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“The Avengers and Marketing-Overwhelm Syndrome” …or “How I Decided to Dump My In-Box All Over This Blog”
It’s a good thing that so many of us like The Avengers. And by “us” I mean film and entertainment journalists, superhero and Marvel fans, and geeks in general.
That’s because the extremely loooooong and relentless marketing campaign risked leaving a bad taste in our mouths if there hadn’t been a refreshing movie waiting for us at the end to wash it away. Sure, The Avengers is not the first, and won’t be the last, blockbuster (or wannabe) to court fandom fatigue before it even opened—Ridley Scott’s Prometheus passed this point a while ago. “Please, Lord,” you can practically hear the blogosphere crying, “not one more clip or mysterious image!”
But other than such comments, or the analyses of industry watchers, one isn’t likely to hear much about the marketing campaign of The Avengers, or specifically its publicity efforts… at least not in media literacy quarters.
So I decided, just for fun at first, to compile a list of all the subject lines of Disney’s press e-blasts about The Avengers that are still in my in-box. I say “still” because I’m afraid I may have deleted some of the older ones—a minor mistake that might reveal a more significant truth: the way we treat such texts as just more pop culture ephemera instead of primary sources for understanding marketing and promotional strategy. If you agree, then after taking a look at the list below feel free to copy and distribute it, using it as needed as a media literacy teaching tool (some critical thinking questions follow at the end of the post). And if you’d like copies of any of the individual emails, just give me a shout.
Oh, and in case you were wondering how it all works (fans don’t usually see this backstage stuff): journos get a steady stream of these announcements and “assets” (files, images, and clips) from studio publicists. And when we report on or post them, suddenly a movie’s marketing and advertising efforts benefit from thousands of temporary freelancers. As an example of the email texts involved, the first one whose subject line is listed reads, “Two newly released images for MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS are now available. Feel free to share with your readers.” That’s pretty much it. The images are attached to the email, and some additional text tells me where I can get more. I’m reminded of the release date (that’s in every blast), and then there’s some boilerplate about the movie in the event I don’t know what The Avengers is or have never heard of Marvel. By the way, I’ve also provided some of the email texts here and there throughout the list…
Oct 4 2011: MARVEL STUDIOS TO PRESENT EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS AT NEW YORK COMIC CON
Oct 5: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS New Images Available
Oct 11: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS TRAILER
Oct 12: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS — Trailer Now Available!
“The newly released trailer for MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS is now available for posting. Feel free to share with your readers!”
Feb 2 2012: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Global Twitter Fan Chat Transcript.
“Attached please find a transcript from MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS Global Twitter Fan Chat. Images also included. Feel free to share with your readers.” [This one is kind of cool—it’s a Word doc, and if you’re interested, I can send it to you.]
Feb 6: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Extended Super Bowl Spot Now Available
Feb 21: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – 2 New Images!
Feb 28: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – NEW ONE SHEET AVAILABLE [that’s a poster, if you didn’t know]
Feb 29: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS NEW TRAILER
Mar 2: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Trailer Now Available for Posting
Mar 2: “Marvel’s The Avengers” Trailer Sets New Record With Over 13.7 Million Views in First 24 Hours on iTunes
Mar 13: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Character Banners Now Available
Mar 16: “MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS” WORLD PREMIERE HEADED FOR HOLLYWOOD ON APRIL 11TH, 2012
Mar 27: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Behind the Scenes Images Now Available!
Apr 2: “MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS” FANS ASSEMBLE WORLDWIDE!
Apr 3: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – New TV Spots Now Available
Apr 9: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS WORLD PREMIERE TO STREAM LIVE FROM HOLLYWOOD ON MARVEL.COM
Apr 12: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS World Premiere Photos
Apr 16: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Global Fan Event
“Marvel Studios rewarded its fans on Facebook for their continued support of the film’s campaign with advance screenings in cities around the world this past Saturday, April 14th. In the U.S. fans experienced the film in stunning IMAX® 3D.
This unprecedented screening event enabled Facebook fans of “Marvel’s The Avengers” in cities that have assembled the most fans on Facebook to win the first access to screenings of the film, weeks before the May 4th release in theatres. This event kicked off on April 14th at 10 AM PDT with the top five cities in the U.S. with the most fans on Facebook: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston and Miami.”
Apr 17: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – New Clips & Featurettes Now Available
Apr 18: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Moscow Premiere Photos Now Available!
Apr 18: MONDO ASSEMBLES MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS [“boutique” posters go public]
Apr 23: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – UK & Rome Premiere Photos Now Available!
Apr 24: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Berlin & Beijing Premiere Photos Now Available!
Apr 25: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Seoul Fan Event Photos Now Available!
May 2: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – Scarlett Johansson Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony Photos Now Available!
May 3: MUSIC VIDEO FOR SOUNDGARDEN’S “LIVE TO RISE” TRACK FROM “MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS” WORLD PREMIERES
May 3: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS GALLERY1988 OPENING PHOTOS NOW AVAILABLE!!
May 4: How to Throw a Superhero Party Worthy of THE AVENGERS! [this from last Friday, when the film opened in theaters]
May 6: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS DOMESTIC DEBUT SETS ALL-TIME INDUSTRY RECORD AT $200.3 MILLION; FILM GROSSES $641.8 MILLION GLOBALLY!
All right, so that’s it for now… I’m sure that if I look at my in-box again over the next few days that will change.
That said, I’d much rather get such emails than not despite the danger of PR overload. Indeed, I have nothing but respect for Disney’s publicity team, which has always treated me in a classy and respectful way and has consistently given me access to the films and materials that I need to do my job. (Warner Brothers… now that’s a separate story.) And it’s not just me, obviously — how else would content holders provide “fan service” on a vast scale if they didn’t use “the media” as a conduit in some way? The trick is to be very clear-headed about all the alignments and motivations regarding all the parties involved, which is something young fans may not think very much about. With that in mind, here are some questions tied to the above list.
- Many people use the terms “marketing” and “publicity” (or “PR”) interchangeably, but how does the list help distinguish them? In what ways do “marketing events” or advertising pieces become fodder for publicity… which then feed back into marketing efforts?
- Why are journalists positioned as “sharing” assets and news with readers? And how might this in turn position readers?
- In what ways can publicists and journalists get more mileage out of what is essentially the same development? (Sample answer: a trailer is unveiled — but at first it’s only on iTunes; later it becomes available for any news site or blogger to post, which becomes the topic for a separate press release.)
- How does the mixing of actual “hard” news (Scarlett Johansson gets a star in Hollywood; the movie’s grosses) with more purely promotional items serve to blur the line between the two? And what are some possible outcomes from that blurring?
- What are all the different types of media alluded to… and why might it be wise for publicists and marketers to vary them (text-only, static images such as photos and posters, moving images such as clips and trailers, etc.)?
- How does such a publicity campaign reflect the twin objectives of both serving fandom and leveraging it for commercial ends? Are fans aware of their role in this system? For example, do you think the fans who chatted on Twitter knew that their thread would eventually be disseminated to journalists?
- How does using the full title of “Marvel’s The Avengers” create a branding effect over time?
- In what ways do the subject lines or email texts employ a band-wagon-y tone that persuades recipients to join in on the fun?
Anything I’m leaving out? And do you find this kind of “sharing” on my part helpful? Let me know, please — either here or on Twitter (@Peter_Gutierrez). Thanks!
About Peter Gutierrez
A former middle school teacher, Peter Gutierrez has spent the past 20 years developing curriculum as well as working in, and writing about, various branches of pop culture. You can sample way too many of his thoughts about media and media literacy via Twitter: @Peter_Gutierrez
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