While no one on the "Scripting the Future of Feature Film Co-Marketing" panel suggested that consumer-goods companies will become film titans, several participants said brands might go their own ways unless studios better serve marketers.
"If we don't change the way we do things, brands will go more directly to creators," said Stephanie Sperber, senior VP-Universal Partnership Development at Universal Pictures.
It's happened in the past, with brands such as BMW hiring famous filmmakers for a Web-based series of shorts. Surfer brand Quiksilver, for example, bankrolled the recent Sundance documentary, "Riding Giants."
Because studios are difficult to navigate, brands have increasingly looked for liaisons to help them. The result is a cottage industry, recently sprouted, of executives who try to barter connections aimed at going beyond traditional tie-in partnerships .
"We need to be more empathetic-we're all buyers and sellers," said Seth Matlins, a brand agent at CAA. "It has to be about collaborate-or-die and not about looking for the last dollar."
Brands can and should step up their entertainment commitment, shifting money out of traditional media and investing it in films, said some.
"I'd like to rename the upfront the `up yours,"' said Brad Ball, exec VP-domestic corporate marketing, Warner Bros. Entertainment, who spent a number of years as a senior marketing executive at McDonald's Corp. "I'd say, take 10% less to the upfront and put it into entertainment. "
contributing: hank kim