Stan Fairbank

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Archive for the ‘Film’ Category:

Pixelsize Me

Love the new outdoor campaign for the movie Wreck it Ralph – interactive photo booths on the facings of bus shelters that enable passers-by to create pixelated photo avatars of themselves and send it to an email address of their choosing. The SF Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub gives an account of the experience in his column today.

Wreck it Ralph - graphic of file advertising campaign

All in all, a bit more inspiring than what usually passes for clever marketing in the entertainment industry. Stuff like some of the posters in the recent outdoor campaign for the film Seven Psychopaths, one of which features a close up of one of the starring players holding a designer dog underneath a tag line that reads: “He won’t take any Shih Tzu”. Ha. Ha.

This makes me wonder: Do these bus shelters reinvented as kiosks to promote Wreck it Ralph constitute the first ever outdoor-online advertising campaign? I mean outdoor advertising with real interactivity of some kind. (Sorry, QR code placements don’t count…).

Exposed, Peeled and Burned

Ran into a silly YouTube popup ad today which got me thinking about the viability of intrusive advertising operating on the element of surprise.

This YouTube popup is a crafty page reveal seamlessly designed to look like a YouTube video gone wild, accomplished with jQuery-enabled transparency controls that mount a fake video precisely over the regular video content area. When you hit the play button on the "video" it actually starts playing Flash-created content that often creates the illusion of moving imagery breaking out of the confines of the video area.  This common type of ad creative in metro news websites is now executed with a twist on YouTube.

YouTube screenshot of viral ad for The Thing

The popup I encountered was a promo for the film The Thing, part of a promotional blitz in advance of the film's opening day (two days from the date of this post). For the paid link placement, there are 7 different variations of content advertising various ersatz videos, all of which have irresistible YouTube-ish themes ("Baby goes nuts over food" "Sexy girl in very small bikini" etc.). I imagine the agency who created this campaign have a pool going with the analytics… winner-take-all for whoever guesses the ad copy that gains the biggest billings.

This kind of thing is solidly positioned in a grey area of advertising best practices. On the one hand, any time you are taken out of your chosen experience on the web it usually engenders a negative reaction from the end user. On the other, anyone who's been using the web for more than a week or so should be able to identify a sponsored link, and be prepared for anything if they choose to click on it – even if the paid placement is curiously triggered by almost any irrelevant search query.

There is also the question of mild deception in the ad visuals. Both the ad copy and the fake YouTube interface for these trailers boasts visitor views well into seven figures, but this number is not generated by a YouTube counter; it's just an arbitrary number displayed in a static graphic as part of the joke. Ditto for the "comments" from non-existent YouTube members. We know that content views increase exponentially with popularity; as an ad platform, shouldn't YouTube be concerned about any devaluation of this powerful display metric, however playfully it's intended?

I think the bottom line is: Does the method of deception + irreverant humor = the sensibilities of the target moviegoer?

The X factor would seem to be the content alluded to in the sponsored ad copy. If the content deceives with the promise of seeing footage of a scantily-clad female, then advertising best practices may not qualify to be in the debate; it's the campaign's effectiveness that becomes the central issue. You determine if you're reaching a group of people who are very likely to pay for the product. If so then they will more than likely enjoy the intrusion into their YouTube experience and you'll get the exposure (viral and traditional) you're looking for. If not, you have to chalk it up as a big fail – you've just generated negative vibe about the product, and have helped to burn people out on an interactive ad idea that can be quite effective when deftly executed.

Southwest Air vs. Kevin Smith

The Kevin Smith Twitter / Southwest Airlines online catfight got crazy out of hand yesterday. If you missed it, you were probably A) in solitary confinement or jury duty for the last few days, or B) weren’t at all interested, and get a gold star for focusing on more important things in the world.

The story: Kevin Smith, a comedic director/character actor of large physical stature, was asked by a crew member of a Southwest Airlines route to leave the plane because he was too big to occupy a single seat on a full flight. Smith raised a ruckus on his Twitter account, and Southwest responded by doing damage control through their PR and social networks.

Southwest Airlines graphic

You have to feel for the poor PR department at Southwest for inheriting this absolute social media nightmare. Customer service is difficult enough when it’s dealing with an irate you or me. But when you’re trying to appease a celebrity who boasts a Twitter following of over 7 figures and has a lust for self-promotion that makes Ryan Seacrest look like a shrinking violet, it’s almost impossible to come out clean.

I thought Southwest, who are known for well-managed customer service and online transparency, handled it as well as it could be handled. They posted a couple of easygoing responses to Smith’s outraged tweets, offered him the voucher and an apology. But it was overheated news coverage, not olive branches, that Smith was after, so every entreaty from the airline was met with snide invective and accusations, broadcasted to his formidable list of followers.

Most internet marketing wags reporting on this thing have been nearsighted about the real issue, and it’s money – a lot more money than a silly $100 voucher could compensate. The incident plainly been taken over by Smith for use as a PR vehicle. The savvy L.A. Times called it right: there’s a media product being promoted here (the Kevin Smith brand, basically), and it’s all a lot of classic Hollywood-style carpe diem.

But this is one instance where milking your time at the top of the trending clouds could backfire. The basic buzz about this – outside of his follower list, anyway -  is running very much against Mr. Smith, who seems oblivious to the notion that, for most people, air travel is a pain no matter how you work it. Anyone who has traveled with any frequency has probably been bumped at one time or another; and while a voucher and apology isn’t always enough to make them feel great about it, they don’t start a public war about it either. Most folks just deal. So the idea of an overweight B-list celebrity acting like a mortally wounded hero because he took up too much room on a budget airline might not lend his latest venture the boost he’s looking for.

Finally… Overnight, everyone queuing in line in airports whom you might describe as physically larger-than-average are now in a glaring public spotlight that they may not deserve, because of this very ambitious actor’s social networking histrionics. Thanks a lot, Silent Bob.