Given the problems facing a movie industry that's suffering from a significant dip in attendance this summer, it's tough to ask a top Hollywood media executive to look on the bright side. With Sony Pictures Entertainment's Stefanie Napoli, you don't have to. "I live my professional and personal life with a total positive attitude," she says.
So what of Hollywood's problems? As Senior VP-Media, Ms. Napoli, 38, sees them as something marketing can help to solve. After all, compelling content is one of the most frequently tossed around terms, and that's exactly what companies like Sony have in spades.
"We're not selling Cheetos," she says. "We're selling movies-that's entertainment, that's celebrity and that's exciting."
That's not to say that Ms. Napoli isn't vexed by the changes sweeping the media landscape. She regards her biggest challenge, basically, as dealing with the increasing popularity of technology that allows consumers to easily skip commercials.
"At some point, the technology of the DVR will be impactful and mainstream," she says. "For the movie studios in particular, we have to get our [audio/visual commercial] messages across. ... We have to brand each and every movie."
Her concerns have prompted some of her most innovative work since she took over the media department two years ago. Last year, she caused a PR stir when the long-format trailer for "Spider-Man 2" aired on network TV-during "The Apprentice" at its height-before it hit theaters. The strategy? "We felt we had something everyone was dying to see. There was so much heat on that movie. The networks were also excited because it was something fresh." The movie, of course, did boffo box office, with one of the best opening weekends of all time.
To gin up buzz among young females before release of the Jennifer Garner vehicle "13 Going on 30," Ms. Napoli got the "Alias" star to introduce each of ABC's programs one Friday night, tying each show to the plot of the movie. Another innovation was a mockumentary created to promote the comic-book adaptation "Hellboy" that aired on FX. The program helped drum up buzz among geeks.
"All of these programs come out of a simple but crucial mission: "The media dollar doesn't go as far as it used to, nor is it worth as much," she says. "Our job is to not get skipped over."
Prior to joining Sony, Ms. Napoli did stints at Grey Entertainment and Foote Cone & Belding, giving her 17 years in the business. In addition to her veteran status, one of the reasons she's been successful in making sure Sony doesn't get skipped is her holistic conception of her job. "She looks at media as a whole," says Karen Bloore, exec VP-managing director at Universal McCann.
"The way that Sony and Stefanie operate is to work in conjunction with other departments, as opposed to being in any kind of silo," adds Ms. Bloore. "She's looking for new and innovative ways to use media, and she's charged us with doing the same."