Thursday, July 06, 2006

Word to marketers: When you screw with your community, you screw yourself

Here we go again. Chris at Movie Marketing Madness has the latest tale of a company that hasn't come to grips with the new marketing reality that they are no longer the only source for their promotional messages.

John has a movie blog. A fairly popular movie blog, one that gets around a million visitors a month. John was pretty excited about the upcoming Transformers movie, so John posted plenty of pics from the movie's production, and did all he could to hype the movie to his readers.

Paramount gets wind of him posting pics from the movie, and tells him to remove 2 of them. John emails them back and asks them if they are SURE they want to do that, since the pics have been very popular with John's readers, which again, number over a million a month. Paramount says yes, take down the pics, so John promptly does just that.

Then the next morning, John wakes up to find out that his blog is down. Apparently, Paramount sent the company that hosts his blog a cease and desist order, based on a THIRD pic that John had on the blog, which they never mentioned to John as being a problem.

John addresses this episode today on his blog when he posts the same letter he sent Paramount. Here is the money part:
Is this how you treat your fans? Is this how you treat the people who are out here heaping loads upon loads of free positive fanboyish publicity and hype on your movie?!?! I am nothing short of disgusted by how you have chosen to deal with this.

You shut my site down. A fan who has been trying his best to make Transformers the most talked about film in production. A fan who has been praising your project almost daily. A fan who already once took down an image that you wanted down with just a simple request. And this is how you treat your fans? Shutting them down without so much as a 2 line email request or to at least let us know you were upset with something.

Fine. If this is how you treat people... then that is how you shall be treated. From now on The Movie Blog will not mention, reference or talk about anything to do with your movie or your project. Heavens forbid that I may say something that you don't like and wake up to find my site taken down again.

The Movie Blog is nothing. A small tiny site by most standards with only a million readers. I'm sure this won't effect you at all.

John's wrong, because it's already affecting Paramount. Chris, who happens to run the most influential and well-respected movie marketing blog on the internet, has joined in John's boycott. In fact this isn't the first time Paramount has acted like dunderheads to bloggers. A few months ago, Chris was discussing the Paramount film An Inconvenient Truth, and he noticed from checking his SiteMeter visitor logs that some reps from Paramount had visited MMM. He then posted that if the reps wanted to add anything about the movie on MMM, just let him know. Of course they did nothing.

But again, this is another instance of an old-school company clashing with its newly empowered community. What Paramount did, was fail to realize that they are no longer the only source for their marketing message. Their lack of understanding about the viral nature of blogs and the internet, made them believe that if they shut-down a blog, they shut-down the problem.

Instead, they have CREATED the problem. They have converted one blogger and his million-man audience, from one of their staunchest supporters, to now likely one of their staunchest opponents. Of course, a quick check of John's latest post shows over a 100 comments currently, and several links just in the last few hours from other blogs that are rallying their readers against Paramount because of this episode.

Paramount had a golden opportunity to further empower John to market Transformers for them. All Paramount had to do was tell John which pictures to pull, and then send him some promotional pictures/materials to use on the site instead. Maybe agree to give him an exclusive interview. This would have given John every incentive hype the movie even more than he already was. And this would have led to positive hype on other blogs after the blogosphere caught wind of how Paramount was embracing bloggers as marketing partners.

Instead, Paramount didn't see John as their marketing partner, they saw him as their enemy. And because of their actions, now that's exactly what he is.

UPDATE: Chris alerted me to the fact that John has spoken to Paramount, and he believes the shutdown of his blog was an accident, and both he and Chris will go back to blogging about the movie as usual. Good to see Paramount getting involved with their community to right a wrong.

Pic via Flickr user Radish King


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you posted this to both places. Instead of thanking him, they came after him with lawyers. So ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Great call Mack. This is how fat, old fools, like those behind the dark glassses and convertibles in LA do things...poorly, without thinking and with no class.

Too bad everyone around the fool that did this was a 'yes man'.

Every CEO needs someone to whisper in their ear when they have ideas on their own and say," That's stupid."

Tricia said...

It is, at the same time, shocking and predictable. I often wish I was privy to what was being said at meetings among the hitmakers - is there no voice of reason to balance such outdated, rigid thinking? It's a sad comment on the slow pace of progress in the digital era.

Kim Klaver said...

Say Mack...did you know this is exactly what happened to the now- embraced-by-the-establishement studios, Ain't it Cool, site?

He posted cool stuff online about movies in the making, and got letters like this a few years ago when he first got started, when I was already a fan - he posted the cease and desist letters he got.

He persuaded the studios that he was HELPING them and was eventually accepted by them.

Now he gets tiks to all the pre-screening and they love him.

Maybe that's what will happen to your friend when Paramount wakes up.

Kim Klaver said...

P.S. John's movie blog: alexa ratings: 26,950


Anonymous said...

Unbelievable. Corporate politics and paranoia strike again. What a shot in the foot (as opposed to a shot in the arm).

Chris Thilk said...

You know Mack is worked about something when he posts about it on both VG *AND* BMA.

Just for the record, I'm going to try to get someone from Paramount to comment on this in some fashion and will be posting what information I can get.

Mack Collier said...

Chris and Paul, I'm not big on cross-posting between here and BMA, but in this case, I wanted both audiences to see this story. In the end, us bloggers making a big deal out of this and other examples of short-sightedness from companies could eventually help these companies, by serving of an example of what NOT to do.

Hopefully. Very suprisingly that a major movie studio would do something this stupid, just as New Line has enjoyed buzz for SoaP by doing the exact opposite.

Tricia, this is why these studios need someone like Chris there to serve as the voice of marketing reason ;)

J.D. said...

I get riled up at anything regarding Transformers. I am probably their most rabid fan that I personally am aware of.

I'm pretty sure this is Paramount's thinking. "We want people to be curious about what live-action/CGI Transformers might look like, so we don't want any pictures leaked to spoil the deal, otherwise people might not come." Which says either they don't think they did a good enough job, people will see that and not come, or that people will see, be satisfied in their curiosity, and not come.

Neither could be further from the truth for Transformers fans. For those of us who know the entire script of the original movie all the way from "Arbluss, look, it's Unicron," we're going to be there come hell, high water, or nuclear winter. If we're looking for production pics, it's more or less to get our juices flowing and get us even more chomping at the bit to get to the theaters. I personally am absolutely apoplectic at the thought of waiting another year for this (since I've been reading about it for at least a year now, if not longer.) I've been one of the ones that have been pounding Don Murphy's board with suggestions for how I'd like to see the movie done.

Speaking of Don Murphy (producer), he's the one who has done this whole thing right, since he has had a message board set up for the past couple of years, taking requests from fans, and accepting feedback on other ideas he's had (such as which Transformers should be in the cast, how much updated they should be, who should NOT be in the cast, human casting decisions, etc.) He's empowered lots of fans and has generated a lot of publicity.

It's a shame to see Paramount squander that.