May 8, 2009

Let's All Go to the Mass-Marketing Opportunity

I love summer.  It is one of my favorite times of year.  Sure, I hate the heat, the oppressive sun, the lack of daytime diversions for children.  I hate the beach, the bugs, the sunscreen odor.  I hate the dearth of real sports - where the only thing left is baseball (said with disdain).  So, how could I possibly say that I love summer?

Summer movies.

That's right, the glorious summer cinema lineup makes up for all the nastiness that summer brings.  Just about every single week, a new flick hits the multiplex - meaning that for between 2 and 4 hours, you can escape the heat, humidity, and hurricanes (I had almost forgotten about blasted hurricanes).  MOVIES!!!

Think about the summer movies of years past - Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Batman (all of them), Men in Black, Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean.  Huge awesome spectacles.  I love summer movies.  They are movies I actually WANT to see - not just movies that some snooty reviewer thinks I should want to see.  And there are even surprises - movies that sneak into the summer lineup and end up being awesome (The Bourne Trilogy, WALL-E, Italian Job).  

There is a problem, though.  I have noticed that lately, the marketing for these movies are starting to dwarf the films themselves.  Sure, there has always been marketing.  I have glasses from McDonalds for Batman Forever - and now the glasses for Star Trek from Burger King.  My kids can pull out Kids Meal tie-ins from dozens of movies.  The marketing itself is not the problem.  It is the MASS-MARKETING!!!  With THREE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!  I can handle the glasses at Burger King, or the little character toys in the Kids Meal.  But Star Trek has a tie-in with E-Surance?  And Verizon?  What the what?  Why?  If anything, Star Trek should show how inept those companies are, not be tied into them - what with the advanced technology we see on display, reminding us how sucky our cell phones companies are.

Last year Iron Man had a tie in with 7-11 for Slurpee cups.  A couple years back, Superman Returns also did.  (Apparently The Hulk also did, but I didn't care.)  They had special cups with 3-D images.  You know, the ones you can scratch the side of and make cool sounds?  I have some of these cups in my cupboard.  So, no surprise when Wolverine this year pulls the same thing.  Well, that movie just came out last week.  On Saturday of last week - ONE DAY after Wolverine jumped into the cinemas - 7-11 had switched its cups to Terminator cups.  It is getting to be like holidays in the stores.  We start pushing the next one before the other happens.

I think the tipping point came back when the ridiculous Matrix sequels came out.  I was super excited.  And so were the marketers.  The second Matrix film was EVERYWHERE.  I read an article talking about how their challenge was to get coverage for the movie - they wanted to have as many people as possible "know about" the movie.  And they succeeded.  It had the highest "Q Rating" of any movie ever - something like 99.4%.  The opening weekend was the biggest Rated R movie opening ever.  And the movie was HORRIBLE.  It's too bad that they didn't spend half of that marketing budget on making sure the Wachowskis didn't go crazy instead.  But this is what the movie industry has become.  The hype machine is so powerful that it just overpowers the films.  

They are so worried about the biggest opening weekend that they don't worry about the movie itself.  That is why we see movies open to $75 million and then drop to $20 million the next week.  People figure out the movie is terrible and don't go.  That is what will happen with Wolverine this weekend - and most of the films coming out this summer.  It is rare to have a movie win three weekends in a row - or having a few huge weeks.  It is those movies that stand out - they ones that the hype is actually justified.  Word of mouth brings more people the subsequent weeks.  Why was The Dark Knight so huge last year?  It was a GREAT movie, with people telling their friends to go.  But even that movie nearly got toppled by the hype - by the time I saw it I was on the verge of feeling it wasn't as good as it was made out to be.  But how could it be?  It was touted like crazy for months.  

I understand the need for marketing to pull in as much money as possible.  But how about reining it in a little bit?  Do you really need to be on every cereal box, every waffle box, every soda box?  Do we need to have a Transformer Whopper (real thing coming this summer)?  Did we need a Gotham pizza?  Should the NBA (already with a image problem) be using highlights to promote Angels and Demons?  A sleepover at the Smithsonian?  Indiana Jones Adventure Snickers with a hint of coconut and "exotic spices?"  

Movie people - since I know you read this blog religiously - let's make a deal.  You just worry about making the movies as well as you can.  I'll go to the movies.  We'll both be happy.  Shoot, add a dollar onto my ticket price to make up for less marketing.  See?  That works out well for everyone.  You aren't fooling us.  We aren't going to go to the movies for the gimmicks.  We want to enjoy and have fun.  No one is dumb enough to fall for your cheap tricks.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to go drink my Throwback Pepsi.


Michelle said...

I've also watched trailers that were better than the film itself! An unfortunate trend, for sure.

Anonymous said...

Gee David, i thought you would be glued in front of the TV watching your Magic. and Hopefully they beat the Cavs. And go on to play in June.