Ready Player One demonstrates there’s such thing as too much Marketing

Ready Player One has not had a good marketing campaign thus far. To say it’s been rocky might be downplaying it a bit.

Based off the Ernest Cline novel of the same title, Ready Player One is a movie set in the not too distant, dystopian future about a teenage boy who becomes obsessed with solving an elaborate puzzle within the OASIS, a hyper-real virtual reality simulation, where the eventual winner wins a crapload of money.

It’s not a terrible premise, and considering that the book wasn’t exactly the Great Gatsby of its era, it really didn’t have a high benchmark for expectations. Helmed by Steven Spielberg, it could still very well become a great movie, it’s just…..well, the movie is already on the cusp of a box office implosion due to its shaky trailer, social media backlash, and poor marketing efforts.

Let’s examine, starting with the problematic trailer:

The trailer is chalk-full of what some people might consider “Easter Eggs”-an intentional message, joke, or nod to fans who may get a reference to earlier work.

Except, when executed poorly, Easter Eggs can creep into another territory altogether.

It’s a concept called “Intertextuality”, which was masterfully covered by the Nerdwriter over on YouTube.

He defines intertextuality as “something in a movie that is shaped by another text, usually another movie, or book, or play”. Basically, it’s a cultural reference to something outside of the movie. He goes on to argue that films are increasingly using intertextual references as a substitute for emotion or solid storytelling.

Because intertextuality isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when incorrectly used, or in the case of this trailer, overused, it can leave audiences feeling dull, flat, and worst of all….bored.

If at any point during this trailer you said to yourself, “Hey, I know that thing” then you just experienced weaponized intertextuality.

How Ready Player One abuses its intertextual ancestry

Yes, I’ve read the book, and I realize that the book is also structured around its sentimentality ridden narrative, possibly subverting the hero’s expectations as it relates to his obsession with video game culture and nostalgia.

But that doesn’t excuse the marketing teams behind Ready Player One for absolutely going HAM on their audiences expectations of intertextuality. Instead of going for something more subtle, they simply photoshopped old, classic movie posters and substituted the stars of Ready Player One on top of it like it was some sort of crying Jordan meme.

The problem when you try to reposition beloved pieces of art from people’s childhoods, is that the payoff rarely matches the original. I mean, if I wrote a book about a wandering traveler through the desert of the Middle East and I mirrored the cover of the Alchemist, I’m sort of setting myself up for disappointment aren’t I?

How to conjure up nostalgia the right way

I can think of two specific examples of intertextuality working the way it should be. The first most obvious choice, is Stranger Things. The genius about Stranger Things is that while it relies pretty heavily on 80’s references, it doesn’t use it as a substitute for story. At it’s heart, Stranger Things is really about a group of kids trying to find their way through adolescence, against the backdrop of an interdimensional threat that threatens their way of life. That story isn’t about the 80’s. The 80’s are merely the supporting character.

Another great example is one of my favorite comic book movies of all time, Logan.

In Logan, there are definitely references to the comic books, and previous X-men movies. But the story isn’t bogged down by these references, and most importantly, the director James Mangold intentionally didn’t want to go down the path of creating just another superhero movie.

That’s because most superhero movies are guilty of weaponized intertextuality. How many times has a friend leaned over to you in the theater and said “Ooh, a character I know from the comic books!” or “ooh, I bet that’s an easter egg for the next movie!”

Constant character references from obscure comic book issues and movies that serve as an appetizer for bigger, better movies, don’t really make a good movie in itself, do they?

All this is to say that in the modern age of filmmaking and marketing, we need to be smarter about how to connect with and resonate with audiences. People love being reminded about their past, but in a way that’s not shoved in their face, and right on the nose. Because just like advertising, people do not fall in love with products, references, or easter eggs, they fall in love with a feeling.

Originally posted on Leonard David Raymundo’s Medium

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Writing Skills Needed to Survive the Digital Age

Like nearly every other facet of the world, writing is something that has been changed by technology in the last few decades. What was once a form of print media manifested through typewriters has since become an entire business of freelancers and employees working to drive their writing to the public eye through computers, smartphones, and tablets. That being said, the skills necessary in order to find success as a writer in today’s digital world have been quite altered.

Branding, marketing, and advertising are fields that require exquisite writing more than most, and are a few aspects of the actual content that writers need to take into consideration. Digital writing today encompasses an array of styles that cover literally every piece of written content on the internet. While writing is (obviously) the most important part of the job, aspiring writers and professionals must do much more than just constructing engaging content.

First, and perhaps the most obvious, writers must develop a habit of writing no matter the setting. Waiting for inspiration to strike rather than just letting your thoughts pour out onto a page is just wasting time. Of course, better content calls for a better source of inspiration, but in order to develop the most basic skills, you should be writing as often as possible.

As previously mentioned, branding is now an enormous part of digital writing. People are interested in who you are and what you write about now more than ever. Because of this, building an audience is key. If your work isn’t seen by anyone, it will never gain traction. Create a following and establish yourself as a professional in the field you write about. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram can be valuable tools for writers who wish to grow their audiences. Once you’ve created a brand that people remain loyal to, more eyes will be exposed to your work.

Patience is key. It is rare that your work will become an overnight sensation. Keeping that in mind, remember that individuals buy either what they want, or what they need. No matter how great your content is, if it doesn’t fall under either of those categories, it will be ignored. Start writing outside the box. Focus on topics that cover a wider range of people. For example, writing about how aspiring entrepreneurs can find success will reach a much larger audience than something on the greatest poets to ever come from France.

