Katie Chin has made a very definite mark in the relatively young, but increasingly important discipline of entertainment promotions marketing. Chin, presently the vice president of worldwide entertainment and licensing for Alcone Marketing Group, has spearheaded such award-winning campaigns during her career as the ‘Who Stole Bart’s Butterfinger’ promotion, which received the Promotion Marketing Association of America’s Super Reggie, the ‘Best Use of Celebrity’ award by AdWeek magazine on behalf of the TGIFriday’s/Homer Simpson campaign, as well as three LIMA Award nominations for Simpsons promotional tie-ins. Other projects of note include the development of national promotional tie-ins for The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Chin, who began her career as an intern in Warner Bros.’ field office, has held a number of roles in entertainment promotions marketing, including manager of national promotions at both Orion Pictures and Buena Vista Pictures Marketing; director of worldwide television promotions, and later, senior vice president of marketing and promotions for Twentieth Century Fox Licensing and Merchandising; and vice president of promotions and strategic alliances for Universal Studios Consumer Products Group.
This month, KidScreen’s ‘The Champions Series’ salutes Katie Chin for her outstanding contribution to her field.
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We’ve heard so much about clutter in the kids television program market today, with the introduction of new kids networks and the explosion of cable services. So there’s definitely more programming, and more promotional support material. But is it better? Are kids being better served today than they were 10 or 20 years ago?
A. I believe kids today have a variety of interesting options available to them. With the new FCC Children’s Television Act guidelines mandating three hours of quality, educational television, I think the bar will be raised and kids will benefit from the addition of better-written and better-produced shows. I’m not sure if more programming is necessarily better. However, I do believe that it opens doors to broader thinking, such as the trend toward more programming targeted at girls, as well as more shows celebrating cultural diversity. With fewer slots available in the past, some of these new shows would never be developed.
I think Nickelodeon, Fox Kids Network, Cartoon Network and others have done a terrific job by fundamentally respecting kids in everything they do and as long as programming leaders uphold such standards, kids will benefit in the long run.
Q. How do you address the backlash in marketing to kids today?
A. I think that we have a basic responsibility to respect kids. With the tremendous amount of increased programming in cable, theatrical and network television comes increased promotions, advertising and marketing-all aimed toward kids. Although there is a huge appetite among kids for more and more entertainment, it’s important to remember that kids today are extremely savvy and live in a very cynical world. With that said, we as adults have the responsibility to let kids be kids and enjoy themselves. If we stick by that rule of thumb, we can all win.
Q. How do you see the promotions and licensing and merchandising agenda over the next few years? Will it continue to become more important as a support to television programming? Or will it begin to take on a life of its own?
A. The role of promotions and licensing and merchandising will continue to grow over the years as the worldwide appetite for entertainment continues to grow. I believe we will see increased participation by marketing in the creative process across a variety of programming, from television to theatrical, interactive to DVD, with more and more strategic alliance partnerships being formed between licensees and licensors. I think there will always be a co-dependent and symbiotic relationship between television programming and licensing merchandising/promotions. And, as competition for ‘eyeballs’ becomes more intense, the pressure will be greater to achieve critical mass. We’ll see more developers and marketers working as a team to package shows. Today’s ultra-competitive environment has created the need to make as much noise as possible, out of the gate, to differentiate each property to ensure success both on television and at retail.
Q. You mention strategic alliance partnerships being formed more and more. How do you see these benefiting both the licensee and licensor?
A. I believe as entertainment tie-ins become more popular within corporate America and as competition escalates, more corporations will seek long-term relationships with entertainment companies. While rarely 100 percent exclusive, such partnerships enable licensees to be aware of up-and-coming properties and take the first shot at tie-in opportunities. Strategic alliance partnerships also create obvious efficiencies for licensors and give them the ability to leverage other properties within their stable.
I also think it puts corporate marketers in a unique position to leverage the relationship on a variety of levels. From the record division to the network division, you become privy to a full gamut of cross-divisional activity. In the end, the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts when making these types of associations.
Q. There’s no question that you and other professionals in this industry are forced to take on a more global perspective. As this need increases, what changes do you expect to see on the promotions side? Is the world really ready for global campaigns? What effect will internationalization have on the quality and type of promotions you create?
