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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]

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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