Nostalgiabusters: Why the Ghostbusters Teaser Adds Nothing of Value To Its Marketing Campaign

It’s not often that you get your heart broken on Valentine’s Day. When it does happen, it’s something that you tend to never forget.

So why would Sony and Columbia Pictures risk disappointing their fanbase by releasing a teaser for a highly nostalgic film property on Valentine’s Day?

Now, I won’t delve into the strengths and weaknesses of this nostalgic property and how the studio might have ruined the Ghostbusters brand with this remake. I’ll save that in-depth case study once we get closer to the film’s opening weekend in July.

Today, we’re going to focus on the merits of this teaser for the official trailer.

(Yes, apparently brief teasers announcing the release date of the official movie trailer is now a regular thing.)

So what makes this teaser so bad?

First of all, note the lack of any nostalgic elements from the original Ghostbusters movie. No Ecto-One siren blaring off-screen, no ghosts, no imagery that actually connects it to the Ghostbusters universe. Considering that

Considering that this is the first live-action glimpse of the movie that they’ve shown the public, this is the biggest wasted opportunity from the producers and studio so far. They could have dispelled a lot of online resentment with one or two lines of dialogue, or by giving us a tease of the voices of the new Ghostbusting team. 

Ghostbusters Teaser - Tag Line

Instead, we’re left with what looks like B-roll Transformers military footage editing together and rubber stamped with the Ghostbusters logo at the end.

You could have replaced the teasers tagline of ‘Who You Gonna Call?’ with ‘Dingo’s’ Ate Our Babies?’ and it would not have changed the tone or narrative of the trailer one iota. There would still be soldiers and police driving about, raising guns at some off-screen menace that could be anything from aliens to supervillains to groundhogs.

This could honestly be a sequel to Groundhog Day where Bill Murray leads an army of groundhogs to destroy the Earth.

There was absolutely nothing that teased this was a remake of the Ghostbusters universe – and that continues to scare any fan of the original film. Not showing real footage of your films main actors has always been a sign of a terrible movie.

So why release this teaser on Valentine’s Day?

Probably so fans of the original will know what it’s like to really have their heart broken when they see their childhood continues to get stomped on by a bad marketing campaign. We deserved a look at our new Ghostbusters but now we have to wait until March 3rd.  

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Until then, check out this trailer for the Lego Dimensions Ghostbusters game based on the original movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Pixel’ated

Feeling ‘Pixel’ated?, I have.

From the tweets and private messages that have been sent my way throughout the week, I’ve been wracked by 8-bit nostalgia and trying to make one of life’s important choices: Do I really want to purchase an Atari Flashback 5 or ColecoVision Flashback? Or, do I just try and find another power adapter for my old Atari 2600 and try to resurrect that portion of my 8-bit youth for a little bit of retro fun?

AtariFlashback5

Of course, naturally, this is also the week that Pixels comes to theatres and I’ve been dazzled by constant reminders of my 8-bit childhood heroes.  Based on a PIXELS: a short film by Patrick Jean, this is a film trying to capitalize on that same Gen-X feeling of nostalgia I remember when I escaped the watchful eye of my parents and snuck away to the arcade hiding in the back hallway at the mall we would buy groceries at.

Picture and caption from Dorkly. Original caption by Stephanie Merry, Washington Post.

Picture and caption from Dorkly. Original caption by Stephanie Merry, Washington Post.

That’s the power of using these iconic properties in such a visual experience.  As a short trailer, it captivates you with the fun memories of your youth, selling that nostalgia to buy your tickets early and take your kids out for some retro feels.

Then the longer trailers hit the internet and you start to be overwhelmed by the posters and traditional media commercials and ads.  You’re okay until Adam Sandler opens his mouth and his dialogue hits your ears.  Suddenly you realize why Q*bert seems to constantly pee himself in fear during every single scene he appears in the film.

The critics had even harsher words.

But that does not mean the movie will go Kaboom! at the box office.  There is enough of an audience out there that didn’t grow up with these characters to fill theatre seats.  It will make around $28-million in its opening weekend and will probably cover its production costs when the foreign markets pick it up and the comedy gets lost in translation; leaving only the visuals behind.

So, as a nostalgic property, where does this movie go wrong?

The obvious answer is that they ignore and break what I see as one of the essential rules for using a nostalgic property:

 You must have love and respect for the nostalgic source material you are using.

It is like writing for children – You have to have no malice in your heart when you do it because even the slightest traces of it will show through in the final product.  By changing the nostalgic source material to become the butt end of an Adam Sandler joke, or so your movie can access the Chinese market, it takes away from the final product and subconsciously your inner nostalgic child knows something is horribly wrong.

Now, am I just being judgemental on this?

