The Separation of Church and State in Digital Marketing

Ben Johnson on 28 December 2016


How entertainment brands are mis-using digital marketing and what they should be doing instead.

‘The separation of Church and State’ in digital marketing in the realm of entertainment refers to the ‘inefficient’ separation of creative planning and execution from the process of targeting and media buy.

Today’s reality in agency planning is rooted in a First World War-esque Strategy. Careful integrated planning, done over many months towards blowing the biggest budget available, in the shortest amount of time, with the maximum impact. Very little organic change happens during execution.

From our experience, this is an inefficient and outdated strategy, because digital marketing is organic. Campaigns are living systems- it’s all about communicating with Humans.

Click HERE to explore a series of case studies of digital marketing campaigns managed by Gruvi.

If you’ve read the It Follows campaign report, you’ve seen how initial expectations on targeting and creative were badly aligned with the audience’s expectations — subtle changes to age targeting and the images we used turned this movie from a PR debacle into a success. The main point and learning outcome of this article was: measure, adapt and redeploy based on data to find success.

If you read our article on the Myth of the Opening Weekend you would also understand why this marketing practice is allowed to continue. Forcing the industry to release content in various viewing ‘windows’ (theatrical, DVD, TV, etc.) where content is released in staggered steps to limit supply, increase brand exclusivity and increase perceived revenue optimisation. More often than not, it actually hurts performance, contributes to piracy and leads to agencies being forced into the largely ineffective scenario of ‘spunking’ a marketing budget in a few days in order to achieve maximum impact.

If you read this article (on how the prospect of Screening Room shook Hollywood) you will see the creative set up happens in house, but media planning occurs on the agency side — this adds confusion to the communication process. It also means that creative teams are usually woking on hunches based around how gorgeous the creative looks, rather than how much of a conversation starter it is with the general public.

If you read The Four Horse Men of Digital Marketing, entertainment brands very often lack the in-house skills required to measure impact and AB test or even launch campaigns programmatically (the process where machines and a market based exchange handle the placement of your advertising). With programmatic buying, set up and deployment takes minutes rather than days.

So here is my advice:

  • Shoot lots of video — don’t rely on one trailer;
  • Focus also on ‘behind the scenes’ footage-people watch this to learn more clues about your content;
  • Edit this content down for different channels (e.g. what works well on Facebook doesn’t automatically guarantee performance on YouTube);
  • Deploy small test budgets on all the channels you are planning to use and, if the budget allows it, also on those that you are not yet convinced about;
  • Don’t buy against a set plan- the truth of the matter is you really have no idea where your audience is unless you test extensively;
  • Ignore impressions and clicks and focus more on what humans actually do i.e. depth of video view, interactions (such as investigating showtimes or exploring other content), rate of sharing vs. average- are all good indications of intent.

All these steps ensure that you let creative planning and execution intertwine. You should expect it to evolve organically. Think on your feet and always have a plan B to your plan B. Budget accordingly and be ready to pull the plug on expenditure for parts of the campaign that underperform, both during and after testing.


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