A. Entertainment is a powerful American commodity. Corporate America certainly recognizes this, and has responded by structuring more and more global deals. Therefore, entertainment marketers have been forced to become much more sophisticated in the realm of global promotions. I am fortunate that in my current position with Alcone Marketing Group, I’m fully supported in this arena because of the company’s global reach. As the demand increases, however, I believe we’ll see a greater willingness and cooperation among licensors to meet the needs of corporate marketers both from a timing standpoint (more consistent and solid international release date schedules) and a creative standpoint.
For example, Universal Studios Consumer Products Group’s style guide for The Lost World: Jurassic Park contained several multi-cultural images, as well as phrases and logos offered in several different languages. As the demand for American children’s programming increases overseas, smart providers of programming will continue to create shows and films with universally appealing themes to kids of all ages.
I think the successful worldwide promotion deals struck on behalf of Batman & Robin (Kellogg’s) and The Lost World (Burger King, Kodak) are proof that the world is ready and eager for more global promotion campaigns. The quality and types of programs will not differ to a large extent from what we’ve seen on a purely domestic level.
I believe the key to a successful worldwide promotion deal is to provide enough flexibility within the program to enable each territory to design a program that is appropriate and truly relevant to its respective population.
Q. Can you tell us your biggest high so far? And what’s been the biggest disappointment?
A. This is such a great business. I have highs all the time. I would have to say my all-time high was having the opportunity to work with the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening. He is a creative genius. It’s not often in one’s career that you are able to work on behalf of such a hilarious, topical and insightful property.
Winning the Super Reggie Award for the Nestlž Butterfinger ‘Who Stole Bart’s Butterfinger’ campaign was a great high-the result of many, many individuals coming together to truly capture the essence of the show in a unique promotion campaign.
My biggest disappointment was leaving Disney right before Aladdin came out. I had negotiated a few promotion deals and left just before the promotions had hit shelves. It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve sold a high-quality product to a partner-sharing in their enthusiasm when a property breaks opening weekend box-office records is a wonderful thing.
Q. When you look at the up-and-comers in your business, what do you see that impresses you? What do you feel they’re not doing well?
A. I sense a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm among up-and-comers in the entertainment promotion business. I am impressed by the creativity and fresh thinking some of the new breed of entertainment promotion executives have brought to the industry, which obviously opens new opportunities for tie-in partners.
Most recently, DreamWorks tied in with Pepsi for The Peacemaker. Instead of seeing ‘peacemaker.com’ on trailers and one-sheets, you saw ‘pepsi.com’ on all of DreamWorks’ advertising for the film. A simple idea, yet out-of-the-box and it caused people to take notice.
To answer the second part of the question, I haven’t necessarily seen anything out there that hasn’t been done well. I just think it’s important for anyone in this business to remember that the entertainment promotions industry is a relationship business and that corporate America can view Hollywood as a completely different and sometimes strange animal.
Entertainment promotion executives should make the extra effort to engender trust and navigate potential partners through the (oftentimes confusing) entertainment maze. Although entertainment tie-ins have become more popular, we must continually strive to bridge the gap between entertainment and corporate America and make our partners feel at home. The more professional we can be, the more we can legitimize the business that we do.
Q. What are the enduring lessons you have learned about the role of promotions in the entertainment industry? Do you feel you are finally getting the respect as an important partner in the process? And if that’s not the case, then what will it take to get there?
A. As the demand for promotions within the entertainment industry has grown, it has become increasingly important to avoid oversaturation in the marketplace and protect the integrity of properties.
* Promotion campaigns are most effective when the partner is an appropriate fit with the property;
* Strive to match brands that share similar attributes;
* It’s very important to manage expectations both on the client side and on the studio side;
* Never overpromise for the sake of getting the deal done;
* Promotions are most successful when a licensor can leverage the support of the partner across many divisions within the company.
I definitely believe promotion partners are becoming increasingly important within the entertainment community as well as among consumers. More often than not, if a film scores a major quick service restaurant tie-in early on in the process, it legitimizes the property and it is perceived as an early indicator of success to the Hollywood hype machine, licensees yet to jump on board, the press, and ultimately, the end consumers. I do believe the entertainment promotion business has gained new respect over the last five years, especially with filmmakers and television producers becoming more involved in the process and aware of the contribution a partner can make, not to mention the cachet that comes with being associated with a comprehensive corporate promotion tie-in campaign.
Q. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about reaching kids? Do you have a rule of thumb on do’s and don’ts?
