Amorette Jones knows what it's like to be on the cusp of something that's exploding.
When she was exec VP-marketing at independent film studio Artisan Entertainment, she and her team created the cutting-edge, Internet-heavy campaign for "The Blair Witch Project," credited with breaking open the new medium and proving its worth as an effective way to reach jaded young entertainment fans.
Now, Ms. Jones is immersing herself in fast-growing territory of another kind. As president of marketing at Los Angeles-based Arenas Entertainment, Ms. Jones is steeped in the burgeoning Hispanic market, shepherding films and crafting marketing campaigns that speak directly to a diverse, entertainment-hungry audience.
"I wanted to understand this new market and all the nuances that are associated with it," Ms. Jones said. "I'm digging in and getting first-hand experience with this growing demographic."
In a way, the Arenas job brings Ms. Jones full circle. She grew up in Harlington, Texas, a town that's 93% Hispanic and sits 25 miles from the Mexican border. She went on to make a career in entertainment with both indie and mainstream Hollywood studios including Universal Pictures, Columbia TriStar and MGM. During her six years at Artisan Entertainment, she worked on film marketing and helped create a licensing and merchandising division.
Santiago Pozo, founder and CEO of Arenas, met Ms. Jones at Artisan, when he worked with her as his client. He said he was drawn to her wealth of marketing experience and open-mindedness. "She's very entrepreneurial in her thinking," said Mr. Pozo. "We needed help linking our product to corporate America. She's the perfect person for that job."
Arenas' business combines a new venture in film production with the specialty the company has already honed: its executives act as marketing consultants, media buyers and ad campaign creatives for mainstream Hollywood movies. An ongoing deal with Universal Pictures keeps Arenas executives and Ms. Jones busy on the studio's full slate. The company recently made the first upfront media buy with Spanish-language radio stations on behalf of Universal's films.
The 16-year-old company develops its own movies and also acquires them from outside filmmakers. The films, in English and Spanish, are targeted mainly at the Hispanic market. Arenas also has talent management under its wing, planning to put its budding Latino stars in films and other projects.
"There's very little bureaucracy here," Ms. Jones said. "That makes us a lot different from other studios."
Because the company is developing its own films, Ms. Jones is actively working on brand-integration deals that will marry the content with corporate marketers. The upcoming feature, "Relocating Rosa," directed by and starring Emilio Estevez, is a road movie that takes place largely in a sports utility vehicle. Ms. Jones is looking for an automotive partner that will have a starring role in the cross-country story.
She's also having discussions with potential marketing partners for an animated film called "The Three Wise Men," set for holiday 2005. Ms. Jones calls it a multi-generational movie with particular appeal to Hispanics, but with evergreen and crossover potential.
Name: Amorette Jones
Title: President-marketing, Arenas Entertainment
Big challenge: Understanding the differences between the varied Latino audiences (recent immigrant or U.S.-born; Mexican, Central or South American) and what appeals to them.
Language barrier: She grew up in Texas, near the Mexican border, her partner is Cuban and she can understand most Spanish she hears, but she still plans to take lessons to learn to speak Spanish fluently.
Old stomping grounds: She spent six years at Artisan Entertainment, where she worked on film marketing and helped create a licensing and merchandising division. Other studio stints include Universal Pictures, Columbia TriStar and MGM. She also was exec VP-marketing at Loud Records/Steve Rifkind Co., bartering deals between corporate marketers and the firm's musical artists.
Mantra for marketing to the Latino audience: The message needs to be very clear in its tone and attitude. Make it culturally relevant and reflective of a common experience.
Is Spanglish ever acceptable? Acceptable and useful, as in the campaign for "Nicotina," because it took into account the way bilingual Latinos speak to each other.