Quick Takes: 1/31/06

  • Congratulations to Jeremy Pepper on his hiring by Weber Shandwick.  Fortunately Jeremy will continue writing POP! PR Jots.
  • The folks who run Wikipedia noticed Congressional staffers were altering entries on Congressmen and have shut off their privileges. See Tom Biro’s open letter to the offenders.
  • Stephen Baker solicited comments on whether companies should blog or not.  This isn’t an easy question but definitely warrants discussion in any and every company these days.
  • BoingBoing gets a nasty letter from a company it called out.


I’ve been meaning to write about this for a week now but never remembered to at the right time.

Last week I got a chance to finally meet Tom Biro in person.  Tom and I, as you might know, write together on AdJab and Tom also runs both his own personal blog TheMediaDrop but also MWW’s Open The Dialogue, both of which are essential reads.  He was in town to take part in a panel discussion hosted by the TMP Marketing Club.  Considering I talk with Tom in some way or another just about every (work) day and have done so for quite a while now it was nice to finally have a chance to get together while he was in Chicago.  Of course the weather could have been nicer (it was about to drop six inches of snow) but it is Chicago and it is January so you never know.

Anyway, this was the first time I’ve actually gotten to meet anyone that I’ve blogged with or met online through writing and blogging.  Let’s hope the future holds more opportunities like this.

Movie Marketing Madness: Manderlay

I, despite reading Phil Hall’s review of it at FilmThreat, loved Dogville. Yes, I agree that Nicole Kidman was horribly miscast as a socialite mobster’s daughter turned social activist after being treated poorly by the citizens of a small (really small) town. The rest of the movie, though, was riveting. It wasn’t even the subject matter that intrigued me but the method and style of the film. The entire movie was shot on a single soundstage using just the barest hint of sets (often just one wall or, in most cases, just a tape outline of a building on the floor) and similar props. It had a very experimental flavor to it that I just dug. Half the time I wasn’t even thinking about the story but just admiring the pure craft involved in this sort of production.

So I’m interested in seeing Manderlay, the second part of a proposed trilogy from director Lars von Trier. This time Kidman is out and Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village) is in as Grace, the daughter of a mob boss (Willem Dafoe replacing James Caan) who thinks she can change the world. This time, though, she’s tackling slavery she encouters in 1930’s Alabama.

The Poster

I actually don’t like this poster all that much. Too much real estate is taken up by the self back slapping of noting how many film festivals the movie was selected to be in or what awards the film won and quotes from critics. The credit block at the bottom also seems unusually large. That leaves only about the middle third of the poster for any pictures or other stuff relating to the actual film. I’m not a big fan of the floating heads posters or tri-striped ones (you know, three stripes either horizontal or vertical, with an actor’s face in each stripe) but this reduces them just too much. The whole point of these movies is acting so why not highlight the actors over festival programming. Who does that really attract, anyway? Is there really a segment of the movie going public – even among film snobs – that looks at the poster and says, “Oh! It was at _____ Festival! Now I must see it!” I doubt that very much.

The Trailer

The trailer opens up with the film festival cataloging but then shifts into plot mode. It sets the movie up pretty nicely. Grace (Howard) arrives with her father at Manderlay to find that 70 years after it was abolished slavery still survives here, like the equivalant of The Lost World of dinosaurs. They decide they can bring justice and freedom to the slaves there but it’s not quite as simple as that and Grace soon seems to be in over her head in this situation. Certainly seems Howard gives a better performance than Kidman did and is more believable as a spoiled kid who think she has all the answers.

The Website

It’s a nice website that retains the stark black look of the movie, which I think is a nice touch. On the main page is the trailer but aside from that you have to enter the Flash site.

Both the Cast and Crew sections present the names like the credits of people who worked on “The Apprentice”. The scroll from bottom to top in far too fast a manner and you have to click on someone’s name to view their biography. If you miss them you just have to wait for their name to come around the loop again and I didn’t find any way to stop that.

