Friday, August 25, 2006

Jumpers on a Bandwagon

[Tags: , ]. Snakes on a Plane may be the most literal movie title in recent history, but the story behind it is making headlines for reasons unrelated to plot, special effects or stars.

Story angle number one is the fact that New Line Cinema, following an increasing trend, decided not to show advance screenings for critics. This approach has adopted for a number of films this year, most famously with The Da Vinci Code, as studios increasingly decide the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Dennis Rice, publicity chief for Disney, has been quoted as saying: "If we think screenings for the press will help open the movie, we'll do it. If we don't think it'll help open the movie or if the target audience is different than the critics' sensibilities, then it may make sense not to screen the movie."

So how do you generate a buzz around a film without critics? You get the audience to build it for you. Story angle number two is the heralding of Snakes on a Plane as “the first Wikipedia-ised movie, created by the users themselves.” Peter Bradshaw (no relation), writing in the Guardian, says “The suits reportedly scanned the fan-sites for what should go in the script, and agreed to one blogger's suggestion that, at some stage, supercop Samuel L Jackson should definitely say: "I have had it with these motherfuckin' snakes on this motherfuckin' plane" - a gem that could be dropped anywhere into the dialogue.”

Screenwriter Josh Friedman's blog entry about the film is widely credited as kicking things off, inspiring other bloggers to create mock movie trailers, posters, fan fiction, parodies, and all manner of other material around the title and star alone. The Wikipedia entry for the film also describes “the creation of graphics for fictional movies about other animals in odd settings, such as "Bears on a Submarine" and "Sharks on a Roller Coaster" (Tagline: You must be this tall... to DIE!).”

“Snakes on a plane” has even taken on a life of its own as a bon mot, thanks to Josh Friedman. The Urban Dictionary defines it as: “A simple existential observation that has the same meaning as "Whaddya gonna do?" or "Shit Happens".”

The question is whether all this Internet word of mouth is natural, or studio-led. The answer is probably a bit of both. Ever since The Blair Witch Project successfully harnessed the emerging power of the web to build an audience, studios have been trying to repeat the trick. New Line have been canny in setting up online competitions to have entrants’ music featured in the film, and are discussing including some of the viral videos on the DVD.

The Dallas Morning News’ Chris Vognar sees this as a negative move saying: “Snakes is bad in a bland, calculated, marketing-is-all way, which is what you might expect from a movie that has been shaped around its marketing campaign from the jump”.

And despite the online buzz estimates of the film’s opening box office returns indicate a disappointing return. Perhaps the bloggers and viral video makers just enjoyed the gossip around the movie more than they were ever interested in the movie itself. But what are you going to do? Snakes on a plane, man. Snakes on a plane…

Paul Bradshaw is a lecturer at UCE Birmingham’s media department ( He also blogs on online journalism (, interactive pr (, and web and new media (

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Advertising on mobile phones on the up

[Tags: , , ]. USA Today reports on the increase in advertising on mobile phones:

"TV networks are prodding viewers to send text messages to vote for their favorite reality TV character. Wireless websites are lacing sports scores and news digests with banner ads for Lexus (TM), Burger King (BKC) and Sheraton (HOT). A few companies are even customizing 10-second video ads for short, TV-style episodes that are edging their way onto mobile phones.

""The days of doing a TV spot and reaching everybody are dwindling," says Jon Raj, Visa's new-media ad chief. "The mobile phone is very personal, and it's always with you."

"Yet it's the intimate, insistent nature of cellphones that has made wireless carriers cautious about embracing mobile marketing, out of fear of turning off subscribers. Pushing tiny buttons to navigate the wireless Web or send a message can be clunky. And because subscribers typically pay for their minutes of data usage, many people don't want to burn them on ads.

"We need to make sure whatever we do is not perceived as intrusive," says Verizon Wireless (VZ) digital media chief John Harrobin."

Lots more useful info on the article.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Does your market want to be friends with your character?

[Tags: , ]. Interesting move by movie studios to promote their films as reported by the WSJ:
"Creating real-looking profiles for fictional characters is the latest step
in marketers' quest to reach the highly sought-after MySpace contingent. John
Tucker, the womanizing teenager of "John Tucker Must Die," and each of his four
girlfriends have MySpace pages. (You can check John's basketball schedule or
read about Carrie's plans for college.) So do seven of the characters from
"Accepted," a film about college students debuting this week. (Bartleby Gaines,
the fictional star, lists "Fake I.D.'s" and "Monica" as his interests.) Even the
creepily-quiet mascot king from the Burger King commercials has a site. ("If
you'd like to be the King's friend, he's totally down with that," his page
introduction says.)
"Although anybody can create a MySpace profile for free, and fake ones
abound, these pages are the result of paid advertising deals with News Corp. The
arrangement allows marketers to add extras like longer videos -- including
trailers for movies -- and more pictures than a free page has."

Although the intention is to create a 'relationship' with consumers, there's an interesting contrast between these pages and others created by fans, with the upshot that the tactic could backfire with some 'friends'.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

SEO Answers on Google Video

[Tags: , , ]. Useful link from Webpages that Suck to Matt Cutts,
"one of the more public figures at Google, on the topic of SEO. What he says is very interesting. (He has, of course, his own blog and it's MR -- Mandatory Reading.)
Qualities of a good site.
Some SEO Myths.
Should you optimize for Search Engines or for Users?"