Monday, April 27, 2009

Remember ballyhoo?

If you do, you must be close to my age. At a time when marketing products is so important, it's astonishing to me how lackadaisical modern marketing really is.

Movies used to be marketed to death. Theater owners – yes, once upon a time, people, not huge corporations owned movie theaters – and those folks were in competition with each other and everything else hoping to get a slice of your entertainment dollar.

Check out this part of a pressbook – a over-sized booklet sent to theaters prior to the run of a film – a hideously cheapjack Sam Katzman serial starring a solid actor named Kane Richmond who was definitely better than this stuff.

It was the philosophy of the time that every movie had to be sold to audiences. Even serials designed for the kiddie trade.

Remember the drive-ins that regularly showed movies you never heard of? But those films had posters and newspapers ads and previews that were designed to rope you in. They had gimmicks – barf bags, insurance policies and whatever it took to get you interested enough to get you to spend your money.

When I ran Tower Theaters in South Hadley, I just had previews, posters, banners and standees to help sell a movie and not all of those items were available for each title. We did things differently than other theaters, but we were the freaks in business called show – that had the show part surgically removed.

Today, the studios build a Web site, talk with the movie press, post a preview or two. They rely on "viral" efforts and on journalists needing to fill space with entertainment stuff that is relatively cheap and easy to do.

I love this "controversy" about someone "leaking" the new X-Men movie out to people. I smell a stunt here. It sort of renews my faith.

Consider how DVDs are marketed. You used to walk into you local video store and be assaulted with posters, standees, talking boxes, promotional items, etc. – all designed to get you to pick a video up. What kind a marketing can you get at the Red Box?

Here's the irony: there are plenty of creative people doing interesting things. There are audiences still eager for something new and original. The problem is how to reach those people. Most of the ways creative/entertainment products used to be distributed have been corrupted or dismantled.

Got a comic book? Is it Diamond worthy? Granted there are few other distributors, but it's not the way it was at the height of the direct sales market.

Have a small press magazine? Good luck in getting one of the last remaining big distributors handle it at a price you can afford?

Trying to get promotion for your music? Can't go the route of getting airplay and in fact in many areas venues aren't even interested in "new" music.

Producing a movie? You can't get theatrical release through independent theaters because there are so few indies left. You can't four-wall either.

I think people with entertainment products are going to have re-invent the wheel so to speak and look at really how effective some of the older ways of reaching your audience really were.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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