creative movies like an advertising agency graphic
June 14, 2019

What Your Digital Marketing Team and Movie Magic Have in Common

My nine-year-old son told me he wants to be a YouTuber when he grows up, and he’s “gonna get rich making videos.”

Having my child become the next Jake Paul is one of my worst nightmares. So, as any concerned father would do, I urged him to make a more respectable career choice – real moviemaking. Why earn pennies pulling pranks on YouTube when you could be the next Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, or Wes Anderson, right?

That weekend, we took the family to see the DC superhero flick, Shazam!, which I highly recommend whether you have a nine-year-old or not. When the credits rolled at the end, my son commented on all the names, and we talked about how many people it actually takes to make a blockbuster movie.

Like moviemaking, it takes a lot of people with a variety of skills to execute a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. In fact, there are some direct parallels between a digital marketing team and the cast and crew of a film.

Let’s take a look at some familiar marketing roles through the lens of Hollywood …

executive producer graphic

Many times executive producers are the ones writing the checks to finance the film. Or, at the very least, they are overseeing the big picture to make sure the financiers and distributors are happy.  But, they have limited creative or technical involvement.

This is very similar to how the CEO or owner of a company works with the internal marketing team and an agency partner. They may not be involved in the nitty-gritty, but they are the final decision-makers and will weigh in on the overall strategy. Both CEOs and executive producers care a lot about the bottom line.

the producers graphic

Not many people realize what a movie producer does. The answer is – a lot! That’s why the Oscar for Best Picture goes to the producers, not the director, screenwriter, or actors. A producer will often select a script to produce and then hire the director and others who can bring it to life. Producers oversee a lot of day-to-day responsibilities. They’re picking locations, watching dailies, dealing with celebrity egos, and reporting back to the executive producer.

VPs of marketing and marketing directors/managers take on the producer role for an organization’s marketing efforts. They pay close attention to timelines and budgets while hiring and managing the circus of people involved with the production. Both producers and the VP of marketing or marketing director are the ones who give the final stamp of approval on a project.

film director graphic

A film director’s job is to wrangle the cast and crew, putting what started out as an idea for a story onto film and into theaters. There are a lot of moving pieces in moviemaking: lights, sound, actors, stunts, special effects, etc. From pre-production through post-production, it’s a challenging job that requires vision, strategy, and discipline.

In a partnership with a marketing agency, your account executive (AE) has many things in common with a film director. At Element, our AEs help define client strategy based on business goals. They pass along information between the client and the agency and bring the marketing plan to life. Just as producers and directors work closely with each other in Hollywood, AEs and marketing directors must stay connected in order for projects to run efficiently and achieve results.

screenwriters graphic

You need a script before you can start shooting. Even after filming begins, however, the screenplay will continue to be tweaked by a variety of writers (or rewriters as the case may be). While only a couple of those people will get screenwriting credits, the producer, director, and actors may have input on the script as well.

Marketing efforts often start with writing, too. Whether it’s an article, landing page, video, or infographic, the text provides a foundation for the final product, just like a screenplay. In digital marketing, copywriters and content creators are the wordsmiths and storytellers, but many others get involved. That includes people proofing and approving copy for the project.

Hollywood and content marketing share a common challenge – finding original ideas. There are too many sequels, prequels, and remakes in theaters and too much overplayed marketing content out there as well. Like a stellar screenwriter, creative marketers should be able to help you create content that cuts through the clutter. And, it all starts with an original idea and good writing.

production designer art director

Production designers are in charge of driving the visual direction of a film. They’re responsible for making sure the locations, sets, set dressings, costumes and more match the visual tone for a movie. According to the New York Film Academy, production designers have:

“… strong knowledge of art and design, including color theory, lighting, and more, the production designer will have a significant influence on the final look of the movie — and, indeed, on how the audience experiences the story.”

Just as production designers influence the look of a film, art directors ensure marketing material is on brand and follows style guidelines. However, an art director’s job goes much further than that. As in production design, art direction involves understanding the story or message a marketing campaign is meant to portray and considering how elements of visual design help achieve the desired results.

set designers like web developers

Once there’s a direction for the look and feel of a movie, someone needs to build everything. That’s where set designers come in. A lot of what you see in movies is shot on huge Hollywood sound stages where sets are fabricated. Yet these sets are also so convincing, you suspend disbelief when you experience the film, and it becomes real.

In digital marketing, web developers are the ones who do the building. They just use code instead of physical materials. Whether it’s a complete website, a mobile application, or some other type of interactive experience, designers provide the blueprint with wireframes and mockups, and developers take that design and make it work in the digital world.

At Element, we have in-house developers, which makes the web design and programming process more efficient and helps control costs for clients (since we don’t have to outsource).

costume make up set designer

Beyond the sets, there are many other finishing touches and dazzling details that go into a movie production. From making the actors look good, to special effects during shooting and editing, you need a wide variety of people with various skills to create an imaginary world.

Likewise, graphic designers, programmers, and people with other creative digital skills pay attention to the details that make a marketing project go from good to great. You might not be thinking about kerning, but the graphic designer is. You may have no idea what goes into a website’s CSS file, but developers do. All of these seemingly small things contribute to the user experience (UX) surrounding your digital marketing projects.

