Entertainment Industry Primer: How Creatives Should Use Consumer Research to Validate Ideas

Kimberly Surico |
 01/04/23 |
4 min read


Creatives and entertainment industry experts are torn about the inevitable adoption of advanced AI and data analysis capabilities. Can these smart technologies really pinpoint opportunities, and if so – will they displace or diminish existing roles?

Jeremy Whitham, Customer Success Strategist with NetBase Quid® understands this concern thanks to his rich creative background with major entertainment industry players, including the BBC, NBC and Warner Brothers. Over time, he came to view AI-powered consumer research tools as invaluable data validation assets that will shape the future of the industry.

He now sits on the other side of the desk, working with entertainment industry executives and creatives to help them realize the full power these tools offer so they can keep pace with this technology, and with competitors already adopting them.

This article is the first in a series of interviews with Jeremy where we explored this disconnect and his experiences in pitch rooms where people typically push back. They don’t want an algorithm telling them how to tell a story—and are doubtful it can.

The entertainment industry has begun moving beyond it, but that skepticism remains. These interviews should help clarify things for hesitant players and stakeholders.

Why do creatives need to start using consumer research tools?

It will soon become a prerequisite. To be a future producer, you will need to understand how to use data. AI is going to give you good insights at the 10,000-foot level. You can look at trends, audiences, genres, and categories, and then extract some fascinating insights to inform your process. AI-powered consumer research should complement and enhance a creative process, not replace it.

Rather than being resistant to consumer research, creatives need to realize that these tools don’t work unless they have a person interpreting the data. Consumer research validates a creative direction and gives you some best practices, but it cannot create without that critical input—at least not yet!

For example, let’s say we have the rights to a video game with ten characters. Thanks to social media analytics, we know the three most popular characters. When we hire a writer for the script, they’ll be directed to take particular care when crafting storylines for these three characters. That’s not controlling that writer’s process, but it’s giving them crucial intel to ensure the script meets our audience’s expectations and generates maximum excitement.


This is the kind of make-or-break insight that executives wouldn’t have known without these audience insights. They could assume, but assumptions are dangerous, not to mention unnecessary in our age of real-time data validation capabilities.

Analytics can be used as a creative tool and taking advantage of every creative opportunity just makes sense.

How did you use consumer research to shape your pitched ideas?

In every pitch I’ve been in for the last five years, executives want to know that there’s an engaged audience for the show. They won’t even take a pitch unless you can convince them that there’s an audience—and how better to prove this than with hard data?

I held an executive development role at Warner Brothers and knew the integrated marketing teams there used audience segmentation and analysis, and that was my introduction to it. I was fascinated by the potential consumer research offered, and not just to understand if there was an active and engaged audience for a potential series. I looked at topics, talent, titles, anything relevant to the pitch, including overall trends relating to specific audiences and genres.

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One production company I worked for was focused on the gaming space. I could bring the business intelligence team a video game title that was 10 or 20 years old, and the following week, they would bring these data analyses from NetBase Quid® to show if there was an audience for it online or not.

And it answered more than “Is there an audience?” It provided data on the specific conversations consumers were having about the game, including favorite aspects, characters, and other intel to inform not only our decision to release it or not but also how, and where, to promote it.

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I worked with a successful producer at NBC who had a rule about this—you had to start your pitch with some unimpeachable bit of data that required immediate action. I’ve since started encouraging other producers to investigate NetBase Quid® to gather those proof points because it can give them an advantage and help improve their pitch process.

How can audience segmentation and analysis shape creative direction?

At another company, we had a sci-fi-themed thriller that was based on a graphic novel. It was an African American cast and African American talent behind it, and the show naturally wanted to connect with this audience segment for additional programming.

As we examined our competitive analysis around other shows in the space, we discovered that African American audiences over-indexed for interest in sci-fi and horror, which are sometimes lumped together in terms of genre. This impacted the decision-making process, and the way future shows were marketed.

Audience segmentation reveals interests and overall trends affecting genres, specific talent, properties, and really everything an entertainment industry executive would want to know prior to greenlighting a new series.


How significant is the ROI potential here?

If I’d had access to NetBase Quid® 10 years ago as a creative, I probably could have sold twice as many shows because I would have been able to drill down into specifics to reveal game-changing context. It would have saved me so much time researching and validating my creative instincts.

If I were new to consumer research today, I’d still start with my ideas, and I think everyone should. But now I’d have the added benefit of finding data-driven points to validate those ideas—allowing me to pitch them to a much more receptive room of executives.

Nothing is ever a sure thing but having data to hedge your bets is a huge asset. The entertainment industry is increasingly turning to data to drive change as it faces several challenges, including increased audience fragmentation, disruption of advertising models, shifting experience expectations, and a constant need for new content.

Consumer research helps every industry increase consumer happiness and a quick demo reveals why! Reach out and we’re happy to show you the idea validation process in action

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