The Player: Sortito brings adroit touch with film tie-ins to Spyglass

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Hollywood theatrical and TV production companies have rarely kept an in-house marketing executive on staff. But increasingly, producers are looking for someone to monitor, question and steer film studio and TV network marketing efforts.

The growing five-year-old Spyglass Entertainment-which just produced "Bruce Almighty," and was founded by film veterans and co-chairman-CEOs Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum-decided it needed that oversight and hired film-marketing veteran Karen Sortito as exec VP-marketing.

Most recently, Ms. Sortito, 41, worked in senior marketing executive positions for Imax Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment and Web site TheMan.com.

But she is probably best known for groundbreaking marketing tie-in promotions in the late `90s while at MGM Distribution Co. In the car category, Ms. Sortito, as exec VP-worldwide promotions and corporate sponsorships, helped deal with BMW of North America for MGM's James Bond films such as "Golden Eye" and "Tomorrow Never Dies."

"What Spyglass wanted was my skill set of working with corporate America," Ms. Sortito said. "When you are working with, say, McDonald's, they've worked with those consumers for 50 years. In the movie business your audience changes every three weeks."

Tom Julian, trend analyst for Fallon Worldwide, New York, which is BMW's agency, said of Ms. Sortito, "What I always connected with her were her brand concepts, and that she was very embracing of client-thinking as well as agency-thinking. She never had one agenda. It was like `How do we bring this to light for all parties so that it is a new concept?"'

Spyglass is a producer in the upcoming release "Seabiscuit," and has produced films such as "Sixth Sense," "Rush Hour 2," and "Unbreakable," as well as the TV show "Miracles" for Walt Disney Co.'s ABC.

While serving in marketing positions for New Corp.'s Fox Film Entertainment, Morgan Creek Productions, Viacom's Paramount Pictures and MTV Networks, Ms. Sortito has gained perspective on how to effectively tie consumer products to a film.

Blending Bond

One of Ms. Sortito's landmark entertainment marketing efforts was to blend the James Bond character into the tie-in partner's product for TV spots that not only used footage from the movie, but new material as well.

For example, in a spot for Visa International, Pierce Brosnan in character as James Bond tries to write a check but doesn't have the proper ID.

"It's seamless," she said. In the world of branded entertainnment, Hollywood studio marketing executives would do well to more fully embrace the marketing tools of consumer product companies, Ms. Sortito said.

Car companies that tie in with a film can get news of the film to consumers a movie studio wouldn't reach on its own, such as through niche auto-enthusiast magazines, car shows and direct mail efforts. "You have to look at that as enormous assets and clutter busters. That's valuable," she said.

Fast Facts:
Name: Karen Sortito
Age: 41
Now: Exec VP- marketing
Challenge: To bring innovation and resourcefulness to Spyglass movie marketing

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