Last night, at the Walter Maciel Gallery downtown, industry insiders gathered for the second annual Silver Pixel Awards, celebrating excellent and innovation in digital marketing. In two years, the awards show—staged by non-profit Hollywood in Pixels—has grown from a smaller teahouse affair to a full-out gallery celebration. “Look at where we are now,” said Bettina Sherick, founder of the organization. As the Silver Pixel Awards march forward, though, they continue to look to the past; indeed, an idea central to the ceremony is to reflect back on marketing campaigns of past years that have left a mark.

The evening’s centerpiece was a revelatory conversation with Dwight Caines, former President of Domestic Marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment, celebrating and reflecting back on Caines’ 19-year track at Sony, and the ways in which the industry has evolved and shifted during his tenure.

Hollywood in Pixels founder Bettina Sherick, in her opening remarks.
Hollywood in Pixels founder Bettina Sherick, in her opening remarks.
Pamela B. Corey

Speaking of his longtime colleague, Trigger Global president and Silver Pixel Awards sponsor Jason Yim said, “[Caine] always pushed innovation, so in our 10 plus years —on the Trigger side, we were the first to do apps, iPad apps, voice recognition, all this 360 degree animation. That was all because Dwight let us play in that world and pushed us to do things we hadn’t done before.” Prefacing a reel celebrating the breadth of Caines’ accomplished career—featuring clips of everything from Smurfs to The Social Network—Sony’s current EVP of Domestic Digital Marketing, Elias Plishner, shared his experience of working with Caines on over 289 movie campaigns. “In case you were wondering, they were all massive hits,” he joked. “But nobody does it better than Dwight.”

Appearing out of the shadows to the James Bond theme, Caines immediately got topical. He was fighting either allergies or a cold, he said—“So if I’m sniffing, no Trump comparison.” Subsequently, in reflecting on the past and present of Hollywood digital, Caines spoke of those studio executives who are “less digitally savvy” than one might expect. “I liken them to climate change deniers,” he jabbed. While acknowledging those who have been, and possibly remain behind the times, the pioneering executive remains ever excited by the prospect of what’s to come. “Digital is something that’s become part of the fabric of behavior. Data has just exploded in a way that’s extraordinary,” Caines said. “I think there’s been a lot of change and I think the studios are finally catching on and having consistent adoption of digital campaigns.”

The second Silver Pixel Award of the night was presented to Jon Hegeman, or his work on the Blair Witch Project campaign.
The second Silver Pixel Award of the night was presented to John Hegeman, or his work on the Blair Witch Project campaign.
Pamela B. Corey

Caines touched on the future of the business, and a number of pertinent topics of the day—from shifting release patterns to VR—the most intriguing, regarding Caines’ thoughts on the longevity of the theatrical business model. “That’s a tough question to answer on the record,” he admits. “I think the business has to get leaner and smarter and nimbler. It just has to, because consumers have so many choices, and studios cant rely on tentpoles only.”

Following the “fireside chat,” Silver Pixel Awards were presented to Gordon Paddison—legendary marketer behind the Lord of the Rings campaigns, appearing via video message—and John Hegeman, who left his mark on films ranging from Silence of the Lambs to Hellboy to The Blair Witch Project. “Its funny watching things over the last 20 years. What it really comes down to is engagement, and creating an experience,” Hegeman said, echoing Paddison’s remarks. “That’s really what its all about – it doesn’t matter what channels come in and out. That’s the beauty of the Internet, of digital marketing, of everything we do.”

Ultimately, Hegeman’s comments were in keeping with the theme of the night, as he reflected on one of the most pivotal digital marketing campaigns of the past several decades—just how far the business  has come since his career began, in tandem with explosive technological development worldwide. “Blair Witch was a great experience because people were just exploring the internet at the time as a form of entertainment,” Hegeman explains. “It was a dialogue—the key back then was creating a site that wouldn’t take 20 minutes to load.”