Peter Phillips shepherds some of entertainment’s most valuable intellectual properties into the future, in his role as senior vice president and general manager of Marvel Entertainment’s Digital Media Group.
Digital Media Wire: How does Marvel keep all of its characters and stories authentic across movies, digital, and all of the other places they appear?
Peter Phillips: One of the reasons this company was acquired at the level it was, and why it’s such a strong brand, is that there are brand stewards across the board.
Right now, for instance, in Disney’s Club Penguin, kids can choose a Marvel costume and play a Marvel storyline. Think of a penguin Captain America! It wouldn’t have worked if there hadn’t been people making sure the characters were valid and true, but it was done in a great way and provided a great opportunity to cross-pollinate the brand.
DMW: What do you think makes it possible for Marvel properties to exist in so many different ways?
Phillips: Marvel characters are very strong, even more so because they have flaws. It would be hard to make such a meaningful connection with people if our superheroes were perfect.
I think that’s at the heart of how Marvel keeps reaching new generations, too. One of my favorite examples of that is the little boy who refused to wear his hearing aid because superheroes don’t, so Marvel created a character named Blue Ear who did. That made it okay for the toddler to wear his. I love that.
DMW: How does your job fit in with the rest of the company? Do you encounter any hesitancy or reluctance when it comes to embracing digital?
Phillips: Marvel at its core is a publishing company, so it all starts with the story, and that helps to keep priorities clear. It’s also the case at Marvel that we haven’t seen digital cannibalize from other groups – instead, we’re fortunate to have a “rising tide raising all boats” situation – and in my experience, that’s where conflicts about digital arise. Digital is an augmentation. It is going to change the dynamics and the face of publishing, but it’s not going to drive it out.
Digital publishing has been exploding for us in the past year, and it’s been great for the published comics too. It’s not traditional and digital publishing here, it’s just publishing. There are people who are always going to want a paper version, and they get a free digital version. They can see for themselves what a wonderful user experience it is, and keep their paper version as a collectible. We also launched Marvel Infinite Comics, which was created directly for digital. It looks incredible on the iPad, and it takes comics to a whole new level by taking advantage of its capabilities with enhancements.
That’s the vertical. My horizontal is a digital consultant for the rest of Marvel. I have a seat at the table with everybody. There is no conflict here.
DMW: Where does mobile fit into your overall strategy?
Phillips: Smartphones are already an important part of our readership, and we’re seeing a merger of usage between the tablet and the smartphone. The value of mobile is just beginning to be realized. To me, the goal of mobile is ubiquity. I want to leverage that. If I can see it on one screen, I want to see it on every screen I own.
DMW: How would you summarize your strategy for digital?
Phillips: The product roadmap is making sure that people don’t ever feel like they’re somewhere where they can’t access and enjoy Marvel’s characters and stories. And the feedback we get from customers supports what I’m saying – they don’t want to be told how to enjoy our content, they just want maximum choice.
Peter Phillips is the senior vice president & general manager of Marvel Entertainment’s Digital Media Group. Marvel Entertainment is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of over 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media over seventy years. Phillips oversees all aspects of digital media for the company – which include its destination websites, mobile applications and social network presence – driving online growth and support of its publishing offerings, feature films and animated series.
He appeared in conversation with All Things D’s Peter Kafka at the inaugural Mobile & Social Entertainment Summit at DMCE presented by Digital Media Wire, part of the CE Week in New York City.