The movie business is hooked on the quotes game. Look no further than the Arts section of your daily newspaper, Rotten Tomatoes or TV. It’s the # 1 strategy used to persuade us to see a new film.
The quotes game has a definite stratification system.
The “best” movies attract the strongest testimonials. For example, the ad for critics fave “No country for old men,” is chock full of quotes from A-List film savants like Peter Travers at Rolling Stone and Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun Times. “American Gangster,” one of the few money makers of Fall 07, showcases quotes from Rolling Stone, Ebert & Roeper, The Los Angeles Times and Associated Press.
The second tier movies (per critics) start relying on B-List media sources. “Beowulf,” for example, has to rely on the Salem Radio Network. Fred Claus trumpets how it’s “One of the FUNNIEST COMEDIES OF THE YEAR,” but the source – WDAF-Fox TV - is cited. They also needed The New York Sun. Similarly, “Badland” needed Wolf Entertainment Guide to make their case. Not exactly Elle or Vogue.
Ads for third tier movies crack me up. They play the quotes game but don’t have the ammunition.
When positive media reviews are hard to come by, some media still steps up to the plate. “The Mist,” for example, relies on Wireless Magazine for its one and only quote, calling it “The Scariest movie of the year!” Sometimes the type size is so diminutive you can’t read the source without a magnifying glass. One ad I saw for “August Rush” was like that. “Awake” also features one quote in its ad, and it’s from Wireless Magazine. I’ve never read Wireless Magazine, but I’ve noticed how it’s frequently a refuge for movies orphaned by film critics.
Occasionally, a new movie ad doesn’t play the quotes game at all. “Hitman” is a current example. I’m so programmed to seeing quotes, I’m usually skeptical. I figure it’s so bad even Wireless won’t play ball.
We play the quotes game in the PR and technology industry too. But it’s a little different because there are two levels: customers and the press. Unlike the movie industry where critics watch movies and then share their opinions, the technology industry has to first tee-up customers before (hopefully) getting positive media quotes. Reporters validate story truthfulness and newsworthiness by speaking with satisfied customers - actually using the heralded product. Customers can buy and use whatever product they want, so there’s an implicit truthfulness. It’s a much needed checks-and-balance in news gathering.
If you don’t have any customers (and sometimes industry analysts) to validate your story, then you may not have a story, period. Conversely, if you can deliver excellent customer references, you may just end up with a phenomenal bit of press coverage or a prolific blog conversation.
Another difference we see is that sometimes the best stories don’t elicit the strongest quotes – or any quotes at all. Customers unwilling to publicly validate a product, concept, vision or company may cite a litany of reasons for not getting involved, including proprietary information, competitive advantage, company policies, etc. It’s a real stretch for reporters to make this leap.
The movie industry’s tiered quotes structure exists in tech. The A-List customer validators in our industry are the marquee consumer companies (think Best Buy, Disney, Neiman Marcus, Starbucks, etc.) and premier B2B players (think American Express, GE, Bank of America, Boeing, etc.). We all know the A-List offline media, but some online media – like Salon and Slate are at this level.
B-List customers are the bread-and-butter of our business. Most of these companies aren’t as well known but they’re solid players willing to go public with their story. The B-Listers on the media side can include substantive trade and vertical pubs as well as online properties like CNet and Slashdot.
The C-List validators get you by, but they aren’t as persuasive. On the customer side of the quotes game, technology companies sometimes fall in this category. Even the biggest names may not cut it because many reporters shy away from tech companies endorsing tech products. I guess they figure it’s too incestuous or something, with one hand feeding the other. C-List customers also include companies few – if any - have heard of; they may be great, but their zero star power diminishes persuasion.
Who do you think is the tech industry’s Wireless Magazine?