A. The most important lesson I’ve learned about reaching kids is to honor and respect them and to treat them with integrity. Kids also love entertainment and are projecting up. Therefore, we as marketers need to be sensitive about not talking down to kids and to learn their language and think and act within their world. It’s imperative as a marketer to gain feedback from kids and involve them in the process. We all have a responsibility to enrich children’s lives, regardless of the role we play in children’s marketing.
THE KATIE CHIN THEY KNOW
Senior vice president, worldwide corporate promotions, Warner Bros.
I first met with Katie while she was at Fox. I was in charge of the McDonald’s Youth Marketing Group at Frankel & Co. and always in the hunt for properties to use with the Happy Meal program. McDonald’s had a good relationship with Fox Kids Network and Bert Gould called to tell me about a property he had in development called Bobbie’s World with Howie Mandel. It sounded like an intriguing premise for the show and one that would work well in the McDonald’s Happy Meal program. Bert told me to follow up with Katie Chin, which I did.
Because the show was new, we couldn’t do anything with it right away, but Katie did a great sales job over the phone. It was the follow-up that impressed me. Katie would send me the ratings on the show weekly and talk to me monthly about the progress of the show. This went on for about 18 months before I was able to convince McDonald’s to move on the property.
It was Katie’s professionalism and relentless pursuit, as well as her patience, that I was so impressed with. We finally did the deal on Bobbie’s World about two years after Katie and I had first spoken.
Katie and I have always kept in touch over the years as her career developed. Two years ago, I ended up in L.A. on the studio side of the business and Katie came back to L.A. She’s now on the agency side of the business, so our paths cross again in reverse order.
Now, we face each other from opposite sides of the desk from where we met.
Executive Director of Marketing,
I have known Katie for about nine years, but our paths were meant to cross long before they actually did. Katie Chin and I are both graduates of the Boston University’s College of Communication. In the beginning, Katie was a nice girl from Minnesota, and by the end of freshman year, she was ‘new wave.’ Remember all those great tunes by Duran Duran? I was a prep, so while we may have passed in the hall, we probably never identified each other as possible friends. We also lived across the street from each other, but never knew it. By se-nior year, we were even living in the same apartment complex, and didn’t know it!
Katie was as vivacious and passionate back then as she is now. She had a diverse group of friends and was the president of the Asian-American Society. She was a campus activist, involved in various clubs and organizations and a great student. She was hip, ambitious, driven and always down-to-earth. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
After graduation in 1987, we both went out to Los Angeles to begin careers in the entertainment marketing industry. I was at Paramount Pictures and Katie was briefly at an entertainment PR agency and then at Orion. Alas, all of our mutual friends from B.U. kept telling us, ‘You guys need to meet. You have a lot in common and you’re doing the same type of work.’ We kept saying, ‘Yeah, that would be great, sure.’ But as Katie would say, ‘Oh jeez’. . . it never happened.
Finally, several years later, Katie was at Disney making her big mark in the world of entertainment marketing, and I was at an agency where we had an opportunity to work together. We agreed to take a meeting at my client’s offices out of town. As I was waiting in baggage claim, I saw this woman and knew . . . that must be Katie Chin! How appropriate that we would have flown in at the same time, but not have known it! It was there, at the turning carousel waiting for luggage, nearly nine years after we first shared the same life without ever meeting, that I finally had the privilege to meet Katie Chin. The meeting went down in our personal history books due to a series of hilarious events that will always be kept in our private vault, and it sealed our fate not just as business colleagues, but most importantly as close friends.
It is a privilege to know Katie, as anyone who does can attest. She is an extraordinary person, with unmatched charisma and charm. She is one of the smartest and most creative people I’ve ever worked with, and is always finding new and innovative ways to make our business more dynamic.
Congratulations, Katie, on your tribute. This business wouldn’t be the same without you, and we’re all fortunate to have the opportunity to work with you!
President, Universal Studios Consumer Products Group
Katie is terrific. She brings intelligence, creativity and class to our industry. I have had the enormous pleasure of working with her at Universal; in fact, we had adjacent offices, which allowed us to philosophize, laugh and, every now and then, get things done.
Senior vice president, strategic marketing,
Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group
This moment from Katie Chin’s past perfectly captures what makes her so special. She always finds a way to add play to her work!
