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Why Can’t Bad Articles About Twitter Be Limited to 140 Characters?

July 23, 2009

The “Twitter Effect” has made it possible for instantaneous word-of-mouth to make or break the fortunes of Hollywood films, writes Alex Dobuzinskis in a recent Reuters article. Too bad the rest of his (for pronoun purposes, I’m assuming Alex is a man-scribe) article doesn’t say another worthwhile thing.

It’s an interesting premise: moviegoers, especially “plugged-in” youngsters, are capable of offering instant feedback on a movie to their Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Abetted by technology, their opinions rapidly spread through social networks and can enhance or destroy a film’s box-office prospects, even before the debut weekend has ended. A strong first Friday no longer shields a film from having a lackluster first Saturday.

For several reasons, the article fails to persuade me. First, hasn’t this always been possible? Eighty years ago, couldn’t Eunice call up her best gal pal Martha (phone number: 12) to tell her the new William Powell – Myrna Loy picture didn’t have enough hand-holding to save it from Dullsville? Synchronous communication devices have been around longer than movies themselves—Alex Dobuzinskis’ great-grandmother could have written an (equally inane) article about the “Phoner Effect” on would-be silent film blockbusters.

Second, the article cites Bruno as an example of a film that suffered a rapid drop in box-office returns from Night 1 to Night 2. It even has the sub-heading “Bruno Gets Twittered,” which is funny because “Twittered” sounds like it could be a euphemism for gay sex. Get it? OK, good.

There is, however, a more plausible explanation for the pattern in Bruno ticket sales, which the article itself cites prominently (why is poor Alex unmaking his own arguments?). Sacha Baron Cohen has a core group of devoted fans, most of whom probably went to see his new film on opening night. More general audiences were less enthusiastic, so fewer tickets were sold on subsequent nights. It’s highly likely that Bruno didn’t get Twittered after all, so somebody will have to coin another vaguely suggestive verb to describe the phenomenon as it really was.

Third, though the article convinces me of the opposite view, let’s assume there is a Twitter Effect. So what? Dobuzinskis writes that the phenomenon “is forcing major studios to revamp marketing campaigns,” but he never tells us what said studios are actually doing. Does this mean that in the future we’ll be bombarded with “Don’t Believe Your Friends, Love Guru 2 Doesn’t Suck” commercials? Tell me, Alex Dobuzinskis, tell me! I need to know what else I should ignore about the next Michael Bay movie.

And finally, if there is a Twitter Effect, isn’t the real answer better movies, not better marketing? Of course, I know I’m not the target demo. Marketing obviously works—how the hell else is that movie with all the robots a hit? You know the one I’m talking about, right? It’s called The Proposal.

Speaking strictly for myself, ramped-up marketing with more bathroom cleaning product tie-ins and even jazzier ad slogans won’t make me shell out for the next Vin Diesel movie.

That said, some “Vin Diesel is Crappy” marketing synergy might convince me to buy the name-brand toilet bowl cleaner. Lysol, take heed.

One Comment
  1. Jeff permalink
    July 23, 2009 8:01 pm

    You pose a profound question I cannot honestly answer as to why bad articles about twitter cannot be limited to 140 characters. This is something I will ponder for a long while and get back with you if I come up with an answer.

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