Writers Guild new-media PR efforts impress consumers

A recent article in The New York Times opined that Writers Guild of America members were winning the messaging battle against the studios in the ongoing strike.

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A recent article in The New York Times opined that Writers Guild of America members were winning the messaging battle against the studios in the ongoing strike. The union raised its voice in all the right places: on YouTube and blogs. The studios, according to their executives, have not responded to WGA's claims. As a result, the union is touting a Pepperdine University poll showing that 63% of Americans support the writers in the fight.

A Times blog reports that the studios are running full-page ads, but paid media may not compare to new-media efficacy. Writers are putting a lot of time into blogs, including Late Show Writers on Strike, United Hollywood, and Get Back In That Room, in order to get their messages out to consumers looking for information online.

Emotion can be vital in a debate, and Michael Winship, president of the WGA East, confirmed the group's passion when he told The Times that the strike was "the fight of our creative lives."

Why does it matter?

Shabbir Imber Safdar, founder of interactive agency Virilion, says both sides are using the Web to educate viewers - it's just that one is doing it better than the other.

"The PR battle is over," Safdar says. "The writers won about five days ago."

While the writers are likely to be more creative in getting their messages out, Safdar says that it's the frequency - not just the quality of the message - that is resonating with the public.

"The writers have... pictures, YouTube videos, and daily blog postings," he adds. "On the other side, the producers have what may be a blog, but doesn't have an RSS feed so you can't track it. There's no personality to it...."

"All [the other side is] doing is taking the message points their PR people are giving them and putting it on their Web site. It's frankly not convincing," Safdar adds.

Five facts:

1. Blog United Hollywood launched a "Pencils 2 Media Moguls" effort, a plea for supporters to back writers by sending number 2 pencils to studio heads and executives.

2. The WGA YouTube channel, which features videos from The Office cast members and Ray Romano, has 1,986 subscribers

3. Angels & Demons, a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, was Hollywood's first movie production postponed because of the strike

4. Forrester Research predicts revenue from the in-video ad market will grow from US$250 million this year to $1.7 billion by 2010

5. The 1981 WGA strike, which dealt with compensation issues related to home video and "pay television," lasted for three months.



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