Monday, April 7, 2008

DV EXPOSE: Your "clever" marketing tricks have no effect on me

Your flashy publicity stunts do not convince me. Your “clever,” unusual viral marketing doesn’t interest me. No matter how oddball or innovative your marketing methods may be, they’re still just that – marketing. And we, as people, can see through that crap.

If you can’t hype me up through a movie trailer, a thermos ain’t gonna cut it

Look at this. That’s a bonafide, official, 100% real Iron Man Slurpee cup, meant to promote the film’s release in a few months.


Does Paramount truly believe that in America’s heartland, some untapped resource of film fans is sitting around just needing to hear about Iron Man, but without the benefit of seeing a preview or a movie poster? Do they believe that there’s some guy in Alabama who, lacking any sort of electricity in his mobile home but having grown up on Marvel comics, would absolutely love to see an Iron Man movie, but has somehow managed to avoid every sort of advertisement? Do they believe that this little plastic Slurpee cup will finally be the thing to rope this imaginary movie-watcher into the Iron Man ring, turning him into an avid fan?

I hate to say it, but that demographic either doesn’t exist at all, or can’t afford a movie ticket. Movie companies waste time and money on this bullshit: it’s supposed to “get people excited” for an upcoming film, but who the fuck gets excited about Slurpee cups? If anyone actually exists on this planet who gets physically hard at the prospect of licensed beverage holders, then that (A) need to be sterilized immediately, and (B) were probably interested in the movie anyway. Which leads me to my next point:

We don’t need to be told to look forward to The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight viral business has been kind of cute, what with Harvey Dent’s campaign website, the Joker’s travel agency, and the Concerned Citizens for a Better Gotham, but even with all this legitimately clever viral stuff going on, one has to ask…what’s the point?

Batman Begins was incredible in every respect, it made a shitload of money, and fans have been wanting to see Bale’s Batman square off against the Joker since the closing moments of the first film. We already really, really want to see it.

And as fun as it is to search through Harvey Dent’s fictional past using fictional websites in some sort of Alternate Reality Game, it’s ultimately not going to suddenly invigorate a huge number of hidden Batman fans. We love Batman and want to see The Dark Knight because the first movie was good, and the trailer for the sequel looked incredible. Why can’t marketers just have some faith in their own product, especially when it’s as sure-fire a hit as Dark Knight is likely to be?

We’ve learned to spot marketing shenanigans

Remember this picture? It hit the Internet roughly a week before the CGI TMNT movie was set land in theatres. Back in the old days of the Internet, we’d all have shared a few days or weeks of quasi-ironic glee: “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are real!,” we’d type, knowledgeable that the whole picture was a fake of some sort, but nonetheless totally happy to indulge in it. “I fucking knew they existed!,” we’d gleefully exclaim before eventually losing interest or finding out the full story from someone who volunteered the information unprovoked.

That’s not the case anymore; we’ve been exposed to so much viral bullshit, so much “clever” marketing, that we immediately shut down. Nowadays, this picture was on the Internet for, oh, about five minutes before everyone realized why it existed, and all the magic was suddenly gone.

It’s not really cool to see four guys dressed up as the Turtles if you know they’re just doing it to sell movie tickets; this might have been a legitimately cool ploy a few years ago, but we’ve been made so angry and cynical about marketing that this little piece of viral advertisement all but faded from memory a few weeks after it happened. Even now, it took me a good ten minutes of Googling to find a half-decent article about the whole story.

Don’t insult our goddamned intelligence

We are movie-goers. We are people. We are, to some degree or another, intelligent. So stop acting like all the weird, irrelevant, aforementioned marketing shit will necessarily have an effect on us.

You know what moviegoers really love? Mystery and quality. Look at Cloverfield – after that first teaser hit the Internet, everyone was freaking out about what the movie could be. Might it be an adaptation of the game Rampage? Another Godzilla remake? Will the entire movie be done in one continuous shot?

The trailer was appetizing, yet left many unanswered questions. It looked cool, but we were also confused: that is what makes a great viral marketing campaign. The Cloverfield campaign respected the ability of the viewer/potential ticket-buyer to use their imagination and try to suss out what the film might be about. It piqued our interest, and then left us free to pursue or deny that interest; it didn’t just thrust a bunch of irrelevant websites from the universe of the movie at us and continually demand that we be interested. It didn’t beg, and it didn’t assume we’d be stupid enough to buy a bunch of force-fed marketing bullshit just because it danced around in a funny costume or pretended to be a political campaign for a fictional character: it was sleek, it was mysterious, and it was intelligent.

So, if you must indulge in some sort of clever, viral marketing campaign, that oughtta be your template.


There is exactly one exception to the inherent stupidity of these “clever” marketing tactics that lack the deftness of the Cloverfield campaign, and it deals with The Simpsons Movie.

When 7-eleven turned a number of its stores into Kwik-E-Marts to promote The Simpsons Movie, it was fucking awesome. It was marketing that didn’t feel like marketing; it felt more like direct fan service to see an aspect of that fictional world materialized in real life with such a level of detail. We enjoyed it and we laughed about it, even knowing its ulterior motive, simply because The Simpsons had already garnered such a huge fanbase. We already loved The Simpsons, so the whole Kwik-E-Mart thing was just an incredible little cherry on top of what was otherwise a pretty standard marketing campaign.

Again, I dunno how efficient the whole deal was in attracting new audience members, but we certainly enjoyed it, it didn’t seem to insult our intelligence (the insides of the Kwik-E-Marts never break continuity; you won’t see too many advertisements for the movie in that flickr set), and it was cool.

So, either be Cloverfield or The Simpsons. Take your pick. Just don’t assume I’m going to fall for your “clever” marketing no matter what, Mister PR Man; it has no effect on me.

Original here

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