There’s a section director von Trier has all to himself. There’s a brief and enegmatic “Statement” from him, a “Filmography” and then a series of “Interviews” of the cast talking about the movie and working with the Dutch filmmaker. Gallery has about 20 stills and Facts contains only a “Synopsis.” Why they didn’t just name the section Synopsis is beyond me but oh well.

The Forum isn’t so much a forum but more like a guest book. You write entries/thoughts in a visual book and it’s viewable by other visitors. It’s a nice tool but I don’t think it’s utilized effectively. I’m not sure what more I think about it but something about it says it’s not being used to its full extent. Finally there’s a Press room where you can download some of the stills as well as a press kit.


The poster has a good basic design but its overall execution is poor, especially since the actual movie information gets such short shrift. The trailer rocks. The website is clunky in parts but overall contains good information on the movie. It’s a good campaign for a movie that likely, due to its harsh tone towards Amerian attitudes, will not be too popular in this country. I think IFC has done a good job marketing this movie for the discriminating audience that will likely find the subject matter interesting.

Oh, and Phil Hall likes this installment a lot more than Dogville. I think we can all sleep easier now.

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Quick Takes: 1/26/06

Time again to clear the Bloglines folders of things that are blog-worthy but just don’t have to time to fully comment on:

  • Jeff Jarvis points to an interesting request from Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle. Silverman’s looking to recruit passionate users to blog/write about topics that they’re interested in.  Fantastic move.  I hope more newspapers and magazines employ this kind of thinking.
  • RIP Bayosphere. Thoughts here from founder Dan Gillmor.
  • Karen Sams is exactly right: If journalists have a desire to get their information via RSS feeds then PR people have a responsibility to make their output available in that way.  There is no “old” or “new” PR.  It’s PR but with new tools.  Use them.

Bacon’s and pitching

You know it’s funny that Steve Rubel should mention Bacon’s in regards to pitching bloggers today.  I’ve been working my head around a post about the newly-launched Bad Pitch Blog that encourages PR folks to use tools like Bacon’s MediaSource Research (it’s all about branding, Steve) as a tool for responsible pitching. And Steve’s kind of quippy solution at the end of his post about how we could just say “Hey we’re just the hammer. You can use it to hit a nail or smack yourself in the head. Be a smart PR professional” is more or less the angle I was going to take.  Of course I was going to phrase it a bit more constructively but that’s the gist.

When I’ve spoken to PRSA chapters and other folks about pitching blog writers I always make sure to emphasize caution.  Don’t’ be afraid of those mysterious bloggers but embrace them, develop relationships with them.  I know that no one has the time to send out 300 separate emails and include personal notes in each one.  But by doing some research that uses databases like Bacon’s as a starting point and then building off that to determine which blogs are important to you and how to approach them is worth the effort.  After all, you can build lists all day but it’s vitally important that you figure out for yourself who is actually likely to not only talk about you but talk with you.  If you can get the ear of just a few key influencers then the rest of the work you had planned on could potentially be done for you virally, through trackbacks and comments.  How much is it worth to you to put in the time to do this work upfront?

The downside of bad pitching – be it in practice by spamming 5,000 people with a press release for which the mail merge didn’t work and includes things like “Greeting (First Name)” – or in content (just a badly written release) is that you will be outed and mocked.  This is something I hammer on over and over again.  Print publications and TV stations have no time or space to out every bad pitch they get or the ones that are so far out of context regarding what they actually cover.  Bloggers, though, have opinions and what amounts to unlimited free space to talk about anything or anyone that crosses their minds.  It takes them almost no time to copy and paste a bad pitch into a post, with a little commentary added in just for flavor.

Here are my tips for pitching bloggers, taken straight from my presentation slideset:

Read the blog for a while

Visit the blogs linked off of that

Pay attention to how they categorize their posts

Address the writer by name

Really think about whether your pitch will interest them

DO NOT send blast emails

Don’t use “PR speak”

Be honest

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ve taken a big step forward in terms of blog relations.