In movies, you don’t usually think about costumes, special effects, or props on set. That’s because you’re wrapped up in the experience of the story. But, if things seem fake, it takes you right out of that story and ruins the experience. For the same reason, talented developers and designers are vital members of a digital marketing team. Quality matters.

director of photography videography

The director of photography (DP) is much more than just a camera operator. This person uses the camera and lighting to tell the story. You may not realize how much the composition of a shot impacts the way you’re feeling when you watch a movie, but cinematography is an artform.

Video has emerged as an important element of digital marketing strategy for most companies. Not only has it become much easier to watch video content online in recent years, the cost of creating videos has dropped dramatically, too. We all carry video cameras in our pockets. However, just because you have the tools doesn’t mean you know how to do the job professionally. Sometimes you need a real videographer, video editor, motion graphics, or animation expert to accomplish your creative vision.

A quick selfie-video shout out on social media is one thing. But, if you want to tell a story that positively reflects your company or brand, you should rely on experienced professionals. You won’t be disappointed. Excellent video content is worth its weight in gold.

movie promotion public relations

The work is far from done after the director calls out, “That’s a wrap!” Once a movie is shot, edited, and ready for release, the Hollywood promotional machine kicks in. From press junkets to late night talk shows, articles in Hollywood trades to appearances at festivals like Comic-Con, it’s time to get the word out about the best new movie since Weekend at Bernie’s II.

Okay, so some movies need a little more help than others.

A reliable public relations (PR) team does a ton of work behind the scenes to spread the word about what’s new and exciting in your company. A PR team’s value extends far beyond press releases, helping promote and protect your brand’s reputation. They can land you opportunities in the media outlets your target audience follows. PR can also help with community events and tradeshow marketing.

Element’s PR department has experience in every aspect of public relations, from pitching editors to organizing events to crisis management. Check out our PR Briefs to gain some insights from the team.

distribution social media marketing

In the movie business, distributors use networks of theaters and other channels to get the finished product in front of an audience. After its theatrical run, the distributor comes up with a strategy for putting out the movie on home video, TV/cable, and streaming services. Movies are made to be seen (and make money). Distributors make sure that happens.

In much the same way, digital marketers use social media and email marketing to put content and advertising in front of a target audience. A social media specialist comes up with creative ways to entice potential customers to learn more, and it encourages digital word-of-mouth marketing as your followers share what you’re doing and making. But you can also syndicate marketing content on social media channels. That includes native videos and photography on Facebook and Instagram as well as longform thought leadership content using platforms like LinkedIn and Medium.

Your organization’s email marketing list likely contains current customers as well as prospects you’re working to convert. Maybe you’ve even segmented your lists into more specific groups. An email strategy ensures the right content and messages are distributed to the right people at the right time. Because your content is meant to be seen (and drive sales). An amplification strategy ensures that happens.

the stars of the show graphic

Finally, we can’t forget the stars of the show. You might assume the point would be to make your company, your products and services, or even your employees into the stars.

The truth is … the real stars of your digital marketing should be a reflection of the people you’re trying to reach. When you watch a good movie, you put yourself in the shoes of the main character. You feel their pain and celebrate in their success. When they win, you feel like you win, too.

Prospects who encounter your marketing content should have a similar connection. However, that won’t happen if you make everything you create about your company and what you’re selling.

It starts by understanding your target audience. At Element, we use persona development to paint a picture of our clients’ ideal customers. It closely resembles the way a screenwriter will create biographies for the characters in a script before beginning to write. Then, you need to include brand marketing and direct marketing in your mix to move prospects along a path to purchase or buyer’s journey.

There are some interesting correlations between a buyer’s journey and the hero’s journey, which is a timeless storytelling structure stretch back to Greek mythology if not further. Find out more about that concept in our article on writing better case studies.

How are You Building Your Blockbuster Marketing Team?

Of course, many other people are needed to make a major motion picture, and we haven’t covered everyone you need in a digital marketing team, either. There are still the people who understand the technicalities of search engine optimization (SEO), people who conduct market research, branding experts, paid digital strategist, data analysts, and more.

It can feel practically impossible to recruit and hire all the marketing talent you need to build a comprehensive and effective in-house team – much less afford to pay their salaries and purchase all the software tools they need. That’s where an agency partnership becomes a key component of your efforts.

When you find the right agency partner, you can fill digital marketing talent gaps, which allows your team to focus on what they do best, while you let your marketing agency to support you in other areas.

Element is a full service digital marketing agency serving businesses across Wisconsin and the country. We specialize in integrated strategies that connect marketing and sales, because our crew becomes part of your crew.

Whether you need screenwriters (copywriters), a production designer (art directors), or a solid director (account executive), we’ll produce the right marketing strategy to meet your business goals.

And, if you really want, we can even help you become the next YouTube star … as long as my kid doesn’t beat you to it.


Kasey SteinbrinckDirector of Content Marketing
Kasey Steinbrinck has been creating content since he was just a little kid, writing stories and making radio shows on his Fisher Price tape recorder. He went on to produce local television and wrote for an area newspaper before discovering the power of telling stories online. Kasey worked as a content marketer, blogger, and copywriter for two ecommerce companies before joining Element in 2015.