Dear Warner Bros., It's Not 'Word Of Mouth' If You Have To Pay People To Promote Your Movies

from the you're-doing-it-wrong dept

There was an amusing post this week at TheWrap.com discussing how the various Hollywood movie studios are confused about the basics of social media and Twitter. You may remember (or, maybe not), back in 2003, when Hollywood suddenly started blaming text messaging for certain movies failing, because some kids would go to a movie, realize it sucks, and quickly warn their friends to stay away. Of course, Hollywood blamed text messaging, instead of the fact that they made a crappy movie, and couldn't rely on their old methods of squeezing a ton of money out of people before word got around. In the age of Twitter, of course, this has only increased, so the studios started blaming Twitter, calling it "the Twitter Effect" and proceeding to freak out about it.

This new article points out that "The Twitter Effect" doesn't really appear to have any impact at all, but does mention that studios are trying to jump on this "Twitter" bandwagon by "buying trending terms" on the site. But watching the movie studios try to figure out this whole social media landscape can be pretty funny. Adam Singer sent over an email he just received from Warner Bros. asking him to join its "word of mouth marketing team" in which the studio would pay him to say nice things about Warner Bros. films:
Hello,

I am a part of the Warner Brothers word of mouth marketing team and recently came across your blog! Your blog uniquely stood out as dynamic, informative and highly creative. We are seeking bloggers that are passionate about entertainment to help us engage your readers with content that would be interesting to them.

We would like to have you join our WB Word marketing team to let fans know about our latest releases and relevant content/products. As a member of the team, you will be asked to display photos, clips, and stories on your Blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The best part is you will get paid! Additionally, we may even debut event previews and new content so that fans like you get to enjoy it first.
Here's a tip for Warner Bros.' "word of mouth marketing team." If it's really "word of mouth marketing," it probably doesn't require you to pay people to talk about your bad movies. And, of course, depending on how the various bloggers on the "team" indicate their relationship with WB, the studio may be opening itself up to FTC problems.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymoose, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 1:23pm

    Classic astroturfing... This does seem like an FTC landmine if they're paying people who aren't disclosing that fact...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 1:41pm

    Payola

    Is it just me or does it seem that a lot of the people on high really love to usurp communications, believing it will truly server their own purposes?

    Observe

    Radio has been usurped to make us believe in freedom of choice on the radio. Rather than that, the conglomerates use the radio to heavily influence what songs we hear. That's pretty telling.

    Now we have movies doing the same thing. Correction, they've been doing this for quite some time.

    There's critics out there that are paid to recommend a movie. You can pretty much tell because it's as if they gush on all of the good points of a move but ignore everything bad about it. I'm all for a positive review but there's a limit on it if you're bashing Pixar just because you have issues.

    I may not have liked Transformers 2 but I can tell you the parts of why. Similar to anyone else. Some critics just automatically give it 100% because it's their favorite director. (Just examples)

    Now that Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace, among others, make it far easier to decide on a movie (HUGE negative reviews = more for a better movie) you would think that movie makers would work on better stories.

    It'll be interesting if the FTC does get on them for this. If so, I'd like to know how far it'll go.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    R. Miles (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

    I give it another 3 hours...

    ...before Warner starts to send out DMCA take down notices to prevent this email message from being posted.

    Get ready, Mike. Your copy will probably arrive soon.
    ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    Spam

    If I got an email like that I would assume it was phishing or spam. It reads like it was written by someone who has a limited grasp of english. Maybe Warner Bros. is looking for better writers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    slander (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 2:17pm

    Something I've noticed over the years...

    The amount of effort dedicated to marketing and promoting a movie is usually inversely proportional to the actual quality of the finished product. Just saying...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    slander (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Spam

    Oh, they have more than enough writers. I think that the problem they have is that they refuse to give their infinite number of monkeys enough time to randomly pound out a decent script.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Re: Spam

    Actually, if you follow the way movies are made, it's usually not the script that's the problem. Throw in an egotistical star or director, a clueless producer, a studio that orders multiple rewrites and/or reshoot and market testing pandering to illiterate morons, and any script could be rendered garbage with the writer being powerless to stop it.

    There's an old joke in Hollywood about the actress who was so stupid, she slept with the *writer* for a part in a movie... Sadly that's truer now than it ever was.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Don, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 2:34pm

    word of mouth

    I got so tired of the SOS coming out of the "entertainment" industry that I now "tune" it all out. Except for NPR I don't listen to the radio, watch TV or go to movies or concerts. Its all garbage as far as I am concerned. Not paying attention to it gives me time to entertain myself by playing my guitar, pursuing my Ham Radio hobby, fishing... There is so much to do if you turn the media off, all the way off.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    WB Word, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

    Response

    The WB Word Team is fully accredited by WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association), which is in regular contact with the FTC regarding disclosure laws. As far as the incident you cite in you story, we were in the process of identifying key influencers on the web who we felt would be relevant to promoting our projects (television and not film as you represent in your story). This was clearly an invitation to join our team and was completely transparent in its intent. All of the work done by the WB Word Team is also fully disclosed and transparent and team members chose which projects they want to promote based on their individual likes and opinions of each specific project. We are dismayed that you wouldn't call first and check your facts before writing this inaccurate story.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    slander (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Response

    But the question still remains: when are you going to send out the C-and-D letter?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    slander (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Response

    You people seem to be missing the point. "Word of mouth" is the sort of impromptu, spontaneous, "marketing-without-the-marketing-department" that occurs when people are so impressed/excited about your product that they simply have to tell others about it.

