Reese was a guest speaker at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas in March. She spoke about the importance of women supporting women in business, how she has grown her business and worked to understand what consumers want from modern brands, how she has used social media to engage with her audience, the importance of data, her focus on diverse storytelling, and the emergence of streaming platforms. Reese said “customers are looking for companies that are deeply invested in giving back – whether it being central to their business strategy or more an outreach”. Read more about her interview below, and find a couple of photos in our Gallery.
B&T’s Big Fat Adobe Wrap Part Two: Reese Witherspoon Lights Up The Room
Without doubt the highlight of the morning plenary session was an interview between Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes and the force of good nature that is the ineffable Reese Witherspoon.
It’s not hard to see why Witherspoon has been such a success. Her charm and wit is contagious and her easy smile would melt the heart of even the most severe cynic. However she’s far more than just a charming actor. She has a steely business mind has seen her start several businesses and even change the stories we are telling. Witherspoon has set about rewriting the script for Hollywood through her production company Hello Sunshine, which she describes as a storytelling platform by and for women.
When Ann Lewnes asked Witherspoon why she created Hello Sunshine, she said she was reading a script which was the worst script in the world.
“It was misogynistic and everything a female character said was just in service to a male character . . . So I got onto my agent and said I’m not doing this movie. She said every actress in Hollywood wants this part. I said, if every actress in Hollywood wants this pat, I’ve got to do something about this. This is not good enough for me and it’s not good enough for my colleagues,” she said.
Witherspoon went on to say that the most the crucial change in the industry in recent times was the emergence of streaming technology and the data that was giving to decision makers.
“We’re seeing that audiences don’t want to just see the same 20 people in movies, they don’t want to see the same 20 creators. They want more diverse story telling. They want more representative stories whether that’s people of colour, or LGBQ and we weren’t seeing it when we were siloed off. Now with streaming we know what’s popular. We know which actors people really align to, we know which storytellers really touch people’s hearts. So I think we’re getting a more expansive expression of humanity.”
Witherspoon went on to say she realised that there was a strong need for change when she watched the habits of her teenage children. “They don’t watch TV, they’re on YouTube and SnapChat.”
And her advice to all parents was if your children don’t let them follow you, take away their phones. “It’s not a democracy in my house,” she quipped.
If you want to learn to be a little bit more like Reese, don’t forget to buy your tickets to B&T’s Changing the Ratio event.
Celebrities—they’re just like us! Except when they are a multi-hyphenate Oscar-winner-actor-producer-director-startup-founder-fashion-maven-equality-advocate-parent-wife-etc-etc like REESE WITHERSPOON. Then they are not at all like us, but Reese’s realness and down-to-earthness in her conversation with Ann Lewnes had us wishing she would be our friend and just come over for pizza and wine. Reese talked about her media brand, Hello Sunshine, that’s anchored in storytelling, creating and discovering content that celebrates women and puts them at the center of the story. She said that women are “…standing together in ways we’ve never been able to before to tell each other’s stories. Because we didn’t have platforms to tell them.” She also talked about her love of data, the use of social media as a marketing tool and a medium for obtaining feedback beyond the box office, and applauded streaming services as a way to create a more equal field than the movies. It was a truly inspiring talk that proved that she’s more than just a box-office superstar, she’s a smart, tech-savvy businesswoman that is passionate about affecting change for women in the media and beyond. What, like it’s hard?
If you don’t adapt, you expire: Actress Reese Witherspoon on using data and social
When American actress Reese Witherspoon began her acting career in 1991, the world around her was less connected and experiences were more siloed. In her early years, she never had the opportunity to directly interact with fans and find out what their preferences were like. Instead, the only data she could turn to for feedback on the type of films consumers liked were box office data.
During the recent Adobe Summit 2019 in Las Vegas, Witherspoon, who was a keynote speaker, said that the emergence of social media has allowed individuals to express and connect with one another in ways that they have never expected. For her in particular, social media has been “incredible” to hear from fans be it good or bad and be able to interact with them.
“I think it’s a time to be able to engage with people, to have transparency, and let people into your life or brand in a way that you never could before. It’s really expanding my idea of storytelling and the ability to reach a larger, more specific audience,” she said, adding that it was important to create a community.
