At the start of 2020, Studio City PXL had big plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary, a quarter-century run that includes three Emmys, 2 Clios, Telly Awards, more than 100 Promax Gold awards and a client roster of blue-chip conglomerates that could rival a century-old advertising agency.
Having made its name in primetime broadcast, cable, syndication and sports marketing, Studio City expanded into digital, social and theatrical marketing with the acquisition of PXL Agency in July 2019. That resulted in Studio City PXL having a strong daily portfolio that includes such clients as A&E, CBS, DreamWorks, Disney/ABC, Fox Sports, HGTV, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Sony, Warner Bros.—pretty much every media player in North America. It was an amazing run … for eight months. Then came the pandemic.
PXL was hard at work creating digital and web support products for a dozen huge summer 2020 movie releases. Studio City was churning out more than 250 spots a week and was already at work designing launch campaigns for two high-profile TV series that were set to launch in fall 2020.
As everyone now knows, movie theaters closed, stages went dark, executive offices were abandoned. Much like the rest of the global economy, entertainment experienced a seismic shift into an uncharted abyss.
But allowing the evolution that Studio City PXL began in 2019 to just come to a screeching halt was not an option for the agency’s leadership. Fortuitously, the company had already been in the midst of retrofitting its post-production and digital infrastructure to be earthquake-ready just as the first COVID-19 lockdown hit. The agency’s work-at-home model already was under construction as the pandemic approached the US. Studio City PXL’s chief technology officer took charge, and without much down time Studio City PXL was up and running with everyone working from home. Within days of cities going into lockdown, Studio City PXL was able to meet every client deadline, make every satellite feed and welcome any newcomer.
But while Studio City PXL got itself internally ready, many of its clients were immobilized. As it turns out, some would be silenced for more than a year.
Survival instincts set the agency on a journey it never expected to take. Not only would it need to develop new revenue streams, but it would need to create new technologies.
As studios slowly opted to bring summer theatrical titles on to their nascent streaming services, they called on PXL to create websites and digital destinations with the hope of monetizing streaming and video-on-demand content. Sure enough, millions of visitors came to PXL’s Trolls World Tour website for Universal Pictures, leading it to become the first successful premium video-on-demand release of 2020. PXL also created CampCretaceous.com, an immersive website to promote DreamWorks’ Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, released on Netflix.
Having cracked the code on consumer engagement, PXL spent the summer developing an immersive digital solution that could stand in as an alternative for in-person events and experiential marketing. With in-person fan pop-ups, conferences, red-carpet premieres and press junkets put on hold by the pandemic, PXL introduced its virtual-event solution to studio marketers: the PXL VX Platform with VX short for “virtual experience”.
For Studio City’s syndication clients, the pandemic brought a silver lining. Daytime TV ratings soared as millions more people remained confined to their homes. Every studio introduced innovation after innovation as they were determined to quickly (and safely) get daytime hosts reengaged with loyal viewers. Eventually, every host harnessed technology to welcome fans into their homes every day. As Kelly Clarkson remoted from Montana, Dr. Oz’s production moved to create a studio in his basement so he could continue to update viewers on ever-breaking health news. This resulted in Oz becoming a vital voice of the pandemic. The need for authentic friendship and information helped both NBCUniversal’s Kelly Clarkson and Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz to be renewed for two more seasons by TV station groups across the country, including NBC and Fox, respectively.
Studio City also helped CBS Media Ventures launch The Drew Barrymore Show, a production produced entirely remotely from New York City.
With the agency in full-on survival mode, it was uniquely positioned to extend its talents and harness technologies to help others hurt by the pandemic.
Early in the pandemic, Studio City PXL joined forces with New York’s Nurses House, America’s only non-profit organization dedicated to helping nurses who become seriously ill, injured, disabled or unable to work. As COVID-19 overwhelmed hospitals and infected countless first responders, Nurses House received more requests for help than ever before in their 98-year history. To support the non-profit’s campaign, Studio City PXL built a dedicated website, helped set up a COVID-19 funding platform, created a TV and radio campaign, and called in a few favors to get them on the talk-show circuit. Their efforts raised more than $3 million dollars in less than two months.
Additionally, as the homeless crisis in Los Angeles was reaching unfathomable numbers, PXL partnered with LA Family Housing to help produce the organization’s annual “Home Together” gala event. Studio City PXL’s pandemic-related charity efforts didn’t stop at humans; its expertise was brought in to produce and promote PETA’s 40th anniversary event, featuring Sir Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Edie Falco, Ed Helms and India Arie.
Beyond core client needs and philanthropic initiatives, Studio City PXL also saw the need to respond to the social issues that dominated the nation’s attention. In response to the many social and cultural issues that were brought to the forefront of conversations in 2020, Studio City PXL enacted a new initiative Cultural/Religious Observance Day, which gave team members the opportunity to take a day off, fully paid, in order to honor the culturally or religiously significant day of their choice, regardless of when that day landed on the calendar.
While 2020 has wrapped up, Studio City PXL continues to set its sights on future projects including multiple original series concepts. Studio City PXL also has welcomed other clients to its roster outside of its traditional entertainment vertical, including the City of Santa Monica, the Los Angeles Kings, and the New York State Department of Agriculture (having officially secured the five-year contract to be the agency of record for The Great New York State Fair through 2025). The challenge of 2020 has evolved into an opportunity to expand in so many ways in 2021, making Studio City PXL’s 26th anniversary the most exciting one yet.
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