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Avatar and Crappy Marketing

[IMG:L] What is 20th century Fox thinking? Have you seen the marketing for Avatar? As one colleague recently ruminated “Fox has never known how to sell a good movie.” Sad but true, they know how to sell the living hell out of bad ones like this summer’s remake of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER titled X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Their tactic is simple, over saturate the market so people cannot possibly miss knowing when the opening weekend is, then cross your fingers and pray the negative buzz doesn’t overwhelm the advertising. But this time around, someone has turned a bunch of monkeys with typewriters loose in the staff room and turning out incredibly terrible ideas like rebranding soda pop as AVTR and running embarrassing, completely nonsensical pieces of footage at highly questionable times.

The worst idea thus far ran during game 4 of the World Series in which a series of scenes from the film were juxtaposed against moments from the previous game with voice over being intercut with lines of dialog from the movie. Even I, one of Avatars most vocal and ardent supporters, got a good, solid whiff of my palm as my face was buried deep into it. Just look for yourself.


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So what are they thinking, chasing off alpha filmgoers (that’s you, people who read about films and often see them on opening day) terrified that this is just another big budget, overhyped, Fox dud?

What if this marketing isn’t for you? I mean, let’s face it, folks like us aren’t going to be driven to watch a film because its name is emblazoned upon a Coke Zero can. And we don’t need to know that it is opening on December 18th. We’ve pretty much got that written down on our calendars – whether mentally or physically. Because odds are you’re going to see it; commercials be damned. I know I will. It’s got the name James Cameron on it. I’d see it if every frame of the trailer made me want to peel my eyelids off.

No, my guess is that they’re afraid that everyone else won’t see it. After all, this is this year’s LORD OF THE RINGS, the season’s HARRY POTTER; its STAR WARS. A lot of money went into this thing, regardless of which estimate you believe. And this film lacks the one thing all of those properties have in common: brand recognition. People know what LORD OF THE RINGS is. They know HARRY POTTER. They don’t know what the heck an AVATAR is supposed to be. They have no idea what to expect. Unless of course Fox rams the ideas down their throat so hard that once it is in theaters people need to run to see it just to find out what all the fuss is about: like they did in droves for HARRY POTTER, THE DARK KNIGHT and TWILIGHT. Once there, the film can speak for itself, and on that front I am acutely aware that they are confident.

Fox, well known for keeping the internet press at an arm’s length, this time is giving them the full court’s press. For years I have been on a banned list from seeing their films at screenings. But now I’m receiving invites for interviews and an invite to an early, press only, no friends screening. Studios only hold “no +1” screenings when they are very, very confident that everyone will want to pay to see it, and that press will pay to see it again with friends and family.

So is the bad advertising indicative of a bad film? I think not. They’re not worried about what the alpha filmgoers think about their advertising. They know your ticket is as good as sold, especially once you hear positive reviews. This is for a different crowd entirely. And since they’re beginning to ask us critics “Will this be any good,” I’m starting to question whether it is really bad advertising at all.

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