Last week I snuck into ThinkLA's Entertainment Marketing breakfast, thinking I might learn the master plan the movie and advertising industries were hatching for world domination. After all, the way things are today, the stakes are pretty high for keeping us distracted with mindless drivel and making us buy candy.
Well, if we're relying on the big brains in Hollywood to lull us back to prosperity, we're in big trouble. Just like the economists I heard speak at UCLA last month at the Anderson business school's "Thrive, Survive" panel, nobody here seems to have a plan either.
Despite the fact that the movie industry is coming off its biggest year ever, the esteemed panel of experts had little insight to offer that the rest of us might be able to use. Moderator Sam Rubin of LA radio station KTLA asked what Hollywood did right, and unfortunately nobody had the balls to say "we got lucky," or even to give proper credit to the failing economy that generally drives people into movie theaters.
WB's Mike Saska almost spilled the beans when he said "we've been doing what we've always done," which begs the question that since what they always do often doesn't work, how the hell is that a strategy? Just one year earlier, vehicles for major stars like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, and Angelina Jolie failed to make any real money despite their star power and marketing budgets. Saska went on to explain that they're leaving no stone unturned in marketing their products, trying every wild and cutting-edge marketing tactic from, "polybagging newspapers to billboards in the Lincoln Tunnel." I think he was serious.
To be fair, it wasn't really their fault. I'm sure they're all nice people, but they aren't incentivized to tell the truth. Nobody's going to get up in front of a sold-out crowd and admit that their success had nothing to do with them. Nobody but me anyway.
Here's what I propose: Let's stop having meetings unless there's something to say. No more conferences, breakfasts, networking whatevers. Part of the problem (albeit possibly a small part) is that we've become a culture of meeting and networking, instead of doing.
The only people being helped by all the networking are the business card printers. Do I really need to go out and meet two dozen biz dev people, all of whom have little more to offer than a firm handshake and their elevator pitch? In the words of Gordon Gekko, "Come on, pal, tell me something I don't know. It's my birthday."
Who do I want to network with, you ask? Someone I can look in the eye and say "You're doing it all wrong. You're going to blow it. I can help you do better." Or someone who can say that to me.
The only way out of the mess we're in (multiple messes if you ask me: the general economy, the collapse of mass market brands and mass advertising, the overburdening of consumers with too much choice) is for all of us to get a whole lot smarter. In order to do that, we don't just need to network together, we need to work together.