PEOPLE: PLAYER PROFILE: 'ANASTASIA' LICENSING LIFTS ROSS TO EXEC VP AT FOX: FIRST ANIMATED FEATURE SCORES AT BOX OFFICE AND WITH TIE-IN MARKETERS

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With twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. off to a solid start in the animated film business with "Anastasia," the studio's licensing and merchandising division promoted the key executive responsible for its big-budget promotional push.

Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising elevated Steve Ross from senior VP-worldwide promotions and product placement to exec VP.

For "Anastasia," which opened Nov. 21, Mr. Ross and his team negotiated deals with Blockbuster Video, Burger King Corp., Dole Foods, Hershey USA, Frito-Lay, Kellogg Co., Nestle USA, PepsiCo, Quaker Oats Co. and Shell Oil. The movie took in $15 million in its first weekend, impressive for a non-Disney animated musical.

MARKETING MIND-SET

Regardless of its ultimate fate, "Anastasia" has altered the marketing mind-set at Fox. Far-flung sister News Corp. divisions from ActMedia to HarperCollins to TV Guide, enlisted to support "Anastasia," are now inclined to working in concert on marketing programs.

"The culture here has been changed by 'Anastasia.' . . . The film will serve as a model for us going forward," said Mr. Ross. "Clearly, my job as a salesman is made enormously easier if I can go to a potential promotional partner with the backing of News Corp.'s combined marketing arsenal."

'X-FILES' FRANCHISE

Mr. Ross has begun talks with potential partners on one of Fox's major entertainment initiatives for 1998, "The X-Files," the hit Fox TV series and soon-to-be Fox movie franchise.

But unlike the strategy on the for-all-ages "Anastasia," which sought to generate awareness for the property among the general public, the game plan for the male, young adult-skewing "X-Files" is more selective and strategic.

Mr. Ross has long advocated a strategic approach to entertainment promotions, often chiding those who assess a promotion's value by its media weight alone.

"A mistargeted or poorly crafted promotion can do more harm than good," said Mr. Ross. "Oftentimes, these promotions hit the marketplace before a studio's own efforts and, if done wrongly, can establish the wrong tone for the movie."

Mr. Ross joined Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising in 1989. One of his first assignments was to build a promotional campaign for a new show Fox was about to launch that at the time didn't seem promo-friendly, "The Simpsons." In '92, he became VP-feature film promotions and, in '94, home video came under his purview. In 1995, he was promoted to senior VP and added TV responsibilities.

FULL CIRCLE

Mr. Ross' career has recently come full circle: Shortly after graduating from the University of Southern California, Mr. Ross worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This past year, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch added the Major League Baseball team to his portfolio. Mr. Ross expects that once the dust settles on the deal, there will be work for his division in cross-licensing the Fox Sports

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