Meet Dam Hee Kim. She is a doctoral candidate of Communication Studies at U of M. Given her extensive background in Communication Studies and Business Administration, one line of her research focuses on media management and marketing communication. Another field of her research focuses on political communication, with a particular emphasis on the issue of media diversity and democratic citizenship. Dam Hee also conducted research on media diversity at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in summer 2011. And of course, we cannot forget to recognize her most recent accomplishment: the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) awarded the Best Student Paper Award (first-place) to Dam Hee!
Communication Studies: Congratulations on this huge honor! Can you give some background on AEJMC and its Media Management and Economics division and how you discovered this opportunity?
Dam Hee Kim: Thank you! The AEJMC is a 103-year-old (founded in 1912) nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication scholars and media professionals. The AEJMC holds one of the top national conferences in the Communication field. Its MME (Media Management and Economics) division promotes research, teaching and professional freedom and responsibility in the areas of media management and economics.
In 2013, my paper on the Korean film industry was recognized as a Best Student Paper by the MME division. I found this division’s research both interesting and important; and, its members very welcoming. Since then, I have been involved in the MME division, serving as a Graduate Student Liaison.
CS: Tell me more about your award winning paper. What did you find? What surprised you?
DK: This paper analyzed all 2,488 films released from 2010 to 2013 in the U.S. to examine what types of films were successful. I focused on two brand extension factors: sequels and film adaptations, which are transfers of existing work to films. For example, film adaptations from books include The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1, and comic book-to-film adaptations include Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I expected to find that sequels and film adaptations would generate more domestic box office gross than their respective counterparts due to their established brand power. For instance, people are likely already familiar with the Iron Man film or the Hunger Games novel, and so, they may want to watch Iron Man 3 and the film adaptation of the Hunger Games more than other films with no well-known brands.
Results suggested that sequels indeed generated more domestic box office gross than non-sequels. Surprisingly, film adaptations did not generate more gross than non-film adaptations, but interacted with sequels to impact box office gross. Specifically, film adaptation sequels generated more gross than non-film adaptation sequels. Film adaptations and sequels seem to be a good combination, with the potential to create a continued stream of hit films based on existing materials.
Furthermore, I examined what types of adaptation sequels were successful. First, adaptation sequels with more star actors/actresses generated more box office gross than those with fewer stars. It looks like Hollywood is going in the right direction with its increasingly popular strategy to plan on a series of film adaptations with returning stars.
Second, I looked at the sequels’ titles; specifically, numbered titles (e.g., Iron Man 3) can emphasize the brand power of parent films, whereas newly named titles (e.g., Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) can highlight sequels’ “freshness” or dissimilarity to parent brands. I found that adaptation sequels with new names generated more gross than numbered ones. However, non-adaptation sequels with numbered titles generated more gross than those with new names. When there is only one layer of extended brands, sequels, it may be better to emphasize the established brand on the film titles, so that people can easily recognize it.
CS: Are there additional implications?
DK: Yes, there are practical implications for different players in the film industry. Investors may find sequels as a safe bet, and film adaptations planned in sequels, as an even safer bet. Producers may look for existing work such as comic books in planning adaptation sequels with recurring stars. Marketers may emphasize different layers of established brands – sequels’ parent films, parent work of adaptations, and stars – when planning promotions. For example, to adaptation sequels with a handful of well-known brand layers, marketers may give a fresh new title rather than a simple numbered title.
CS: What motivated you to pursue this subject matter?
DK: In my previous paper on the Korean film industry, I focused on two factors, the “country of origin” (i.e., whether a film was produced in Korea or imported from Hollywood) and sequels as “brand extension,” to explain films’ performance.
In the U.S. film industry, I noted that two brand extension factors, sequels along with film adaptations, were particularly relevant. For example, in 2014, the top 10 films with the highest domestic grossing were all film adaptations from books, comic books, toys, and another animated film, and half of them were also sequels. Interestingly, when sequels are spotted along with film adaptations, often within the same equation are star actors/actresses, a known brand-related determinant of film performance. I became very intrigued to find empirically, how various brand extension factors in the film industry interact to influence domestic gross.
CS: Can you speak to, if you feel so inclined, how the Communication Studies graduate program, faculty, and other resources contributed to your success?
DK: I am very much grateful for the overall support I received from the Communication Studies Ph.D. program. Particularly, Professors Nojin Kwak and W. Russell Neuman have always provided great guidance, support and advice. For this paper, I also had two excellent UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) assistants, Bailey and Patricia.
CS: So, what’s next?
DK: My summer will be filled with dissertation-related research and teaching in Ann Arbor, with occasional conference travels. I recently participated in the ICA (International Communication Association) annual conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which was an intellectually stimulating and beautiful experience! I also look forward to presenting this study at the AEJMC annual conference this August in San Francisco. As a follow-up to this study, I am analyzing social media buzz around sequels and film adaptations to better understand the relationship between these brand extension factors and films’ performance. In the summer semester, I am excited to be teaching a seminar course of my design, COMM 408 (New Media and the Audience: Social, Political and Economic Engagement).
CS: Very exciting! Can you please provide us with a brief introduction of your COMM 408 course?
DK: Sure! In the new media environment, audiences demonstrate new forms of engagement, for example, through community discussion and participation, and content generation on social media. This course focuses on conceptualizing and measuring various dimensions of audience engagement in social, political, and economic contexts. Topics include cross-media marketing and social TV, democratizing effects of new media, and engagement with digital news and politics on social media among others. For the final project, students will identify and investigate one dimension of audience engagement by analyzing social media data, for instance, posts in a Facebook group or Tweets about certain issues.
CS: Do you have any final remarks you’d like to leave me with?
DK: Thanks so much for the great questions and your time!