When Viral Marketing Goes Wrong

When Viral Marketing Goes Wrong (photo)

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“2012” may have destroyed the box office this weekend, but it also did plenty of damage to NASA, who received thousands of letters and phone calls from concerned citizens that the world was going to end in just over two years — so much so that NASA set up a site to specifically debunk their fears. Roland Emmerich’s latest disaster flick would’ve inevitably inspired some to panic regardless, but these calls got an assist from Sony’s viral marketing campaign for the film, which included a web site devoted to The Institute for Human Continuity that, among other things, offers visitors an opportunity to register for a lottery to increase their chance of survival when the apocalypse strikes. The move inspired some, like Stuart McGurk at the Guardian to look at the ways viral marketing “can go bad.” I’d like to add to the pile four more risky movie marketing maneuvers that bombed, sometimes literally:

11162009_spiderman2.jpg“Spider-Man II” Bases

Although it didn’t strike fear in the hearts of the general public, baseball fans cried foul when Sony signed a deal with Major League Baseball to place the Spider-Man II logo on bases and in on-deck circles in 15 stadiums in June of 2004. At first, the MLB declined the offer of putting Spidey-style netting behind home plate as the netting to catch foul balls because they thought it would distract the players, but the league felt okay with the bases having a Spidey diamond in the center. As MLB president Bob DuPuy said to ESPN, “This is not a step toward wallpapering the ballpark,” but that’s exactly what fans believed it was. They complained profusely until the MLB nixed the plans at the last second. (It didn’t help Sony’s cause that “Spider-Man II”‘s director Sam Raimi is a baseball purist who previously directed “For Love of The Game.”) Geoffrey Ammer, then-marketing head of Columbia, told ESPN, “We saw some of the polls on the Internet that said that 71 and 81 percent of the fans didn’t approve of it.” But hey, who could blame them for covering all their bases?

11162009_captivity.jpg“Captivity” Billboards

What better way to push a movie starring the voluptuous Elisha Cuthbert than to see her imprisoned, wrapped in gauze with a tube of blood being pumped from her nose? It was at the height of torture porn’s popularity in 2007, but most Angelenos and New Yorkers were turned off by the billboards for “Captivity,” which outlined the four steps of the horror film’s plot — abduction, confinement, torture and termination — in prominent locations. After Dark Films CEO Courtney Solomon claimed the billboards were a result of a printing error, telling the L.A. Times “I don’t know where the confusion happened and who’s responsible,” before adding later in the same interview that the film was “about something that happens to 850,000 people in this country a year.” Joss Whedon and future “United States of Tara” writer Jill Soloway weren’t convinced that After Dark was raising awareness for female abduction and campaigned to the MPAA to have the film’s rating removed, which would effectively limit the studio’s ability to advertise at all. The billboards were taken down at significant cost to After Dark and the Roland Joffe horror flick never found an audience.

11162009_mi3.jpg“Mission Impossible III” News Racks

In 2006, Paramount decided to install digital music equipment into Los Angeles Times news racks that would play the “Mission: Impossible” theme song when opened, but when wires from that equipment weren’t completely contained, those going about their morning routine thought they might be in for an explosion like the one that sent Tom Cruise blasting through that train tunnel in the first “Mission: Impossible.” The Los Angeles arson squad destroyed one such news rack after hearing a complaint and soon after, the 4,500 news racks in L.A. county, which were equipped with the theme music that starts with signature sizzle of a match, were dismantled. Said Mark Kurtich, the then-senior vice president of operations for the L.A. Times, “I think Paramount is pretty happy about [the publicity they received].” It didn’t help the film, however, which was the lowest grossing in the franchise.

11162009_mooninite.jpg“Aqua Teen Hunger Force” Boston Bomb Scare

Again, terrorist threats aren’t exactly the best way into the hearts and minds of potential audiences, but that’s exactly what people in Boston were led to believe when they saw electronic light boards featuring “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” characters called Mooninites, crescent-shaped cartoon creations waving a middle finger to anyone who passed by. Like those who installed the “Mission: Impossible” news racks, the duo responsible for the installation of the lightboards didn’t do a very good job of hiding the wires and as a result, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens were arrested by the Boston police for causing a public panic. The lightboards had the dual purpose of promoting the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” show as well as the upcoming feature film. Cartoon Network executive vice president Jim Samples was forced to quit after TBS, the network’s corporate parent, paid $2 million to settle the bomb scare claims in Massachusetts. As for Berdovsky and Stevens, they pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct and placing a hoax device and at a press conference after the hearing, would only answer questions about their hair. Which was fair, since they put the dread in Boston’s security locks.

