LAS VEGAS: Universal Pictures is driving progress on digital to generate excitement about its latest movies – and tempt consumers into buying tickets for the vital opening weekend of a film.

Josh Goldstine, President/Worldwide Marketing at Universal Pictures, discussed how the company is embracing digital as a marketing channel at CES 2017, an event convened by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in Las Vegas.

"We definitely see it in our budgets," he said. (For more details, including examples of its strategy in action, read Warc's exclusive report: Digital marketing plays well for Universal Pictures.)

"I think we've gone from what used to be, really, pretty small percentages very recently. And we're upwards of 30% on a fairly regular basis. We've actually done some experimentation where we've done movies as high as 75% of digital work."

One key role of this marketing output is to "drive intensity" around a movie on its opening weekend – a period which has profound implications for success.

"That opening weekend, mathematically, has such consequences on so many of our business and subsequent windows," said Goldstine. "What that means is we do need the reach, and we do need to aggregate audiences in a very short time period.

"With that [media] fragmentation also comes the difficulty of bringing everyone together at the same time. And so it's a double-edged sword. And then you also have new ad formats and you have the ability to opt out of things."

Tackling those problems plays into Universal Pictures' skills as a content creator, as it requires delivering long- and short-form material that people want to engage with – and that is capable of reaching beyond a film's core target audience.

Digital offers another advantage in pursuing these endeavours, as it provides real-time insights into the consumer response. "We also, for the first time, have feedback," Goldstine said.

"Now, we're actually in a world where we're having engagement; we're having a dialogue … We are targeting, and having segmentation, and being able to get a signal and respond to it, and evolve a campaign in a way that we really never have before."

This process stands in stark contrast to the old movie-marketing playbook, with its two-minute trailers, TV ads and various other forms of one-way communication.

"It's really a tremendous transformation in terms of a business that, very much, has always looked backwards to what worked yesterday as a guide to what works today and for tomorrow. And that's really not the case," Goldstine said.

Data sourced from Warc