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
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
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.