Cherie Crane

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High stakes Hollywood is an industry that regularly devours executives from the comparatively buttoned-down world of package goods and Madison Avenue.

That's why Cherie Crane, senior VP-media at Sony Pictures Entertainment's Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, overseeing Columbia and TriStar promotions, stands out.

Not only has the veteran of WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather and the now-defunct Ketchum Advertising endured in the Tinseltown hothouse, but she's at the forefront of innovative media strategies that have loomed large in Sony's current box office winning streak. Sony's film studios have rung up more than $1.29 billion in domestic ticket sales this year, with hits including "Spider-Man," "Men in Black II"and "XXX."

"In theatrical [circles, we] basically have a two-week window to go from zero to 60," says Ms. Crane, recruited after agency stints on American Honda Motor Co.'s Acura and Mattel toys. "There are a lot more elements in a media plan than there were 20 years ago."

In 2001, Sony Pictures spent $371.6 million on advertising, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. And to stay on top of fickle movie audiences, Ms. Crane uses a host of new tracking services.

Her fresh perspective has pushed Sony beyond Hollywood conventional wisdom. TV ad buys on Thursday night? Yes, indeed. But commercials alone can't move the awareness needle. To wit: On Super Bowl XXXVI, Sony leveraged $7 million in commercial expenditures in and around the game in a way that maximized exposure-by buying every pod in the post-game "Malcolm in the Middle" and actually replaying a scene from the sitcom within a "Men in Black II" promo.

This summer, Ms. Crane's creativity emerged again: A blimp, wrapped in "XXX," floated above Major League Baseball's All-Star Game to supplement one solitary commercial buy for the Vin Diesel-starring action film from Sony. Through a deal with News Corp.'s Fox network, cameras superimposed the flick's logo on the backstop during the game; announcers referred to the dirigible as the "XXX" blimp.

The tactic elicited calls from envious rivals. "I had other studios calling me asking how much goddam time did you buy?" crows Ms. Crane. "I only bought one 30-second spot."