Several years ago, past midnight on the Disney lot, Katie and myself and another staff person were struggling with a promotional program for one of Disney’s summer blockbusters. The pressure was on as we attempted to solve our dilemma. We were all tired and running out of good ideas.
Suddenly, Katie suggested we take a break. But instead of the typical break, Katie forced us to leave the R.O.D. building and go outside. We then ‘borrowed’ some of the bicycles used for mail delivery.
For the next half-hour, pandemonium erupted as the three of us tore around the lot on the bikes. When we returned the bikes, sure enough, we were refreshed and the ride had given Katie the idea that solved the problem that had kept us up till midnight in the first place!
Katie has that rare combination of both natural intelligence and also a personality that invents occasions to have fun, which makes working with Katie such a blast!
Director of promotions, Burger King Corporation
Katie certainly doesn’t look imposing, but she sure commands attention. We first met during a driving monsoon in Hawaii, and the storm was a portent of things to come that evening. Dinner was a group setting with several business associates that had know each other for more years than we cared to admit. I remember worrying that Katie would probably feel a bit left out and I vowed to try and include her as much as possible in the conversation.
We had barely started with appetizers when Katie, the human dynamo, took firm control of the evening and captivated the entire group. She not only had all of us laughing, but caused each of us to share insights about ourselves we had never revealed to this group before. While I won’t reveal her methods, she orchestrated the entire evening’s conversation, yet managed to place the attention on everyone but herself.
Now, this is the time when I should traditionally mention Katie’s phenomenal executive skills: how she always exceeds business expectations, how she provides invaluable strategic direction, and how much we all respect her personally and professionally. But honestly, if you’ve been interested enough to read this far, you probably already personally know Katie and I’d just be telling you what you already know to be true. Instead, I’d like to say to Katie, thanks for being a friend and confidante. We all value your smile, your attitude and constant enthusiasm. You help to make this business enjoyable and rewarding.
Executive vice president and managing director, Alcone Marketing Group
Whenever I am hiring a new employee, I always think it is a risky proposition. An impeccable resume and rock-solid references do not always add up to a productive, effective team player. A terrific personality may conceal a not-so-terrific work ethic.
Not so with Katie Chin. As my story illustrates, she immediately proved to be everything Alcone hoped she would be.
The story begins on Katie’s very first day with Alcone. Unlike most first days on a new job, Katie did not have the luxury of slowly settling into her new position. No leisurely walks around the agency. No polite introductions. No, as luck would have it, Katie’s first 24 hours as an Alcone employee were spent winging her way to Hawaii, where she was scheduled to attend a major client meeting. (We’re talking serious sink-or-swim time here.) But, as she sat on the plane, her lap full of client reference material, Katie calmly familiarized herself with all pertinent facts and details. Once on the ground, Katie then began the formidable task of seamlessly assimilating herself into the Alcone-client relationship. True to form, she rose to the challenge, impressing those she met with her poise and professionalism.
Now, if my story ended here, it would be proof enough of Katie’s innate ability. But charming everybody in sight was just the beginning of Katie’s Hawaiian adventure. The next thing on the agenda was an impromptu nature hike with the client. For Katie, it was a great opportunity to chat, away from the hustle and bustle back at the meeting. And so, off they went into the lush outdoors. Following a winding trail, Katie and her client got to know each other as they admired their spectacular surroundings. At this point, Katie probably felt that the pressure was off. She had successfully brought herself up to speed in a very high-pressure situation. Now, she could relax. Or so she thought. Because right about then, a large tropical bee (which are bigger and meaner than the ones in the continental U.S.) zeroed in, stinger first. First victim: the client. Next: Katie. As the client panicked with a sting to the ear, Katie’s head became a mass of swinging hair as the bee became more entangled. Remaining relatively calm, Katie took off running. Thinking quickly, the client began to beat at the fuzzy-winged beast with her jacket. Which meant that the client was beating Katie, who was still keeping her composure as well as anyone could. Meanwhile, this commotion attracted the attention of a nearby cow, which chased the intrepid hikers all the way back to the hotel.
Despite all of this, Katie kept her cool. She didn’t lose it. She didn’t freak out. She didn’t even cry (maybe a little) when the stinger was pulled out. As a result, both her client and her Alcone co-workers gave her high marks for being a consummate pro, a trait she demonstrates day in, day out.
Katie is an asset to the company. She is a professional industry leader with a sense of humor, and I am very happy to have her on the Alcone team.