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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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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