I’m so gonna illegally download your movie Sarah Marshall
I must confess, I was a little amused when I spotted a subway poster that read, “You do look fat in those jeans Sarah Marshall.” My head did turn when I saw another declaring, “My mom always hated you Sarah Marshall” further down the platform. I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that I logged on to ihatesarahmarshall.com as soon as I arrived at work even though much of my curiosity was diminished when I noticed the MPAA rating. It was that moment I realized I was tricked! These scribblings weren’t some poor sucker’s way of dealing with a bad breakup, a cheating girlfriend, an itchy STD, or all of the above. Nope, they were the latest addition of viral campaigns sweeping the marketing industry.
Even though the Forgetting Sarah Marshall campaign is generating a lot of buzz from ad execs and audiences alike, it misses the mark on many levels. The website/blog for example, provides way too much information and makes me long for a case of magnesiaamnesia. You don’t have to be the swiftest deer in the forest to figure the film’s premise or predict which way its humor will blow. Also, compared to the simple billboards, the site comes across as overdone. The potential interactivity of the site is negated by how visitors are bombarded with youtube clips and unable to leave comments.
Overall, my biggest complaint about the campaign is its tranparency. It had so much potential to hook audiences and create genuine curiosity and word-of-mouth. Seeing these ads, I can’t help but think about the 2006 Cartoon Network billboards featuring phrases such as, “I pooted” or “My boogers itch.” There was no hint of a URL to a gaudy website on these ads. Instead, they were shrouded in mystery and required observers to Google the terms or wait a couple of weeks before characters and the CN logo were revealed. There’s a lot to be said for discovery; it gives people a sense of knowledge and accomplishment that spoon-fed information fails to provide. While web content and an online presence is quickly becoming a part of many marketing strategies, it’s important to prevent all the bells and whistles and streaming video from becoming too much too soon. By its very nature, the Internet is already an interactive and viral medium, so perhaps the most captivating and memorable experiences are the ones people participate in creating themselves.