Failure to Launch (Correctly)

Posted on April 4, 2007. Filed under: ABC, advertising, American Express, blog, Boston, broadcast, Chia Pet, consumer marketing, Kate Beckinsale, Lost, Michael Durwin, movie promotion, movie trailer, new media, OnDemand, Sony Pictures, tv ad, Vacancy, viral marketing, YouTube |

Vacancy Poster

I just saw a preview for the new movie Vacancy. Kate Beckinsale is in it so of course I’ll see it, when it comes to OnDemand. The trailer was interesting enough, mostly because Kate Beckinsale was in it, but I was most intrigued by a bit of text at the end of the trailer under the In Theaters…
The text gave a number: 1-888-VACANCY. So of course, being the marketing/tech geek that I am, I ran to my phone to give the number a call. 1-888-982-2262(9) for those who can’t stand dialing by letter. The extra 9 is moot, but necessary to spell the title. First, the number flashed so fast that I thought it said 1-800.. I got the Alliance Data Help Desk. Obviously the wrong place. I rewound my DVR and saw that it was 1-888. I called. Nothing. I just got a ring then a disconnect. I tried several times with the same result.
I did try again the next night (just a few minutes ago) and finally got through. There is a very creepy message with a few options; 0 for operator, 1 to hear specials and 2 to make reservations. The operator was a bad voice mail, 1 talked about slashing prices and 2 asked me to leave a number and hit pound for them to get back to me.
So first things first. When you run a commercial with a phone number attached for more information, make sure the number works and the system can handle the estimated amount of calls you expect. Even the people who sell Chia Pet know that. Next, make it worth my while! If I, as a consumer, are willing to make the effort and take on the expense of chewing up my minutes to interact with your marketing, make sure I’m going to get something out of it. A chance to have dinner with Kate Beckinsale would be a nice start, but even a chance to sign up for advanced screenings or unlock special features on the web site.
This promotion reminds me of the one American Express ran with Lost. They gave a special URL to a landing page with esupposedly exclusive content. Wrong! To begin with, once you hit the site it said nothing would be available until the next day. Great way to lose 75% of your audience. Then, when the content was available, it wasn’t exclusive, at least not to the show. It was merely clips from that episode. You could get that on ABC.com any time you wanted, or YouTube for that matter.
In all I think it’s great that companies are trying to take advantage of new media and new strategies online. But, when they do run a promotion like this, the only way it is going to be effective is if something engaging is going to be offered and for promotions like this that have the potential to reach millions, make sure it works!
Oh yeah, make sure it includes Kate Beckinsale!

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[…] tried calling the phone number that appears at the end of the Vacancy trailer and had a number of problems. He reminds marketers […]


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