Friday, August 18, 2006

Snakes in the Grassroots?

One frequently used explanation of PR goes like this: Advertising is what you say about yourself; PR is what others say about you.

‘Others’ of course includes journalists. So in PR terms, this morning’s ‘news’ item on BBC1’s Breakfast show certainly hit the mark. Others still might say that the item was pure hype.

The item did bring into sharp focus how the promotion of a new consumer product – in this case, the ‘cult movie’ Snakes On A Plane – can worm its way into the news agenda through viral marketing techniques, including the use of blogs and YouTube. Feel free to debate whether such techniques count as ‘PR’ but in my book, when these techniques become headline news themselves, we are witnessing a successful PR campaign.

Snakes have had a bad press since Eve bit the apple, and the filmmakers couldn’t have wished for better timing in news terms to release a movie about out-of-control evil beings let loose in an airliner flying over the ocean.

However, ‘SOAP’ is also destined to become a classic case study of the internet’s impact on marketing and PR practices. Here’s an account of how promotional messages about the movie are targeted at phones, not by the marketing company but at a fraction of the cost by members of the public. You get a call on your mobile, you see it’s from someone you know and you find yourself listening to a personalised recorded message from the movie’s star, Samuel L. Jackson because that someone you know logged onto the movie’s website and set it up.

It seems that the filmmakers have kept up a regular dialogue with fans through their own websites, even taking on board fans’ suggestions to change parts of the script. Fans have also been invited to compose songs, poems and sketches about the movie that get worldwide distribution via YouTube – superb exposure at the fraction of the cost of an advertising campaign.

Are we on the verges of Astroturfing territory here? The campaign is certainly using the latest web-based interactive devices to whip up grassroots interest. But the ViralOne website argues – in response to concern expressed by Paull Young – that ‘stealth’ or ‘guerilla’ marketing doesn’t fit into this activity, presumably because the grassroots response of fans is (sort of) genuine. All the marketing people have to do is sow the seeds and add the fertiliser.

Filed under:
astroturfing   stealth marketing   guerilla marketing    Snakes on a Plane

No comments: