There have been a number of stories written in the last few days about Owen Wilson and how the rough times he’s going through personally are affecting the movie’s that are either coming out shortly or had planned to have a role in. I was asked for my thoughts on this issue, specifically as it relates to the marketing of The Darjeeling Limited, for a piece in Newsweek and you can read that story, complete with a quote from me, right here.
The quote that was selected was probably the best one I made in the 20 minutes or so the writer and I chatted. The larger point is that Wilson is very much tied with director Wes Anderson in terms of press coverage and fan perception. The two – along with brother Luke Wilson – have become known as such a team that what happens to one of them has ripple effects on the others. That’s what I mean when I say the removal of Wilson from the publicity mix can impact the “brand identity” of the movie. He and Anderson make up the movie’s brand image and play integral parts in its perpetuation.
I fully acknowledge that it’s a little crass to be talking about such matters when someone is going through something obviously serious. We may not know yet what the real problem is but I hope that Wilson is given the opportunity to heal both his body and his soul in the weeks and months ahead. But the reality of the situation is that he’s got movies that he was/is expected to promote and that’s going to be an issue.
Tom Biro, who welcomed me to the AdJab fold, eventually turned over the reins of that site to me and then even later on brought me on board MWW Group, has announced he’s official left the Weblogs, Inc. payroll. WIN runs sites like TVSquad, Cinematical and, before AOL ditched it, AdJab. Tom has a good (and far more mature than my write-up) perspective on things in his post so go give it a read.
If you’re a Cubs fan like myself than you (hopefully) accepted the fact that all the Tommy John surgeries in the world (not a reference to how many he could have, but actually did have) would not bring Kerry Wood’s arm back to what we all hoped it would be. I don’t even say “what it was” because it wasn’t healthy long enough for us to see what it was. We collectively had this belief until about 2005 that just one more trip into the operating room would bring back the pitcher we saw in 1998 striking out 20 Astros. But now we’ve largely given that up. It’s just easier and, frankly, more realistic.
But the corporate advertising world still seems to be stuck in the “It’ll all work out” phase familiar to Cubs fans, survivors huddled in the basement after nuclear wars and people who think J.J. Abrams has a plan for “Lost.” Advertisers still see a situation wherein a company or retailer faces the challenge of gaining market share or stemming sales declines and think that celebrities are the answer. Macy’s picked Donald Trump and Martha Stewart, meaning they can cash in both their “place” and “show” tickets “The Apprentice” window. Ben McConnell dissects this effort nicely. HP has tapped rocker Gwen Stefani for a new campaign, since she had that big hit “Color Cartridge #22″ and so is known as a printing industry guru. And don’t get me started on The Gap, which launches celebrity-driven campaigns with the same regularity Sisyphus pushes the boulder of the hill, and with about the same effect.
Wouldn’t it be better for companies to spend a fraction of what they are on lining up celebrities – celebrities that will endorse their competitors at the drop of a larger check – on seeing how they can build up their existing customers and empower them to spread their own word-of-mouth? They could create online communities where people talk about the brand, share their own stories and meet other like-minded people. And all this could probably done for a fraction of what Trump asked to utter a couple lines and pose for a handful of pictures.
People want to connect with each other – it’s a natural human instinct. The myth of the celebrity has been almost shattered by tabloids – both print and online – and that has taken much of their endorsement credibility with it.