2 February 2008

There Will Be Dead Trees: It Must Be Oscar Time

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Semi-Pro Tree Hugger

Only Hollywood could make waste this beautiful.

There will be befuddlement.

There will be befuddlement.

From the industry that gave us the likes of Paris Hilton comes yet another exquisite example of empty décor… Behold: a glossy oversized 12-page booklet promoting the movie There Will Be Blood. This lustrous piece of eye-candy fell out of my L.A. Times, nearly crushing my toe. How could I resist picking it up and peeking inside? The heavyweight pages flaunted full-spread images from the lusciously shot film, along with quotes from critics, its Academy Award nominations and… nothing else.

I don’t deny that this film is worthy of promotion. I’m thrilled to see Daniel Day Lewis in action, and ecstatic that Hollywood is making a film that isn’t a 90-minute commercial for a video game. But isn’t it just a touch ironic that a film that portrays the origins of the oil industry — along with the greed, corruption and destruction that gushed from it — now gets a promotion that requires leveling a rainforest?

And please don’t tell me that a Hollywood production about oil that comes out during the Bush error doesn’t have a green streak to it. Oil men are Hollywood’s new villains, now that the Commies no longer keep red-blooded Americans quivering awake at night. Watch the brilliant flick Syriana to get the full Left Coast scoop on petrol politics.

Now, as a magazine and book junkie, I embrace published work, as long as it has value. (This, of course, rules out anything written by Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly or OJ Simpson.) And I would have loved a mini-booklet on There Will Be Blood containing bios on the cast and crew, a look at Upton Sinclair’s original novel and the history behind the film, some making-of stories, and other bonus features. We movie buffs that populate L.A. just might’ve kept it, or sent it to another buff.

But this print-job was purely an oversized ad, immediately destined for landfills. (If you think Los Angelenos recycle, you should see the overflowing dumpsters in my liberal West L.A. neighborhood.)

I understand that every studio with a marketing budget likes to turn up the hype and crank out booklets and tchotchkes. I recently heard a public radio report on all the promotional swag that Hollywood sends to the media. Waste is part of the business. It’s lamentable, but it usually only hits a few hundred journalists and other industry players.

This here “Blood” booklet appeared in the Los Angeles Times. We’re talking circulation 800,000 here. That’s 4.8 million heavyweight sheets of paper, 10″ x 21″ each, printed, folded, stapled and shipped. And I didn’t exactly see any post-consumer-recycled-paper-content info on the back. I’m guessing each one cost the studio at least $5 each, plus the money they had to pay the L.A. Times to carry it. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper and more productive just to give all the Times readers a free movie pass?

Meanwhile, the studios say they can’t afford to pay their writers…

Miramax, the studio behind “Blood,” will say the expenditure was worth it ’cause it generates publicity. They can cite this here blog as proof. (Hey, I bring at least three readers to the table.) Now if publicity justifies everything, then I say, c’mon Miramax, don’t be a wuss. Drill for oil in the middle of the White House lawn, or beach an oil tanker at the Bush mansion in Kennebunkport, Maine. Now that’ll get you some publicity — and a lot more fans.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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