Oren Aviv Named CMO at 20th Century Fox, a Studio Seeking a Hit

Past Success Can't Guarantee Future When Media Is Changing This Fast, He Says

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Former Disney marketing chief Oren Aviv is joining 20th Century Fox as its chief marketing officer and co-president for theatrical marketing, effective Feb. 7.

Oren Aviv
Oren Aviv
Mr. Aviv's arrival at Fox, which had been widely expected since Pam Levine stepped down last month, comes as the studio is searching for new traction at the box office. After peaking early last year with "Avatar," the highest-grossing movie in U.S. box office history, Fox has dropped off with flops like "Knight & Day," "The A-Team" and last month's "Gulliver's Travels."

During his nine hears at Walt Disney Studios, where he was president of marketing from 2000 to 2006 and later president of production, Mr. Aviv was named an Ad Age Entertainment Marketer of the Year for his work on "Pirates of the Caribbean," "The Incredibles," "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe" and "Cars," among others.

But the movie business is evolving too rapidly to easily duplicate past successes, Mr. Aviv told Ad Age.

"The movie industry has changed," he said. "People's movie-going and movie-buying habits have changed. Marketing is that unique area that can represent change, whether it's technological or personal or philosophical. It's an ever-evolving need on the part of marketing to keep up and be part of people's lives."

"What is necessary for me to do is figure out which films and which marketing messages need to be applied to which platforms," he added. "That is different with every film and I think it's important that you're as fluid and as open-minded to all these opportunities."

Since leaving Disney in early 2010 as part of the executive shuffle that followed Disney Channel vet Rich Ross's arrival as the studio's new chairman, Mr. Aviv has been exploring other opportunities in production, digital marketing and even the gaming industry.

He joined Fox partly because of the vision for the movie industry's direction that's shared by Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianoulos, he said.

Last year was universally challenging for Hollywood, with ticket sales down nearly 6%, according to Box Office Mojo, but Fox struggled more than its peers. Aside from "Avatar," which did the bulk of its business early in the year, Fox's highest-grossing film was "Date Night," whose $98.7 million gross made it the year's 27th highest-grossing film, according to Box Office Mojo.

"Avatar," on the other hand, was enough to offset some of the studio's bigger flops. It helped the studio retain enough market share to rank third, with 14% of the year's grosses.

Fox and Mr. Aviv can only be optimistic about a better year ahead, with a slate of planned releases including the spring adaptation of "Water For Elephants," summer blockbusters like "X-Men: First Class" and "Rise of the Apes," and holiday tentpoles such as "Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked" and "We Bought a Zoo."

Their marketing tactics, however, are going to have to keep changing, Mr. Aviv said. "As long as people's needs change and you have to absorb new information and new communications, you really have to be flexible, be open-minded," he said. "At the end of the day the thing that matters most are ideas -- new ideas, fresh ideas, unique ideas, big ideas. It's a necessity, not just an opportunity."

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