Two of the brands that Witherspoon is well known for are media company Hello Sunshine and clothing line Draper James. Both were founded by Witherspoon in 2016 and 2015 respectively, together with Strand Equity founder and managing partner Seth Rodsky. She said, “Consumers are looking for companies that really are deeply invested and making the world a better place.”
Hello Sunshine, she explained, “is not just another company focused on storytelling” and creating content that celebrates women. According to Witherspoon, it focuses on creating a community with its book club and that is done by leveraging the social media platforms she owns for announcements about upcoming book club events, or creating digital experiences such as a live Instagram videos or hiding books around book festivals.
“We create engagement [with fans] and these authors are experiencing relationships with their audience that they were never really able to have before,” she said. Witherspoon added: “That’s the power of digital and social connection and creating a community.”
Besides being passionate about storytelling and creating communities, Witherspoon is also an avid fan of data, adding that it makes her “so happy”. Data is especially applicable to her clothing line Draper James as it lets the team deep dive into which products are working with consumers, allowing them to decide which to produce more or less of. This has been helpful for Draper James and prevented the company from wasting time and money on products that do not sell well, Witherspoon said.
Besides the retail business, Witherspoon added that data has also changed the film industry and the emergence of streaming, in particular, has created a “more equal playing field”.
“Audiences don’t want to see movies by the same 20 creators. They want a more diverse and representative storytelling. We want to walk through the world we live in and see it expressed in film,” she said, adding that such diverse storytelling was uncommon in the siloed traditional film business.
“[With data], we know which storytellers touch people’s hearts and we are getting a more expansive expression of humanity through the emergence of other art forms,” Witherspoon said. She added: “As consumer behaviour changes, we have to change. If you don’t adapt, you expire.”
Reese Witherspoon on Why She Self-Funded Her Production Company for 5 Years
Reese Witherspoon talks about fashion, social media and the horrible script that inspired her to launch her production company Hello Sunshine.
About seven years back, Reese Witherspoon’s agent brought her a script to consider. It had a starring role for an actress, but Witherspoon knew pretty quickly that it wasn’t the right part for her.
“Well, I’m not going to do this piece of crap movie. This is terrible. It’s misogynistic” was her reaction, she recalled from the stage during the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas last week. Her agent told her that every actress in town was after the role. “If every actress in Hollywood wants this part, I’ve got to do something about this. This is not good enough for me, and it’s not good enough for my colleagues, either,” she replied.
Witherspoon didn’t have a production company at the time, but the experience inspired her to launch her now-prolific Hello Sunshine, a banner that she described as “disruptive.” It’s a word that was used many times during the Adobe Summit, held March 26-28, which hosted 16,000 people and served to connect entrepreneurs, content creators and more through seminars, panels and networking events. Keynote speakers included Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and actress-producer Mindy Kaling.
“Why am I going to go to studios who don’t make movies for women who, literally, if I bring them a script, would say, ‘We already have one movie in production with a woman at the center. We don’t want to have two this year,’” Witherspoon continued. “And I was like, ‘I don’t want their money.’ So I self-funded for five years, and it created the autonomy I needed to be disruptive.”
Her production company has produced features like Gone Girl and Wild and HBO’s acclaimed series Big Little Lies. But her self-starting nature exists in many different ways. At the summit, Witherspoon mentioned how her fight for inclusivity occurs both inside and out of the industry. For example, channeling her iconic Legally Blonde character Elle Woods to launch her clothing line Draper James. “You have to wake up every day and think, ‘How can I do this for myself?’” she said. “And I thought: Well, hold on. I know how to market. I love fashion. I’ve been making clothes for different characters for 25 years. I’m actually a woman who actually has to wear the clothes. Why don’t I do it myself?”
Witherspoon also credits social media and streaming for furthering inclusivity, noting how fan engagement has helped inform her as an actor and producer. “Being an actor in movies for 25 years before I ever started on social media, I would have this kind of silo-ed off experience with audiences. I never got to engage. I never got to hear their response. I never heard if they liked it or they didn’t,” she said. “And I think it’s been incredible for me to actually hear from fans and be able to interact. It’s really expanded my idea of storytelling and the ability to reach a larger, more specific audience.”