Lastly, be confident. Never be afraid to share your work with the harshly critiquing internet. Publishing a piece of yours to the public is the best way to grow, as you’ll learn what people like, and what people may despise. The level of vulnerability that comes with this allows you to see your work in a different light. The fear of judgment forces you to look much closer at your writing than ever before, possibly helping you catch simple mistakes that fell through the cracks. Confidently share your writing with the real world and allow the public to watch your growth as a writer.

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Stop Advertising and Start Captivating: How to Better Target Your Audience

Now that 2018 is right around the corner, we are in a new age of digital advertising. Even the word ‘advertising’ sends a cringe-worthy chill up most people’s spines. A good example that comes to mind is that 30 second, unskippable video popping up telling you to buy car insurance when all you are trying to do is watch that new Kendrick Lamar video that’s setting Twitter ablaze. It seems like more and more websites contain pop-up ads that dominate an entire screen, which is even worse on mobile devices. This is what advertising looks like in modern times, especially for those in the millennial generation.

Is it just me, or do these new ads scream desperation? The unskippable ads and and online pop-ups only cause frustration for those of us trying to consume content faster and easier than ever before. One could argue that failed attempts at creating effective online ads are actually hurting a company’s brand.

So the questions remains- how do advertisers survive now that old age tactics are dying?

Engage.

No one likes the car salesmen “in your face” approach, and advertisers that do so are likely to be met with less website traffic and fewer sales. Creating engaging content is what advertisers and businesses need to do in order to stay afloat in the world of digital communications.

Take one of my favorites, The Most Interesting Man in the World for example. The beer company Dos Equis developed a clever commercial that took the advertising world by storm with a rugged older gentleman simply known as ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World.’ He was said to have achieved incredible things in his lifetime (if you’re familiar with the Chuck Norris jokes that preceded him, you’ll know where the inspiration came from) , with some hilarious one-liners being created in every commercial such as, “mosquitos refuse to bit him purely out of respect,” “his two cents is worth $37 in change,” and “if he were to pat you on the back, you would list it on your resume.” He would then end each commercial endorsing Dos Equis beer, which is a genius and highly effective marketing tactic, because it held people’s attention.

The internet immediately fell in love with this advertising campaign. He quickly became a meme, which is the holy grail for advertisers, and the company saw an increase in sales soon after the commercials were first aired. The key to this campaign’s success was its engagement to its audience. Customers enjoyed the commercial’s quirkiness. It was entertaining. Its humor related to a younger crowd, and many people within that demographic shared it across social media, increasing its reach even more. Perhaps the most impressive thing for me, was how it connected the humorous juxtaposition with the brand itself, without coming across as too sales focused.
Now that Generation Z is beginning to make a larger online presence, advertisers must take into consideration that this means more people who simply despise ads. Though it will always change throughout time, effective advertising campaigns must look at the bigger picture and try and get their audience to want to buy their products rather than just hit the skip button as soon as it comes up. Stay on top of the demographic shifts your target audience is into, and think about making something you would engage with yourself, if you came across it. A great ad is one that sticks with the customer, making them not only a viewer, but a fan.

How Newspapers Have Survived in the Digital Age

It is no secret that the outlook for the traditional American newspaper is looking undeniably grim. Sales of physical papers are down, newspaper publishers are shutting their doors, membership to renowned newspaper associations like the Newspaper Association of America — which has now changed its name to become the News Media Alliance — are dropping rapidly, and the word ‘newspaper’ is nearly meaningless to many news corporations.

Many attribute this steep drop-off in circulation to the ubiquity of technology and its ability to deliver news to the peoplewithout a fee. Others say that it is newspaper publishers’ own fault, as they focused too much of their time and resources into creating an online presence.

In spite of these pointed opinions, it is important to note that the newspaper’s decline is not due to the negligence of corporations, nor the disinterest of millennials. Instead, the newspaper is merely changing with the times, adapting itself in order to fit into the busy lives of its readers — or, in today’s terms, viewers. This is how newspapers have strived to survive in the digital age:

Print may be “dying,” but it is still profitable. While there is no denying that circulation is down, many publishers still make a majority of their profit from their print versions. This is due to companies that still invest in print advertising. Although this form of advertising is also slowly waning, it is still exponentially more profitable than digital advertising, especially since these ads are known to be more memorable to and impactful on audiences.

Technology cannot rule all. Although many fear that jobs will be stolen away by artificial intelligence, it is evident that the supervision — and mere presence — of humankind is still very much necessary to any business around the globe. After all, no robot can be programmed to emulate human discretion — as evidenced by a major blunder Facebook made just last year.

The issue spun out of control when the popular social media platform turned to an algorithm to track and report trending news stories, as opposed to allowing humans to select newsworthy topics to put in the spotlight for the public. It led to several unsavory and false stories to be placed in the forefront of the public’s mind — and generated a lot of scrutiny.

This ties directly into the operations of newspaper publications because, although online materials may be more efficient for readers to skim, the information is not always entirely correct.

This is because the rigorous process of drafting and approving pieces that produce a newspaper does not go into producing articles for online platforms. The process is often write, publish, then edit and/or correct. This is detrimental to the integrity of the story, especially when viewers read it prior to edits and adjustments.

Evidently, there are some major changes coming to the world of journalism and readership. However, it will likely be a long time — at least two to three decades — until a moratorium is officially read on behalf of print journalism.