Cable Show 2013: Panel Says Fans Can Be Best Marketers

Complete Coverage: Cable Show 2013

Washington - These days, the best marketing campaigns often don't come from a creative agency or in-house marketing team, but by ceding control to the fans, panelists said at "Storytelling 2.0: Reimagining the Marketing Playbook" at the Cable Show on Tuesday.

"Marketing entertainment properties has changed so much with the advent of social and digital media," said Linda Schupack, executive VP of marketing for AMC, who notes that anything that goes viral is just indicative of people's passion. "We like to transform viewers into fans, and fans into evangelists of the properties."

AMC has seen this with a 2008 Saturday Night Live skit "Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women" that lives on on Hulu and, and a fan-created Lego Breaking Bad video game parody on YouTube. While embracing such fan-created viral marketing requires upper management to be willing to letting go of the brand, Schupack said the ultimate goal of entertainment marketing should be to entertain.

"We have to be open to fact that we can't control it as tightly as we might want," she said. "If creativity is there it ignites a spark, which is a great thing."

Don Buckley, now executive VP, program marketing, digital services, and media and promotions at Showtime Networks, said he saw the same thing when he worked at Warner Bros. on the Harry Potter film franchise: "Initially the response from upper management was panic and concern, but slowly over time the reality of technology sets in," he said. "And by forming a relationship with fans you can help guide and even improve quality of what fans are putting out."

The panel, which was moderated by CTAM's Anne Cowan, agreed that good ideas can come from all places, including fans, and they try not to limit those conversations to marketing teams within their companies.

"Everyone at Lionsgate is tasked with being entrepreneurs," said Amanda Kozlowski, VP of worldwide digital distribution/on-demand team at the studio. "We try to limit hierarchy. Great ideas can come from any level of employee."

Gregg Fujimoto, senior VP of brand strategy and marketing communications at Time Warner Cable, said the biggest challenge is making sure to pick the right innovative ideas, and focus the message. "It can be too easy to fragment that message and get carried away with the technology or innovation itself," he said.