TOY STORY 3 opens today in the UK.
Yes, that’s right. On a Monday.
Used to be that movies opened on Fridays. That was before the studios figured out that if they ran nationwide paid previews on a Thursday, maybe even Wednesday, they could game their first week figures and get their movie the best possible start in life. Now it appears even Monday and Tuesday are fair game when it come to achieving that all-important, record-breaking, box-office-shaking opening ‘weekend’.
Bottom line is that it’s more important than ever for big movies to open big, and that films are more than ever finding themselves made or broken by the web, specifically the real-time web, more specifically Twitter, Facebook and various other social networks built around high-frequency refresh rates and status updates.
With that in mind, it definitely made a lot of sense for Disney to get on board with Twitter and bring us the world’s first ‘promoted topic’ (see right, grab care of Techcrunch).
Coming hot on the heels of ‘promoted tweets’, this saw Toy Story 3 listed at the bottom of Twitter’s trending topics – a list of the ten words and phrases being used most often at any given time.
This feels like a win-win for Disney – as the first ever promoted trend they were able to capitalise on all the additional attention being given to Twitter’s second experimental foray into paid-for placement, as well as netting all those eyeballs drawn instinctively to an unfamiliar new smudge of yellow nestled below the ubiquitous top ten.
Since the debut of promoted trends it seems to have been all film releases occupying this spot – four or five different ones to date. At one level it’s no surprise that studios are falling over themselves to ‘trend’ on Twitter. Only recently two researchers at HP Labs hailed Twitter the most accurate available method for predicting a movie’s overall success.
If, as they say, Twitter mentions equate directly to box office return, trending topics are money in the bank – they show evidence of widespread existing awareness and word-of-mouth, and have the capacity to amplify it into a self-fulfilling prophesy of free publicity and bums on seats. Provided, of course, it’s good publicity.
Except that what Twitter are offering with ‘promoted trends’ is something completely different – it’s an opportunity to line up alongside whatever’s genuinely capturing their users’ imagination at any given time, and to hope a little bit of that topicality and ‘talkability’ rubs off. They’re trying to build that same self-fulfilling prophesy out of nothing more than media spend. And I’m not sure you can do that. I’m not sure it’s even all that good an idea to try.
Because what does it actually say to me-the-movie-goer if your movie is sat at the bottom of that list as a promoted topic, and there at the top another movie, a competitor title even, is trending organically, on its own steam, completely unassisted?
It says something bad. It says your movie needs help, that maybe it isn’t popular or interesting or important enough to be worth tweeting about in its own right. It says you can’t cut it on the level playing field of perr-to-peer referral and recommendation, and have had to resort to trying to buy back your advantage.
Even when you put aside the potential presence of a competing film release, it’s still worth thinking about the wider company a promoted trend will likely end up keeping.
These days trending topics seems to be comprised of a who’s who of the UK’s least-wanted, and a what’s that of puerile and incoherent memes and hashtags.
At the time of writing the number one spot is being held by ‘Scrotal Implosion’ (see right), with TV’s ‘Jeremy Kyle’ also trending, the daytime king of polygraphs and disputed paternity having become pretty much a permanent fixture. This is with Geordie nut-job Raoul Moat only recently departed, after a solid stint rubbing shoulders with Gazza, Take That and the current board of British Petroleum.
Of course ‘Inception’ (down there in 8th) doesn’t suffer by association. But that’s because it hasn’t paid to be there in the first place. It’s a legitimate part of the story of Monday July 19th 2010, which is all trending topics really is, told through a prism of pithy humour and narcissistic self-infatuation.
If it proves compelling that’s because it gives us a live, unadulterated snapshot of what’s currently occupying the hive mind, be it the question of who’s leading the Tour de France, or that of why flying ants are terrorising Wandsworth.
It’s a torrent of something somewhere between breaking news and absolute nonsense, washing along all the flotsam and jetsam of bots and blaggers thrown from their boards as wave after wave of transient topicality crashes against the shores of actual relevance.
It might have the air of a total clusterfuck, but it’s stuff that genuinely matters, to somebody or other. And spending money pretending to matter is never going to be a good look. Especially if you don’t even really need to.
(Yup, you’re right, this isn’t the official Toy Story 3 trailer. You can find that here.)