Now in terms of bloggers being removed from the database, this is easy to do.  In fact, there’s a link to follow that’s contained in any email generated from a Bacon’s list that allows the recipient to opt out of future emails.  We’re also working on a regular communication to bloggers reminding them of who we are, what we do and asking them to update their information.  We know that mass emails aren’t the best way of doing this but it is the best way to communicate with a large number of people at one time.  If someone wants to continue the dialogue in a two-way format, my email is in the About section of this blog.

So there is a way to be removed and we do encourage responsible pitching.  If there are any questions on this just let me know and I’ll get you to the right person to ask.  Bacon’s is all about facilitating communication between the press and the PR industry and we think we’ve provided a suite of tools that does that in pretty good fashion.

Movie Marketing Madness: Big Momma’s House 2

You know how Johnny Carson made no bones about how he had stolen all his best schtick from Jack Benny? Carson was upfront and honest about how Benny had influenced him to the point where he had just lifted Benny’s mannerisms and delivery. The thing is that Carson then took it to another level. He made it his own and molded it into something unique to himself.

I wish Martin Lawrence was that upfront about owing his entire career to doing what amounts to a Eddie Murphy impersonation. From his stand-up specials, where he took the crudeness of Murphy’s routines and surgically removing the comedy, to his film roles where he’s pretty much taken everything Murphy has done and countered it with similar films that are crap. Where Murphy dressed up in a fat suit for his Nutty Professor trainwre…I mean movies Lawrence has donned the same wardrobe for not one but now two entries in the Big Momma’s House series.

(The Lawrence/Murphy analogy is even funnier if you consider that he’s tried to have the career of Murphy while at the same time working toward the police record of Murphy’s 48 Hours co-star Nick Nolte. Takes it to a whole new level.)

The Poster


Don’t consider that constructive criticism? OK, how about this: Lawrence dressed up in fat suit and a dress that he hikes up to show his FBI credentials stuffed in a garter may be the single most disturbing image of the last decade. It helps tremendously that Lawrence is holding up two fingers, letting us know – just in case we can’t read the friggin’ title on the poster – that this is the second movie. Way to show just how dumb you feel your target audience actually is.

There was also a teaser poster that just showed Lawrence in drag from the back. Same tagline but without the movie’s title. If it’s possible it’s even more gag-inducing than the theatrical poster, if for no other reason that it is, in essence, a huge shot of Lawrence’s ass.

The Trailer


Still not constructive? Lawrence appears without make up in exactly one shot during the whole trailer. The rest is mainly devoted to Big Momma and how she apparently spends the entire movie walking around a woman’s spa where he/she gets to ogle beautiful ladies and make weird inappropriate – but not actually funny – comments. There’s a joke, and I use the word loosely, about a thong that Lawrence’s wife finds that is about as wide as New Jersey.

What the trailer lacks (aside from humor) is any semblance of plot or story. Of course I’m assuming there is some in the movie, which might be a mistake. But what does it say about the movie that they don’t even try to relate any plot points? I’m just saying.

The Website

Well there’s not much there, which is a statement you can also apply to the movie as a whole. Really there are only six sections to the site so let’s just get through this as quickly as possible, heh?

Story is just a one-paragraph synopsis of the movie that I would highly recommend over paying money to see the actual film. On the plus side it gets some points for using the phrase “corpulent septuagenarian”, which may – and I’m not completely sure about this – be more letters than the script itself contained. That’s pure speculation, but I’m probably not far off.

Under Cast & Crew there are a couple sub-sections. The “Cast” part is just real quick recaps of the careers of the major players in the flick. The one thing that stands out is most of the cast, with the exceptions of Nia Long, seem to have done most of their work in TV. It reminds me of a scene from “Arrested Development” where the warden of a prison, played by James Lipton, tells Tobias Bluth, played by David Cross, that he is “a television actor” in a way that makes the statement very much an insult. Good stuff. When you go over to the “Crew” section you’ll see that the TV connection holds true since director John Whitesell is also a TV veteran.