[Additional photos: “Spider-Man II” base, courtesy of ESPN; “Captivity billboard, courtesy of /Film; L.A. County Sheriff’s Department inspecting a Santa Clarita MI3 newspaper rack, courtesy of The Signal; Cambridge Mooninite, courtesy of Wikipedia, all used without permission]

Ghostbusters II 1920

Ghostbusters Sitcom

See What Ghostbusters Would Look Like As an ’80s Sitcom

See what happens when Ghostbusters meets Charles in Charge.

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Have you ever wondered what Ghostbusters would be like if it was a little more like Bosom Buddies? Check out our video that reimagines the Ivan Reitman comedy classic as a 1980s sitcom straight out of the Who’s the Boss? and Growing Pains playbook. Ghostbusters with a peppy ’80s theme song is guaranteed to make you feel good.

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That 70s show

That '70s Facts

10 Things You Didn’t Know About That ’70s Show

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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Every That ’70s Show fan has a favorite character, favorite episode, or even a favorite “Circle” moment. But how well do you know the show? Check out some interesting facts about the series and the Wisconsin gang.

1. Chuck Norris Almost Played Red Forman

Red That 70s Show

We said everyone has a favorite character, and let’s be honest: it’s Red. And Red almost had the ability to lay out Hyde with a swift roundhouse kick to the head. Chuck Norris was considered for the role of Eric’s dad, but was unavailable due to filming Walker, Texas Ranger, opening the part for Kurtwood Smith’s incomparable portrayal.

2. Mila Kunis lied about her age to get the role of Jackie.

That 70s Show Jackie

Snotty (but surprisingly smart) Jackie propelled Mila Kunis to stardom. She got the part by being perfect for it, and by playing older than she actually was. Auditioning at age 14, she told the producers that “I’ll be 18 on my birthday,” neglecting to mention said birthday was still four years away. Having an actual teenager play a television teenager for once is a nice novelty.

3. The show was almost named after a Who song.

That 70s Show Theme

A ’70s-set sitcom couldn’t help but be defined by music, but That ’70s Show was legally forced into its final name. Early ideas included “Teenage Wasteland” and “The Kids Are Alright,” but pressure from The Who’s lawyers forced the creators to come up with something better. At which point they found that test viewers had already given it the wonderfully self-aware name.

4. “The Circle” was a way to get around censors.

The show’s trademark camera spin was a powerful comedic tool for endless one-liners and honest moments where the characters talked directly to the camera. Most importantly, it allowed the show to make it clear the characters were totally baked while never showing them actually smoking pot.

5. Leo Was Really Arrested For Drug Charges

Leo That 70s Show

Hyde’s drug-inspired boss Leo incarnated the ’70s stoner culture on several levels. Not only was he played by the iconic Tommy Chong, but he disappeared from the series for a while because he was serving a jail sentence for selling drug paraphernalia. It was such a natural chain of events, Tommy was surprised they didn’t write it into the show.

6. You can blame a movie for Blonde Donna.

Blonde Donna

Blonde Donna 2

Donna claimed she dyed her hair blonde after her marriage to Eric was called off. But the truth is Laura Prepon went blonde for the lead role in the 2006 psychological thriller Karla.

7. Topher Grace was discovered in a high school play.

Eric That 70s show

Topher Grace got his start in show business after That ’70s Show creators Bonnie and Terry Turner saw him in their daughter’s high school play. We assume he wasn’t constantly called “dumbass” in the play, but he wowed the Turners just the same.

8. Red really is from the “Craphole” state.

Red That 70s show

Kurtwood Smith is the only actor from Wisconsin, where the show is set. In fact, Red Forman is even more authentically Wisconson-ian, being based on Smith’s stepfather, who passed away shortly before the pilot was filmed. Yes, there actually was a real Red.

