Movies Bet on PR (or publicity)

The NYT reports out about the increased use of PR by Hollywood to flog movies and TV shows, esp. as the reach of traditional advertising declines. I’m always glad to see increased use of PR, especially when it reinforces the overall value compared to cost. And far be it from me to play down the power of PR, but I have to say the article over-reached in one or two areas.


Paramount Pictures did not buy a single billboard to promote “Paranormal Activity,” its recent horror film. The studio also saved tens of millions of dollars by forgoing a national television campaign. Instead, Paramount depended on its publicity arm to fan interest on blogs and in traditional media. The flack attack worked: the film, made for just $10,000, has sold $104 million in tickets.

Hey, great stuff…but I have to say if the movie had sucked, all the great PR or ads in the world wouldn’t have worked. Remember “Snakes on a Plane?” I thought so….


Disney recently went so far as to develop a computer program to help it determine how much monetary value was coming from such publicity efforts. It can quickly plug in data — “Access Hollywood” had a 30-second interview with a star of “The Middle,” a new ABC comedy — and the program spits out what that same 30 seconds would cost to buy.

Seriously. Ad equivalency is a MISERABLE way to measure PR results. And it boggle the mind that Disney had to create a “computer program” to tell them how much an ad cost.

But some good nuggets as well. For example, PR is leading in social media, and that is recognized – the same skills that are helpful in dealing with “traditional” media work pretty well in online and social media as well. Go PR! Second, the value of creative stunts gets the recognition it deserves…great visuals and fun (and relevant) ways of demonstrating those have always been a staple of great PR, and I think a 48 foot tall ice sculpture of Scrat meets that criteria!

Strangely enough, in the EXACT same issue of the paper, a look at what the banking industry is doing to try and counter the scads of bad press and resentment they’re encountering. Lots of standard stuff, say you’re sorry, give more to charity and so on, but near the end of the piece, the real issue comes out, IMHO:

Show you create real products that benefit people.

The crisis revealed what some people had long suspected: that quite a lot of the whiz-bang financial engineering that Wall Street relied on for profits was worthless.

According to Richard Edelman, a leading New York public relations executive, one of the best things Wall Street could do now is clearly “explain how you make your money and why your business model makes sense for a stakeholder society.”

If they can demonstrate in vivid terms the real role they play in the economy — by helping companies borrow money to grow and create jobs, for example — they might also justify their profits and pay.

Says Travis Larson of Financial Dynamics in Washington: “It is clear how sports stars are judged, and everyone knows how Bill Gates makes his money because you can see the software. Investment banks need a new metric for success.”

As I’ve said before, making profits with no similar creation of value outside of the profit is an issue for the banking industry. Not addressing that in a clear and concise way means that the “PR problem” is really a business problem.

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