Karen Hunt doesn’t miss the good old days of gut-instinct movie marketing, but she’s glad she saw it firsthand so she can fully appreciate today’s near-scientific approach.

“The biggest difference between then and now is data—and it’s informing every part of the planning and marketing process,” says Hunt, president of UM’s West Coast region, who launched her career as an assistant media buyer more than 20 years ago at DDB Needham. “We have better data, and that feeds better art, which leads to better outcomes.”

Hunt and her team have worked on a number of industry firsts for client Sony, including an immersive, 360-degree video ad on Snapchat for summer thriller Don’t Breathe. The low-budget, home-invasion flick opened to $26 million, more than double projections, on its way to topping $100 million in the U.S.

That followed another unusual partnership among the agency, studio and Facebook Messenger for an augmented-reality push around last fall’s Goosebumps movie. A chatbot, in character as Slappy (a ventriloquist’s dummy), generated 750 hours of fan interaction, and helped move tickets and related merchandise. Being first is key in the film business, says Hunt, a lifelong Californian and second-generation native of Santa Monica, “because you need to create social conversation.”

With Hunt at the helm, IPG’s UM retained Sony Entertainment, its film, home entertainment, television and other divisions after a global media review last year. This summer, as part of an agencywide reorganization, she added oversight of the San Francisco office where the roster includes Hotwire.com, Edmunds and Schwab.

As Hunt continues to shepherd the Sony account, she will direct fact-finding projects like one with National CineMedia that ties media effectiveness to ticket sales. The exclusive partnership, announced in June, comes as Sony shifts much of its marketing budget from traditional media to digital­—investing, for some releases, half of its usual spend.

It’s an attempt, for the first time, to use data to find out what marketing methods are helping to put butts in seats. “The goal is to close the loop,” Hunt says, “and really track consumer actions.”

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