Well yes and no.  While I’ll admit to having a slight bias against Adam Sandler, mostly for making nothing but terrible movies and calling in his schtick performances post-Punch-Drunk Love, I blame the studio and Chris Columbus for putting him in that position of power to impact the film to the degree that he does.

So let’s counter this with an example from the other side of the digital coin.  Let’s look at a film that uses these same 8-bit nostalgic properties successfully: Walt Disney’s 2012 animated film Wreck-It Ralph.

They embraced the nature of Q*Bert, as a person (okay, 8-bit orange creature).  It wasn’t just his character that shone through.  This example of using the heart and soul of the nostalgic character shines through in that film in the Bad-Anon meeting scene where Ralph goes to talk about being a bad guy.  Each character in that scene is a nostalgic reminder for the multi-generational audience watching the film, bringing them further into the film and seeing Ralph as part of that same nostalgic universe.  Their personalities are used to create that atmosphere of belonging.  And it’s funny, enjoyable and works.

In Pixels, they come off as constructs more than characters.  While you will feel for Q*Bert and the dancing Smurf they seem to kill for no reason, you will quickly realize that he’s only there for comic relief, bowel releasing and to fix glaring plot holes in the script.  So you end up feeling sorry that he’s a part of the film.  Just like you do when you spot a favourite 80’s icon forced to do Viagra commercials, open a local electronics store or sell insurance.

That, in my opinion, is the largest flaw in this movie and why it doesn’t work as a good example of proper nostalgia marketing.  While it looks good on ads, posters and merchandise.  In the film they seem to want to focus more on Adam Sandler’s angry character, and ego, and not enough in humanizing the villainous 8-bit creations.

At the centre, there’s no heart, only broken pixels.

Instead, drag out your old Atari, blow the dust off that old cartridge and enjoy some classic 8-bit games with heart.  Or, you can try out this flash-based Q*Bert game instead.

If you’ve seen the movie, chime in below and tell me how it made you feel; or what you would have changed to make it better.   Or, give me your advice on whether I should get the Atari Flashback 5 or dredge out my old 2600?

Until next time, Stay Retro.

Google’s Answer to Game of Thrones

The leaves have fallen from the trees and winter is on the way and here I sit at my computer with chills running down my spine.  Not from the cold but from the possibilities that one of Google’s latest announcements could have on the field of marketing and public relations.

Endgame: The Calling is a series of sci-fi novels being written by author James Frey and a project that he has challenged Google’s off-shoot company, Niantic Labs to help turn into a marketing juggernaut.  Their goal is to turn this story about 12 teenagers that compete from around the globe in a high-stakes competition; into the starting point for something amazing.  John Hanke, the head of Niantic Labs, goes on to explain:

Frey’s vision was to do this as a book and game and a movie all together, and to use social media as a way to extend the universe and make it a place where people could really live within the game universe.  He had this whole thing conceived of as a never-before-done experience across all these media.

4-PortalKey-225x400Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 6.22.49 PMTo understand how they could accomplish this we have to look back a few years to Niantic Labs last project, Ingress.  Ingress was created as a real world battle between factions to control portals in cities across the globe.  People chose their faction, met their new community and worked together to go out into the real world to participate in a giant global game unlike any other before it.

So imagine this global game structure used for other marketing campaigns.  Suddenly, CNN could have a real-life political map where voters showed their political pride in real-time during election campaigns; or if this were indeed Game of Thrones, each viewer could participate and claim global territory in the name of the Starks, the Lannisters or even in the name of Hodor himself.

Now we up the ante and take that to the next level.  This is where Endgame comes in, incorporating a physical product (the series of novels or their Lost-inspired website) into the mix.  Suddenly, your participation in the real world event takes on a whole new meaning.  You could influence the future of the stories themselves.  A few flash mobs of support and through community participation an army rises up to support someone the author never intended to be popular and change the lore of the brands universe and story.

Popularity wins and now Hodor takes his place on the Iron Throne in a live performance streamed across the game in real-time; only to have another faction assemble en-masse to try to ruin the event with a  spur of the moment community planned and funded Red Wedding event.  Reality and fiction finally blend together with paid and organic promotional marketing.

And behind the scenes the marketing team watches it all in real time.  They can visually see the communities within their brand, how those communities have formed over time and where they’ll be in the near future.  They can tailor the brands message, create new products that cater to the popular communities and their victories while adjusting future campaigns and plans in real-time.

This is what Endgame and Google hope to accomplish; with movies, novellas and the trilogy of books all working together to give its players competitions for cash prizes of real gold.  A game that could connect billions of potential players with their high-tech devices, allowing them to shape the global game.

So can you see the possibilities that it can be used for in the field of marketing?  I can.  Who needs to wait for Khaleesi’s dragons when you have the strength of Hodor’s community that can band together and take the Iron Throne before she crosses the ocean.  Let your voice be heard and comment below on how you’d use this technology!

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