Stop the digital presses. We’ve got proof that Twitter makes money if you know how to use it.
The teddy bear’s first tweet, from an account called @WhatTedSaid set up by the Universal Pictures marketing department, was “Hello, Twitter. Kindly go f— yourself.”
Thus began the Twitter marketing campaign to get out the vote for the movie, Ted. How did that go?
The author of the greeting was Alec Sulkin, co-screenwriter of the R-rated comedy “Ted,” who together with his collaborator Wellesley Wild was paid extra by the studio to build buzz on social media ahead of the film’s June 29 release . . . It worked spectacularly. Tracking polls, which movie executives rely on to guide box office expectations, suggested an opening-weekend gross of $35 million to $40 million for the film, which was co-written and directed by Seth McFarlane, creator of “Family Guy,” who also provided the voice for Ted. Instead, “Ted” generated $54 million, catching the industry by surprise.
Hey, baby, $54 million is a lot bigger than $35-40 million. It’s the Twitter. And Hollywood is on it.
Hollywood is doing more than using Twitter and Facebook as mere promotional tools. After several years of experimenting, studios have thrown themselves deeply into a medium which is still barely understood. They are now developing elaborate social media campaigns early on, sometimes as soon as a film gets greenlit. Researchers are conducting deep numerical analysis on posts and tweets to guide marketing decisions, sometimes predicting box office revenue with pinpoint accuracy. They’re looking not just at opening movies, but sustaining their word-of-mouth through subsequent weeks. And they are getting more surgical about targeting their ever-fickle, ever-elusive core audience of young people.
Hmmmm . . . deep numerical analysis? Hollywood does Deep Numerical Analysis? Hollywood is always doing the New New Thing in persuasion, baby. And the New New Thing is Big Data Social Media, baby.
That sounds better than calling it by the Old Old Thing: PR.
This article is an artful example of the Hollywood Placement wherein some enterprising studio agent maneuvers a willing journalist to write a piece of puffery on the Cool Table guys in LA and Silicon Valley. Remember James Cameron in Hollywood Parts The Amazon?
In the 15 years since he wrote the script for “Avatar,” his epic tale of greed versus nature, Mr. Cameron said, he had become an avid environmentalist. But he said that until his trip to the Brazilian Amazon last month, his advocacy was mostly limited to the environmentally responsible way he tried to live his life: solar and wind energy power his Santa Barbara home, he said, and he and his wife drive hybrid vehicles and do their own organic gardening.
Remember NBC Does Good?
Today, NBC sees it differently. In a nice Wall Street Journal story, we learn that NBC is subtly and with great nuance weaving into its broadcast comedies and dramas positive portrayals of characters doing good things like reducing the use of plastic in the Office, exercising more, and eating less. They try not to preach, but through a constant, subtle, and nuanced drumbeat of positive behaviors in the media models, NBC wants to do its bit to make the world a better place.
How about energy independence with the George Clooney movie, Syriana?
If you visit the “Syriana” website you will find a link to an action website. Here they boldly offer a series of steps anyone can take to change the world for better.
Hmmm, let’s see . . . how do we reign in that out of control CIA? How about a “Virtual March” on Washington, DC? You and the producers of “Syriana” will rid the CIA of evildoers through email! Hmmm, let’s see . . . how do we end our addiction to oil (which will hurt the sleazy oilmen in the wallet)? Just download this spiffy PDF which contains fabulous Action Steps you can take all by yourself with no help from “Syriana.” Consider these dazzlingly actions: Weatherize your house! Share car rides! Combine several short car trips into one longer trip! Use energy efficient appliances!
Maybe Participate with Hollywood?
Their bipartisan call to action morphed into “I Participate,” a Hollywood-fueled initiative that’s shaping up as one of TV’s biggest, most innovative public service efforts ever. From next Monday to Oct. 25, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and several cable channels will devote chunks of more than 90 shows to mobilize viewers off their couches.
You see the Old Old Thing. A persuasive public relations piece artfully manipulated into a news source. Hey, this is serious, hard-hitting investigative journalism from the Wall Street Journal, baby. This speaks truth to power! Nobody writes about Deep Numerical Analysis with anything other than a straight face.
Even past the obvious subtlety of hiding your persuasion in plain sight in the form of PR in a news story, just read the story and think about the facts it reports. Yeah. Assume the details are true even while the headline is false.
The story asserts the movie brought in $54 million while predicted to hit only $40 million. This assumes that the predictive model is accurate while we already know that it is not. Wouldn’t it be nice if the story looked at the prediction model that guessed high, but then the box office came back low? I’m betting that $14 million dollars is well within the average difference between the prediction and the reality, so the mere fact of an absolute difference says nothing.
Okay. Let’s assume the $14 million difference is really real. The prediction was accurate, but because of the New New Thing, Ted did a lot better. That proves Twitter caused this difference? Of course not. As the story states, Hollywood is doing Deep Numerical Analysis with Twitter with a lot of movies. How come the story doesn’t mention all these other flicks and the difference between their prediction and their actual take?
To realize these problems with this story, you have to actually think about the claim and have some sense of history. If you are a persuasion maven, you should be doing this automatically, chronically, dysfunctionally. Persuasion mavens should always look for the Man Behind The Curtain. But, if you go just a bit Low WATT, you are sunk. You will remember this case study as the Big Exemplar that proves Twitter Changes the Other Guys when it does nothing of the kind.
Hollywood is a master of hiding persuasion in plain sight with these kind of PR tricks. Hollywood places persuasion in honest places, simple places, straightforward places. Places that promise speaking truth to power or hard hitting investigations or government working for you and on and on with the magic trick of hiding the false behind the appearance of the truth. See that Twitter and Hollywood are teaming up here to run their advertising on the WSJ news platform.
Admire Hollywood and Twitter for getting you Low WATT and lazy so that you don’t even test the facts they honestly provide in the story. Prediction models that never fail point to a low estimate, but Twitter that works in the hands of Hollywood masters, shatters the prediction! One time. Maybe. And bite on the hook that Hollywood is doing Deep Numerical Analysis while not asking about all the other Twitter campaigns they are running. Where’s that data?