent on content over the last five years in particular, so anything that ups the general quality and makes you more considerate about how you develop things is a good thing," he said. He also secured that SPT is doing more content with free-to-air broadcasters than they've done for a long time and they're finding that distribution has opened up again. He continues about the focus of the company, which is Drama. "We focused on the UK, Latin America, and Australia, we've got an office in Madrid, and we significantly grew our business, and we are looking for people who have big, bold, and ambitious ideas of scale in Europe that we can partner with," he said.

At the second day of the Lille event, SERIESMAKERS, led by Series Mania Forum and supported by European content powerhouse Beta Group, announced the three winning projects of its second edition. The two Beta Development Awards (€ 50,000 each) go to: "George Blake" (6x52’, United Kingdom/The Netherlands) by director Kevin Macdonald and producer Femke Wolting ; "The Squatter" (8x52’, The Philippines) by director Erik Matti and producer Ronald Monteverde.

On the other hand, the Kirch Foundation in collaboration with HFF (University of Television and Film Munich) Award (€ 20,000) goes to "Sleeping Swans" (8x52’, Germany) by director Barbara Albert, writer Ulrike Tony Vahl and producer Martina Haubrich.

                                                                                                                                                             By Romina Rodriguez from Lille