9. Josh Meyers was originally going to play Eric after Topher Grace left the show.

Josh meyers that 70s show

Josh Meyers, brother of Seth Meyers, was hired to replace Topher Grace, who’d left the series to fight Spider-Man on the big screen. Eric’s suddenly different appearance was going to be explained by the changing effects of coming back from his trip to Africa as a newly grown man, but the writers eventually ditched this ludicrous idea. Instead we got Randy Pearson, a fusion of Eric’s snarky humor and Kelso’s way with the ladies.

10. Eric’s Vista Cruiser license plate marks the passage of time.

That 70s show license plate

That ’70s Show almost lasted an entire decade with eight seasons, but it only took up four years of fictional time. And you can tell what year each episode takes place in by the license plate at the end of the theme song.


Gigi Wrote a Book for You

Read Gigi’s Outrageous Children’s Book ‘Call Your Grandmother’

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This week on Gigi Does It, Gigi Rotblum (David Krumholtz) pens a heartwarming children’s book about the perils of not calling your dear grandma. And now you can read the full story below!

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Dodgeball 1920 Everett

Grab Life by the Ball

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dodgeball

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There was a time, not long ago, when Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and their “Frat Pack” of fast-talking comedians ruled Hollywood. From Zoolander to Anchorman, these cut-ups couldn’t help but churn out hit after hit. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story itself grossed $124 millon at the box office, even after every studio in town initially turned it down. Thanks to a wrench throwing Rip Torn and a Lance Armstrong cameo that’s more uncomfortable in hindsight, this little comedy that could has grown into a much-loved classic. To celebrate Comedy Crib’s new dodgeball comedy Ball or Nothing, here are a few fun facts you may not know about the comedy that told us to “grab life by the ball.”

10. The Hoff’s Cameo Was Last Minute Magic

David Hasselhoff’s cameo as coach of the German team was a last minute addition, after stunt coordinator Alex Daniel mentioned he knew the Baywatch beefcake personally.

9. Roadhouse Was An Inspiration

Stiller is a film connoisseur, so it’s no surprise he chose to honor the seminal ’80s action classic Roadhouse by using Patrick Swayze’s hairdo as inspiration for his character, calling it a “super quaffed power mullet.”

8. Justin Long Took One For The Team

Rip Torn played the wheelchair-bound coach Patches O’Houlihan who motivated the team by hurling wrenches at them. The prop wrenches were made out of rubber, but that didn’t make things easier for Justin Long, who had his eyebrow split open after one particularly hard throw. Patches (and Torn) doesn’t mess around.

7. The Director Pulled A Hitchcock

For his feature film debut, writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber made a cameo appearance as the guy who throws a drink at Steve the Pirate in Vegas.

6. Happy Accidents Helped Make It A Classic

Vaughn’s character, Peter LaFleur, makes a unique first impression in the movie, having a group of guys push his stalled car up to the Average Joe’s gym. This was in fact a last minute addition after the car on set actually broke down.

5. Norm Macdonald Made a Cameo

In a film chock full of cameos, the most unheralded probably goes to Norm Macdonald, who was supposedly an extra in the background during the Globo Gym ad. Is that him in the clip above lifting weights next to some musclebound bro-dude? Sure looks like Norm.

4. The Film Gave a WWE Diva Her Big Break

Future WWE Diva Candice Michelle briefly appeared as a sideline dancer, long before taking her talents to the ring.

3. Patches O’Houlihan Was Inspired By The “Miracle on Ice”

Patches insults his players by saying “it’s like watching a bunch of retards trying to hump a doorknob.” This was in fact a reference to the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey coach Herb Brooks, who once said “it’s like watching a monkey trying to hump a football.”

2. The Writer/Director Made the Terry Tate Office Linebaker Ads

Dodgeball wasn’t Rawson Marshall Thurber first time tackling sports comedy — he got noticed after directing the memorable Reebok ads where NFL player Terry Tate enforces office etiquette through punishing tackles.

1. Dodgeball Will Be Back!

It was announced in 2013 that Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story would be getting a sequel, which will no doubt be called Dodgeball 2: The Search for Patches’ Golden Wrench.

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