Entertainment Marketers of the Year

Jeff Blake & Valerie Van Galder, Sony Pictures Entertainments' 13 No. 1 Hits

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JEFF BLAKE
SONY PICTURES VICE CHAIRMAN & COLUMBIA TRISTAR CHAIRMAN OF MARKETING AND DISTRIBUTION
VALERIE VAN GALDER
PRESIDENT OF MARKETING, SONY PICTURES
It might've been enough in years past to have A-list talent such as Tom Hanks, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell to jet films into the box-office stratosphere. Sony Pictures Entertainment played up star wattage but coupled it with some au courant tactics such as Netflix, Yahoo, Google and MySpace partnerships for an unprecedented string of successes in 2006.
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SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT'S 13 NO. 1 HITS
Gave new life to lucrative Bond franchise and fueled a religious debate via a risky website for "The Da Vinci Code."


The studio's marketing team, led by Jeff Blake and Valerie Van Galder, opened a record 13 movies at No. 1 and crossed the $1 billion mark for the fifth straight year; only Warner Bros. has equaled the latter feat.

Sony had two of the top 10 grossing movies of the year -- "Casino Royale" and "The Da Vinci Code" -- and proved its marketing team could bring back the adult audience that had been shunning multiplexes in droves. "Casino Royale," with a grittier tone and new lead actor, became the biggest Bond film in the long-running billion-dollar-plus franchise.

A challenge
To attract adult viewers in advance of May's opening of "The Da Vinci Code," Sony launched a website, thedavincichallenge.com, as a forum for educators, religious leaders and the broader community to pick apart the book and its theories. Ms. Van Galder, president of marketing, says the site was "risky and scary and could've backfired." Instead it fueled interest in the movie, which made a staggering $758 million worldwide.

Sony scored with a diverse slate, including its first animated all-family movies, "Monster House" and "Open Season"; serious fare such as Will Smith's "Pursuit of Happyness"; and broad comedies "Click," "RV" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."

The studio made deals with blue-chip marketers Sprint Nextel Corp., Coca-Cola, Goodyear and Unilever to promote the Nascar-based "Talladega Nights." Comedian and star Will Ferrell, always in character as race-car driver Ricky Bobby, shilled relentlessly for the movie, appearing in a variety of promo-partner ads akin to Nascar's logo-laden strategy.

Sony has moved away from newspaper ads but still relies heavily on TV, though some marquee events such as the Super Bowl are too pricey to be good investments, says Mr. Blake, Sony vice chairman and Columbia TriStar chairman of marketing and distribution.

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