Tales from Tinseltown: Useless promotions won’t put feather in any publicist’s cap

A model dog in plaster (yes, that dog) for There’s Something About Mary. A satellite dish for Contact. A bar of soap and a feather - urging you to ’lavase sus manos if you are going to stick feathers up your butt’ - for the upcoming Brad Pitt film The Fight Club. And a round black plastic object, with an ’8’ emblazoned on it, for God knows what.

A model dog in plaster (yes, that dog) for There’s Something About Mary. A satellite dish for Contact. A bar of soap and a feather - urging you to ’lavase sus manos if you are going to stick feathers up your butt’ - for the upcoming Brad Pitt film The Fight Club. And a round black plastic object, with an ’8’ emblazoned on it, for God knows what.

A model dog in plaster (yes, that dog) for There’s Something About

Mary. A satellite dish for Contact. A bar of soap and a feather - urging

you to ’lavase sus manos if you are going to stick feathers up your

butt’ - for the upcoming Brad Pitt film The Fight Club. And a round

black plastic object, with an ’8’ emblazoned on it, for God knows

what.



These are a few of the delights that entertainment journalists have

recently received from the PR departments of the major studios.



As competition for media space has increased, the studios have felt

obliged to come up with wackier ways of getting our attention. When, as

is often the case, they have a merchandising partner, their gimmicks get

even wilder and more extravagant. But what are they actually

accomplishing with these tchotchkes?



I’ve always been highly skeptical of the value of promotions to members

of the press. Corporate tie-ins are all very well and the odd gift bag

full of goodies never goes amiss. But when publicists get creative, the

results are a lot more unpredictable.



There are essentially two types of promotional goodies. The first is

’dull but useful’ - paperweights, T-shirts, pens, notepads and mugs. The

second, now becoming more common, serves no purpose, but hey, they’re

fun. The promotions listed above are bona fide members of this

category.



Publicists have become disillusioned with method one, of course, because

it no longer distinguishes their product. Everyone has 50 mugs and 50

T-shirts. It makes life more interesting if they can work on a promotion

that is emblematic, even abstract, rather than functional.



But method two is not only more expensive, it carries more risk.

Something too stupid or infantile could subconsciously turn a journalist

against a picture. Since it is hard to gauge the effectiveness of PR

anyway, why make the task more difficult?



But the real reason that I’m against an over-reliance on ’bizarre’

promotions is that they never blend in with the rest of the campaign -

they take on a life of their own.



Over the course of several months this year, Disney sent Variety

journalists severed body parts belonging to Mickey Mouse. Every so often

we would receive a hand, an arm or a leg. What was it promoting? A black

comedy? We never found out, because the supply of limbs dried up as

mysteriously as they had started.



At the risk of being boring, I’m going to suggest that promotions should

be toned down a bit, or at least targeted more effectively. No, I’m not

interested in receiving any more letter openers. But neither do I want

to stick feathers up my butt.



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