On August 19th, marketing executive Josh Jacobs joined New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class to talk about classical and emerging forms of movie and television marketing. Jacobs held posts at CBS Films and FX before landing his current gig as the Director of Digital Marketing and Media at Game Show Network.
One of Marvel’s first interns — back when they were just a small operation in 2001 — Jacobs shared his early career stories as a floater working at Artisan Entertainment, ultimately getting placed in their Film Acquisitions department (NOTE: Artisan was later bought by Lionsgate). “In Acquisitions, you occasionally watch some good movies but also endure a lot of bad ones,”Jacobs explained, before launching into a humorous story about one such bad film that was basically a naked man in a bathtub yelling at the camera. Jacobs had many unique experiences in his early years. He worked for actor/producer Billy Baldwin, who he said was a really nice guy, and where he learned a lot about indie filmmaking and independent producing. But it was on a stint working for writer/producer Dean Devlin that Jacobs first got to be a part of the marketing and distribution process. He also remembered the massive promotional campaign working on Flyboys, where they brought in small propeller planes to show entertainment journalists to get them buzzing about the film.
After a series of jobs in film development working at production companies, however, Jacobs tired of working on projects that rarely got off the ground. It was then that he decided to switch full-time into advertising and marketing. “I love to work on campaigns that I know that people are going to actually see. I love tackling a difficult marketing problem and solving it. Marketing is like a creative puzzle.”
Jacobs shared one of his proudest accomplishments on a unique marketing strategy for the horror film The Woman in Black for CBS Films, starring Daniel Radcliffe. “You know when you’re just sitting in a movie theater, before the movie or trailers start and generic pre-show ads are on the screen? We wanted to do something different there.”
Jacobs then explained how he came up with the concept of a video where it would appear that the audience was being filmed in the theater and their images were projected up on screen. As people saw what looked like themselves on screen and gazed around confused, so too would the people in the video. The camera would slowly zoom in on a baffled couple and from behind a scary looking woman – the Woman in Black – would suddenly jump out! AHH! “She screamed so loudly, there was no way people didn’t look up at the screen at that moment– and even if they missed the ad, it was still just in time to see our title treatment on the big screen and spark curiosity.”
Jacobs shared digital postcards he conceptualized for the FX show Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood, as well as explained the different forms of marketing, from A/V to print, as well as the digital and social spheres. And as we wrapped up, Jacobs closed by offering the students the most important advice he could give, amassed over his years working in the entertainment business.
“Look, it’s a tough business out there. People will tell you ‘no’. They’ll disagree with your ideas and you’ll have to make compromises. But, and this is something it took me a long time to realize – it’s okay to ask “why” when someone has notes or constructively criticizes your ideas as there’s usually a good reason. And once you understand why they don’t see something the way that you do, you’ll know how to expand on the idea and solve the puzzle.”