The masterminds behind memorable marketing moments from “Barbie,” “Call of Duty,” “Pokerface” and even that creepy “Smile” campaign that placed grinning actors at various Major League Baseball games gathered Thursday at the Variety + Spotify Advertising’s Visionaries dinner to toast leaders in the field.
West Hollywoods’ Sunset Tower Hotel welcomed the industry’s leading innovators selected for Variety’s 2023 Digital Marketing Impact Report and the four recipients of the Variety Entertainment Marketing Visionaries Award, presented by Spotify. This year the honored executives included Johanna Faries, SVP and GM of “Call of Duty” at Activision Blizzard; Josh Goldstine, president of worldwide marketing at Warner Bros. Pictures Group; Marc Weinstock, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Paramount Pictures; and Shannon Willett, chief marketing officer at Peacock.
More from Variety
On the carpet the honorees were quizzed on their proudest moment of the past year. “Opening the doors of ‘The Continental’ hotel in New York and having an immersive experience was so fun,” Willett said. “The team did an incredible job building that for fans.”
Danielle De Palma, Paramount’s EVP of global marketing, cited her teams efforts to break the world record for most dogs at a screening (219 pups) at “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie.” Meanwhile Alex Sanger, Universal’s EVP of global digital marketing, recalled orchestrating several sketches with TikToker Khaby Lame (who has over 162.1 million followers) and Matt Damon for “Oppenheimer.”
Inside, after a round of signature Sunset Tower cocktails, the ceremony kicked off with a star-studded tribute to Paramount Pictures honoree Weinstock. A congratulatory reel for Weinstock was screened, which included Tom Brady, Ryan Reynolds, Ziggy Marley and Seth Rogen (who thanked Weinstock for dreaming up the pizza-smelling Xbox remote for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”).
Weinstock’s speech honored his colleagues, family and co-honorees. “Especially Josh [Goldstine],” he joked. “We grew up together in this business I want to congratulate on the best campaign of the year in, ‘Flash,’ I mean, sorry, ‘Barbie.'”
Taking a turn for the serious, an emotional Weinstock paused to thank DeDe Brown, Christine Benitez and Jamal Salmon “for helping pilot our Project Action program which we created in 2020 in response to social, civil and systemic injustices playing in our world. This is something very meaningful to me… I just think it’s more important than ever as we try and combat prejudice and racism in all its forms.”
The second honoree of the night, Faries, delivered a heartfelt thank you to her team at Activision Blizzard. “I would also say, just on behalf of somebody who came from the outside as an outsider, I want to thank my team here, not only for joining me at this dinner, but for being so receptive to people who didn’t grow up as a core gamer necessarily,” she said.
“Now, I was a gamer, but I wasn’t really thinking that I’d ever have a big career in this industry because I didn’t think I had the background. I didn’t think I looked the part. I didn’t think I was going to be received, let alone be able to lead in a big way. It’s people like my team over here sitting at the table who have welcomed me with open arms and then some who’ve made me better each and every day and continue to do so. All of them could and should be standing on the stage, not only in my role but in bigger roles,” Faries paused and added, “And no, you can’t hire them, you can talk to them, but you can’t hire them.”
Next up, honoree Willett spoke to the core of what marketing means to her. “The heart of what I get to do every day as a marketer is to build the moments that foster this connection and its connection with our content with our brands and with a community of entertainment lovers,” she said. “What I’m excited about is that at Peacock, I get to build an entire brand around this community. And it’s a brand where the consumer is at the center of everything that we do. They’re the heart of it.”
The final speech came from honoroee Goldstine, who took the stage sporting an “I Am Kenough” tie-dye hoodie straight from Warner Bros.’ blockbuster smash “Barbie.”
“’Barbie’ both shaped culture and reflected it,” Goldstine said after a congratulatory reel of well-wishers from “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig, music producer Mark Ronson and many more. “It pierced the zeitgeist like literally no other movie ever… but it also proves that female IP with a female director and female stars can break and shatter every record, every preconceived notion, every industry bias, every glass ceiling and it was spectacular.”
Goldstine even broached the marketing juggernaut of “Barbenheimer.” “The internet is an extraordinary place and Spotify, you’re doing amazing things and mobile and digital gaming and how it uses space, all these sort of incredible things have happened and all that. But boy, it sure has become a space for outrage and a place that sort of divides us as a human species. Somehow in this weird portmanteau of Doctor Atomic and the atomic blonde, or whatever she is, this idea that a movie about kind of nuclear annihilation and a movie about pure joy could kind of meet up on that weekend.”
The night concluded with an impromptu round of Spotify awards. After guests synced their listening data, Spotify analyzed the intel and handed out surprise honors for “happiest” and even “most explicit” playlist, much to the delight of the attendees.
Best of Variety