    What you are doing isn't so much "word of mouth" as it is "solicitation for the purposes of prostitution."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 3:41pm

    Re: Response

    What happens when one of your members write a negative review?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 3:59pm

    Re: Response

    Is this seriously the reaction they would have to this article? All a response like this would do is confirm everything that was said about how they really don't get it. It's mind boggling in it's misunderstanding of the message presented.

    I've gotta give WB the benefit of the doubt here and assume someone else went to a lot of effort to sound credibly like them. That, or the people in charge of the WB Word Team are astoundingly misguided in how to engage and interact on the "social web".

    Step 1) Try to bribe people
    Step 2) Lash out at people who suggest bribery isn't as effective as engaging your audience

    What's step 3? Sue and lash out at your customers that are trying to talk about your films/television and issue DMCA take-downs against them because they used a clip you provided ... ... oh ... yeah, I guess they do that too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    slander (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 4:01pm

    Re: Re: Response

    Obligatory:

    Step 4) ???
    Step 5) Profit!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Jay (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: Response

    They're ousted. Haven't you seen 21?

    This is a business. No time for emotions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    interval (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Response

    Yes!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Response

    Sounds more like you are dismayed that someone called you out on your ignorance of what "word of mouth" actually means.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Dale Sanchez, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 7:09pm

    Blog Post

    With this new stage of technology we can not hold on to the classic models that once worked or worked for long periods of time. This author brings up a good point, in which companies are trying to use the latest technology and people to expand or create a positive image for a brand.

    With that said, the very phrase 'word of mouth' has evolved into its own unique marketing model. It is called 'word of mouth marketing' and there is even a non-profit organization regulated by the FTC to help companies
    promote content via, 'word of mouth.' Has anyone heard of WOMMA?

    If we look at words or phrases in an out-dated context, we are sure to write statements such as, "It's Not 'Word Of Mouth' If You Have To Pay People To Promote Your Movies"

    Let's look at the basic definition of Word of Mouth, as defined by WOMMA:
    The act of a consumer creating and/or distributing marketing-relevant information to another consumer.

    The first problem with the attack here is that no where in this definition does it say you cannot pay the consumer. Nor, does it say that consumers have never been paid to do so.

    Also, if I walk into a sandwich shop and purchase a sandwich and with the purchase, the clerk says, "Here is a card, if you buy 10 sandwiches and get the card stamped, the 11th is on the house. Here is some cards for your
    friends as well."

    If I hand those to my friends and say, "the sandwiches here are great, you should try them out and if you get 10 sandwiches, the 11th is free." is that not word of mouth? Of course it is!

    It is important to understand exactly what we are attempting to disprove before we alert a large network of people. When we do not understand and still alert large followings, we create ignorance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    T Teshima (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 7:57pm

    Re: Blog Post

    Spoken like a true WB shill. How much are you getting paid to post? After all, getting paid to lie for a company is fine isn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 8:09pm

    Re: Blog Post

    Thank you for admitting that WB's content is so bad that it has to pay people to talk about it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    slander (profile), Jul 28th, 2010 @ 8:38pm

    Re: Blog Post

    Sir, I had a long and detailed response all typed out and ready to post, fully formatted, with a point-by-point detailed analysis of how each of your arguments were so far off the mark that if you were William Tell, your son would not only still have the apple on his head, but he would also never be able to provide you with grandchildren. Angels would have wept at the beauty of my prose, and the Devil himself would have been so overcome he would have renounced his sinful ways.

    But I stayed my mouse-button clicking finger. Not, as you would ordinarily think, because of any fear that my missive would in any way fail to convey the full meaning of my thoughts. Nay, this simple-minded poster had an inspired moment of clarity and grace, the dies was cast, and a torrent of prose unmatched by any that had come before was about to be set free and blind you with its brilliance.

    Rather what gave me pause was, as I was about to submit my response, was the small thought that, from the dark recesses of the back corner of my mind, attracted my notice. Feebly at first, vying for my attention amid the other thoughts that lay dormant and unused, but slowly gaining in strength and animation, until by the time I was ready to post it was jumping wildly about in my head and screaming banshee-like in its need to be heard.

    And what of this thought, that felt itself to have such an importance that it needed to pause my righteous response with its insistence? I turned my attention to it, took it up, and examined it thoroughly, turning it about and viewing it from all angles. I was puzzled by it seeming panic, trying to discover what would cause it such distress.

    Suddenly, I realized. I was about to respond to a marketing flack, one of the foul creatures of darkness whose sole purpose in its miserable, loathsome existence was to pervert the beautiful language I so cherish into something twisted and profane.