I love how the “Production Notes” make a big deal about how the five-year lapse between movies was primarily due to Lawrence’s schedule and everyone wanting to make sure the script was even better than the first one. I have to believe the intern tasked to write this just couldn’t keep a straight face while typing it in. I just have to.

Anyway, the Gallery contains a dozen stills from the movie. Most of them, again, show Lawrence as Big Momma. There’s one of Long holding the same huge-ass thong featured in the trailer and some of the family that, for some reason, he has moved in with.

Downloads has some “Buddy Icons” and “Wallpapers” and that’s it. The Trailer link actually opens a new window and redirects to Apple’s site so it’s only available in Quicktime. Finally, if you mouse over the image of Big Momma in the lower right-hand corner you can make her do a little dance.


I have to imagine that any 20th Century Fox rep with an ounce of self-respect will disown this movie like a spy caught on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. The fact that, throughout the entire campaign, less than a half-dozen images of Lawrence without the Big Momma costume appear speaks volumes about the movie as a whole. The poster is just crap, the trailer contains no plot points and I’ve seen better websites built through GeoCities. It’s a crappy campaign unless you’re one of those people who cut themselves for pleasure. Then it’s fantastic.

Yahoo throws in the towel – sort of

Yahoo has announced that it has given up the quest to be the dominant search engine on the internet.  Instead of being in a “who can one up the other” contest with Google.  While this may have rankled Steve Rubel a bit it’s not quite as bad as all that and no reason to give up on Yahoo completely.

It’s not as though Yahoo has decided to simply sit out the rest of the game and watch from the sidelines as Google trounces any and all competition (at least for the time being).  Far from it.  It still sounds as like Yahoo will work on improving the accuracy of its paid search listings.  Even better would be for it to continue work on its series of social networking and tagging sites/applications.

There are many factors that differentiate Google from Yahoo and what I use is whichever serves my immediate needs better.  Yahoo is a great aggregator and host of news and information since they actually put wire service and other stories on their website, as opposed to Google that just links to the original story.  That means there’s more of a permanant record on Yahoo than there is on Google in terms of news stories.

Google’s reputation was built primarily on speed of results and their minimalist home page.  They expanded the brand when they realized they could make tons of money by selling ads next to search results.  That was then branched out to ad placement on other sites and letting everyone share in the revenue.  It’s done those and other things very well and they should be applauded for it.

What they’ve failed to do is what Yahoo has done well and I hope Yahoo continues to expand upon.  By letting people customize their My Yahoo page and have one single place where they can go for email, news, IM, shopping, blogging and a host of other online activities Yahoo has made their services a great option for people interested in online community building and for those not wanting 38 different logins.  Their purchase of Flickr and del.icio.us are signs that they really get the power behind mass concentrations of passionate users.

While some see this as a concession of defeat on the part of Yahoo I think it’s an appropriate shifting of priorities.  Every dollar they spent trying to out-Google Google was one dollar they couldn’t spend innovating another way to connect users in meaningful ways.  I say they made exactly the right move.

Ideas running through my head

  • Today definitely needs more cowbell
  • As a way to release stress have you ever considering doing something just goofy?  Like right now I’m considering how amusing it might be to speak with an Australian accent all day tomorrow
  • There is no point to blog posts that are solely about how you don’t like something.  Come up with a solution to fix the problem or at least lay out your argument in a way that doesn’t sound like my four year old complaining about bedtime.
  • Have you ever considered the advantages or owning a really good set of encyclopedias?
  • I’m going to be the first to say it: I don’t think Lost is a very good TV show.

Maybe more later

You can’t talk to them

After putting their highest profile columnists behind the paid TimesSelect wall the New York Times has now made the email addresses for those writers unavailable for non-paying members as well.  This follows the Washington Post turning off comments on their blogs.

I don’t mean to be too blunt here but what are these publications thinking?  So much of what the web has become is about conversation and contact, be it in the form of comments, trackbacks or blog communities that have sprung up.  This sort of “we can talk to you but you can’t talk to us” attitude is very much a digression from the point we’ve reached in terms of transparency and communication.

