Entertainment Marketers of the Year

Julie Willis, 'Planet Earth'

By Published on .

When you have two years to work on a campaign, it's pretty much expected that the traditional media buy and execution will be thrown out the window. That was the case with Julie Willis, Discovery Channel senior VP-marketing, and her groundbreaking campaign for this spring's blockbuster miniseries "Planet Earth."
Selected for:
Used cutting-edge technology to stream video to high-traffic areas of Manhattan and to Bluetooth-
enabled devices.

In a $15 million campaign that used minimal TV, print and online, Ms. Willis and her team brought "Planet Earth" footage to two screens few cable shows get the chance to play on -- the big screen and the bus screen.

A partnership with MTM movie theaters allowed a 60-second trailer for "Planet Earth" to run in cinemas in major cities nationwide and film festivals in Montana and Washington. Outdoor ads also appeared on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and highways in New York. The network included a sweepstakes and arranged for series content to appear on HD screens in retailers such as Circuit City and Best Buy.

Big Bluetooth buy
But the buzz was multiplied on the streets of Manhattan. The out-of-home component made Ms. Willis and her team the first to employ video technology that streamed footage from bus stops across the streets and into the cellphones and Bluetooth-enabled devices of passers-by.

"It was fun for us. Not only could you see the video, but you could download more," Ms. Willis says. "A third of our buy was Bluetooth-enabled. The whole mission was to get the video in as many hands as we possibly could."

The two-year campaign accounts for half of the four years Ms. Willis, 35, has worked for Discovery.

Worth the time
But the results were an instant payback, as "Planet Earth" brought in 65 million viewers during its 11-episode run, averaging 3.3 million households a night. That so many people stuck around until the end was the only major surprise for Ms. Willis.

"We knew this was going to be so successful for us; we just didn't know how," she says. "What we really learned here is people still really want to be surprised. People are genuinely concerned about the planet, and this campaign has really affirmed how people are responding to it."

The next labor of love for Ms. Willis? The recent birth of her first child. Though she's on a 12-week maternity leave, her Discovery team may be hearing from her much sooner.

"I have a feeling I'll have a baby in one hand, a BlackBerry in the other," she says. "It's such a fantastic brand to work for, it's hard to imagine not thinking about it."

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