Life as a media buyer in the movie biz can be scarier than any horror feature, funnier than any comedy or more surreal than a computer-animated feature. No one knows that better than Palisades Media Group's Geoff Robison, who has had a key supporting roles in these productions since 1994. Last year, he won back the Miramax Studios $200 million ad account. Then, for good measure, Mr. Robison won it back yet again this year, as the studio parts ways with Walt Disney Co.
In a plot with a number of unusual twists, the 36-year-old senior VP-national TV, helped steer the initial success of Bob and Harvey Weinstein's Miramax Studios, something of a seminal event in the history of the movie marketing biz. For the Weinsteins' first movie, "Pulp Fiction," released in 1994, the media strategy broke all the old marketing rules and reinvented the genre. Because the upstart company didn't have the big bucks to compete with releases from the studios, Palisades and Mr. Robison concocted a plan.
"Pulp Fiction" opened toward the end of the year, just in time to meet the Oscar nomination deadline, and in only a limited number of theaters in New York and Los Angeles, he says. In January, when the Oscar nominations were announced, "Pulp Fiction" rode the publicity, added a little paid media and gradually expanded distribution. "We were successful in making money for very little output of media dollars," says Mr. Robison.
Mr. Robison also added a few other tricks to his movie-marketing formula. By using exit polls, and other surveys and tracking studies, Mr. Robison tweaked the media buys, moving from the young male target to older adults, to women, necessary because once the initial target sees the movie, new audiences are needed to keep up the box office.
"We were inventing it along with the guidance of the Weinsteins, who are marketing geniuses," Mr. Robison says. The formula was used over and over again for blockbusters such as "Good Will Hunting," "Shakespeare in Love," "The English Patient" and "Chicago."
After an eight-year run, however, Miramax in April 2003 dropped Palisades for big media buying shop Zenith Media Group. The loss of the Weinstein account came at a time when holding company-owned media shops are promising big savings on costs per thousand.
Last year, Palisades and Mr. Robison's patience, perseverance and pragmatism helped win back the account. With the separation of the Weinsteins from Disney this fall, Palisades will be moving with the brothers to handle media for their new studio, the Weinstein Co., an account worth about $100 million.
Jason Cassidy, exec VP-marketing, Miramax, describes Mr. Robison as "the true north" of Miramax's media buying operations. "He's a very smart, level-headed guy-two key attributes to have" to do well in the media buying business, he says, adding "on a practical level he has a great relationship with the networks."
Mr. Robison's challenge now is coming up with a sequel to his past savvy media strategies. He says he's up to the task, having developed a media buying practice where he hand-crafts every buy, critical in movie marketing where spots often are shifted or altered at the last minute.
Last year, Palisades had success for Electronic Arts with its Cyberstrator, a program that allows sportscasters and sports show hosts to use EA games to illustrate match-ups on the field. For example, a football postgame show could use the device to illustrate some key plays.
Mr. Robison says the device has won usage in football, NBA and Nascar broadcasts. Some program hosts have so much fun with it that at times they insert themselves into the "game" as a player.
"There are no cookie-cutter buys," he says. "The most important thing is buying the right stuff at the best price possible."