Now in the case of The Washington Post there is a political issue that led ombudsman Deborah Howell to turn off comments.  She and others felt there were inappropriate remarks being made and so, instead of just implementing a tighter filter on comments, they disabled the feature altogether.  That’s wrong in my view but the political component may have tainted the situation a bit.

What the New York Times did by taking their columnists’ email addresses behind the paid wall is just an example of old-media thinking.  Unless you can pony up for the TimesSelect content, something which not everyone can do, you can’t contact the writers.  That’s a loss not only for those hoping to talk to the NYT writers in some way but also for the writers themselves since they’ve had a valuable spiggot of information turned off.

Movie Marketing Madness: Imagine Me & You

There’s a whole little sub-genre of movies developing that play on the “is she or isn’t she a lesbian” question. The kick-off picture for this niche was probably Kissing Jessica Stein but since then it seems like there have been at least a few movies like this, including the recent Saving Face. They often center on a beautiful woman who, when she can’t find the right man or realizes she’s bored with the man she has, realizes that she loves the vivacious and far more interesting woman whom she’s recently met.

That appears to be the basic premise of Imagine Me & You. In this case, though, it’s Rachel’s wedding day and she’s standing at the alter when she catches the eye of a woman across the church. It could be true love but, again, it’s Rachel’s wedding day and that makes it harder, but not impossible, for the two women to explore their feelings for each other.

The Poster

Call me crazy but I really like this poster. Yeah, it’s not that exciting visually but it makes up for it by conveying the entire plot very nicely and succinctly. You see the bride and groom on the left in all their glory, except the bride (Rachel) is holding the hand of another woman behind the back of a man who that woman seems to be with. So it’s boy-girl-boy-girl, with the hand-holding going on behind the back of boy number two. Girl number two seems to be checking out Rachel as well. The tagline “There goes the bride” isn’t great but the clean, white look of the poster overcomes it and the type-point used isn’t big enough to distract from the overall feel of the poster. It’s not something I’m going to clear wallspace for but it’s a solid poster and sells the movie very well.

The Trailer

First off I’d like to state that it’s great to see Anthony Head (Giles, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) in this. Just catupulted the movie from a “maybe” to a “definitely” in my list. Head is a great actor and it’s fantastic to see him getting work.

I’m not sure of the continuity of the scenes that make up this trailer. The plot synopsis says Rachel sees the other woman, Luce, for the first time at her wedding. However the scenes in the trailer aren’t arranged in any logical order so it’s tough to follow the relationships between Rachel, her fiancee Heck, Luce and Coop, the man who brings Luce to a dinner party and is a womanizing scoundrel. It’s made clear that Luce is gay and that Rachel is not, but that’s about it. There are shots of Rachel and Heck in their domesticity and how comfortable it is. There’s even an intonation by Rachel that Heck is her best friend. There are also clips of Rachel and Luce on one or more girls’ nights out and how their feelings develop. I would have much preferred a straight-forward trailer that allowed me to follow along and didn’t just seem to be a compilation of lines/scenes someone thought were the best thrown together in no particular order. That’s annoying.

The Website

Fox Searchlight has created a serviceable if not remarkable website for Imagine You & Me. There are only three parts to the site. The first thing you see is a Synopsis that is much the same as the recap you’ll find on Yahoo! Movies or IMDB. Not anything significant. A little better is the About the Film content. It repeats a good bit of the Synopsis, if in slightly more fleshed out form. Finally there are a series of Cast & Crew bios. Just quick run-downs of the careers of the various players.


It’s not a bad campaign, in fact it’s pretty good. The poster, as I said, I think is great and the trailer sells the movie fairly well. I want to reiterate, though, the disorienting nature of the trailer, that seems to set it up as Rachel and Luce falling in love and then Rachel gets married anyway when those things happen in the opposite order. It’s all in the editing. I think the movie’s website could have been beefed up a bit, but since it’s a niche release I guess I shouldn’t expect much. Overall nice effort from Fox Searchlight.