I've been around the world, seen a lot of places, and met some pretty stellar folks (I may have just stolen the lyrics from a song?), but once in a great while an individual shows up who stops me dead in my tracks and leaves me wanting to know more, more more.
Although Bettina Sherick has worked on projects ranging from AVATAR, LIFE OF PI, and X-MEN, and can regularly be found speaking at global conferences and universities as a subject matter expert, it was her passion for saving some of the world's greatest films' digital marketing content that initially got me going.
When I finally had the chance to meet Bettina face-to-face during the official launch event of her organization "Hollywood in Pixels", I had the opportunity to understand, first-hand, why her raison d'tre was such an important one: on a desk near the check-in table sat a twenty year old Apple computer, the innards of which contained the original digital marketing files for Forrest Gump.
That movie, for those born after 1980 or those that have been living under a rock, Forrest Gump was likely one of the most sensational, groundbreaking movies of its time.
Her mission now, after serving nearly fifteen years as a digital marketing executive for both 20th Century Fox International and Warner Bros. Studio Store, is to transfer and archive important Hollywood digital marketing masterpieces, like the Forrest Gump interactive and other equally important Hollywood masterpieces, into a format that can be accessed and referenced for digital marketing education, future projects, and good ol' fashioned nostalgia.
That's quite a task, to be sure. But if anyone can tackle it, Bettina would get my vote.
I sat down with her to learn a little bit more about the woman behind this undertaking, and a woman who will surely be influencing digital marketing in Hollywood and beyond for many years to come.
Rebekah Iliff: How did you get started in the entertainment industry, and why did you choose Marketing?
Bettina Sherick: I grew up loving movies. They were my escape. I used to love acting out scenes from musicals too. However, growing up I never really imagined I would end up working at a studio. All those childhood fantasies seemed just that: fantasies. After a tremendous amount of hard work, I was fortunate enough that my passion for digital and film landed me a role as the first digital marketing executive in the international home entertainment division at 20th Century Fox, and then the international theatrical division.
During my tenure there, I was responsible for developing marketing campaigns used around the world to promote our film releases and ensuring that digital was at the core of everything we did. It was an interesting time because the marketing mix was changing so rapidly and it forced us to think differently about media, video content and social.
RI: What is it about Marketing that gets you excited?
BS: Great marketing is the ability to tell a compelling story. I think there's something really exciting about finding the kernels of story that get your audience excited and want to engage with your brand, film property, product. Marketing is great storytelling. Perhaps I'm just a storyteller at heart.
RI: What are some of your favorite projects, in terms of what you've worked on?
BS: There are so many campaigns that I loved working on. Two that stand out are AVATAR and FAULT IN OUR STARS. While they are both very different films, we leveraged social influencers to help build audience and fan engagement. While one film was released in 2009 and the other in 2014, for both we gave fans a platform tell their stories about their love of the film, and the authenticity of the campaign is what helped sell the movie experience.
RI: Who inspires you in terms of both your career and personally? Why?
BS: Quite simply, I admire any woman who walks into a room, speaks her mind, and holds her own. From the past, I have a great admiration for Audrey Hepburn, as she was much more than a great actress and a pretty face. And my hero today is Shonda Rhimes. Her book "A Year Of Yes" is at the top of my list to read next.
RI: How do you define Digital Marketing?
BS: The ability to tell a story using sight, sound, and motion to actively engage an audience in storytelling.
RI: What are tips you give to other Digital Marketers for remaining relevant and embracing change?
BS: Audiences change. Platforms change. The way one tells a story will continue to change. Complacency is death.
RI: You recently launched a non-profit organization because you are passionate about preserving a part of the industry that is seemingly going to get lost. How are you going to accomplish this? What are the steps?
BS: I sometimes think that "Hollywood in Pixels" is my fever dream, my passion project. Last year I realized that there was no organized effort to ensure that the early digital marketing efforts to promote Hollywood films would not disappear. In fact, no one was even thinking of preserving the pixels.
There was a thought that the Internet Archive would be a repository, but not all the assets archived there have preserved the sight, sound, and motion of the actual campaign content; and there is no curation. So I've been reaching out to the creative community and the studio community with the message to not delete the campaigns, and to save the pixels. I have Zip drives, CD ROMs, and even floppy disks that have storytelling content worth preserving.
RI: How does one even begin such a huge undertaking?
BS: Well, we are definitely in that "startup mode." First thing we're trying to get as much source material saved as possible in a cloud that the fine folks at Box have donated to us.
Next we're looking for funding to help us get resources to restore the campaigns so that people can see them in their full glory, and to interview the people who brought them to life so that others can learn from their work.
RI: The world without these assets...what does that look like?
BS: It would be as if "millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced." OK, Star Wars nerd humor notwithstanding, there's so much to learn from those early digital campaigns, from people who were brave enough to challenge the status quo. Without these materials, this aspect of Hollywood history simply won't exist...and that's not something I'm going to let happen.