    Ye gods, how could I have succumbed to this? I was ashamed. My flowery prose and concise debate were about to be wasted on something that shuns normal human relations, and would rather skulk in the darkness, over coming its hapless victims with it subtle lies and deceit.

    Quickly, I jumped to my keyboard and deleted my previous diatribe, weeping softly as I erased its delicate beauty. I attempted to console myself with the fact that it would would have been wasted on such a beast. It helped somewhat.

    I decided that a more appropriate response to your post would be to point out all of the shortcomings of your screed in one simple, short statement: You sir, are an idiot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    IronM@sk, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 8:47pm

    Also, if I walk into a sandwich shop and purchase a sandwich and with the purchase, the clerk says, "Here is a card, if you buy 10 sandwiches and get the card stamped, the 11th is on the house. Here is some cards for your friends as well."

    If I hand those to my friends and say, "the sandwiches here are great, you should try them out and if you get 10 sandwiches, the 11th is free." is that not word of mouth? Of course it is!

    Didn't really do much towards proving your point there chum. The sandwich bar isn't paying you to recommend them to your friends. It's your choice to give them out. You get nothing extra from the sandwich bar whether you hand them out or not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 8:56pm

    Re: Blog Post

    I don't know, I think if a sandwich shop told me "here is some cards," I would try to find a better sandwich shop.

    Then again...you forgot to mention the part where the sandwich shop pays you to go write how great their terrible sandwiches were on your blog.

    Perhaps you omitted that portion because you didn't want to distract from WB paying people to write how great their terrible TV shows are? After all, the "best part" is getting paid, right!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    tuna, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 3:19am

    Re: Blog Post

    No, the problem is if they pay you $10.00 to hand out ten cards and the sandwich sucks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Jul 29th, 2010 @ 4:30am

    Re: Response

    "All of the work done by the WB Word Team is also fully disclosed and transparent and team members chose which projects they want to promote based on their individual likes and opinions of each specific project."

    The issue is not whether 'team members' know what is going on, it is whether you require those members to disclose what is going on in their blog/twitter/facebook posts.

    "We are dismayed that you wouldn't call first and check your facts before writing this inaccurate story."

    You have identified one inaccuracy, that of referring to films rather than TV programs. Even that was a reasonable assumption considering the information provided to Mike only stated 'content/products' and WB is primarily recognised as a film company. He should be dismayed that you wouldn't call first and check your facts before writing this inaccurate comment.

    Besides all that, you completely missed the point which was that if you have to pay directly for word of mouth then you are doing it wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Jul 29th, 2010 @ 4:37am

    Re: Blog Post

    "Let's look at the basic definition of Word of Mouth, as defined by WOMMA:"

    Let's not look at the definition of the phrase as given by an organisation with 'marketing' in the name, please.

    The point of the article is that word of mouth is supposed to be a way to get FREE marketing. You may design your product or provide services to promote word of mouth, but if you're paying for the actual word of mouth then you're missing the point. Word of mouth is a good thing because it scales and because people listen to each other. It doesn't scale if you're paying for it directly and people don't tend to listen if (as required by law) you disclose what you are doing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    vivaelamor (profile), Jul 29th, 2010 @ 7:56am

    Re: Spam

    "If I got an email like that I would assume it was phishing or spam. It reads like it was written by someone who has a limited grasp of english. Maybe Warner Bros. is looking for better writers."

    The grammar is pretty poor. What's with the first exclamation mark? What's with using an Oxford comma for one list but not for the next? Why do they refer to Bloggers in the third person and then say 'your'? Not the kind of thing you'd expect from a professional marketing department.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    WB Word, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Response

    A point of clarification about the relationship that WB Word has with WOMMA. The use of the word "accredited" is meant to represent that WB Word is a member of WOMMA and has/will continue to be compliant with the WOMMA ethics code as well as abides by the FTC guidelines. We educate our members regularly about the 'word of mouth disclosure guidelines' and any updates that are made to these laws.

    The fact that these guidelines exist today speaks to how "word of mouth' has evolved to a form of marketing practice. This is largely due to how social media has impacted how consumers and users speak about brands and products - there is indeed an organic endorsement of these products and brands; but there is also a marketing function that targets those to have a high propensity to favor these brands so that they too can sample them and then discuss their likes and dislikes.

    As stated earlier, WB Word is a team of people that have volunteered to create awareness based on their passion for entertainment brands/products, it is completely transparent and compliant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Roger Ebert, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 8:38pm

    Re: Blog Post

    "It is important to understand exactly what we are attempting to disprove before we alert a large network of people. When we do not understand and still alert large followings, we create ignorance."


    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!

    Large Networks Alerted, IDIOT!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Reality, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 8:40pm

    Re: Response

    LOL

    Just keep digging the hole deeper!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2010 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re: Response

    So because there is an organization built around paying people to shill (oh, like you) for products that are so terrible that their creators cannot rely upon people to talk about them without a bribe, "word of mouth" magically changes meaning to "bribery?"

    Inspiring argument.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Udrescu Sergiu, Dec 25th, 2012 @ 4:59am

    a ideea for a great movie :)

    why don;t u make a movie after the Diablo 2 game????
    il bet will be an awsome movie

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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