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August 7, 2006

Getting a Call from Samuel L. Jackson

One of my colleagues here at the Times-News office, Dustin Bratcher, pointed me toward a pretty innovative form of marketing for the upcoming release of Snakes on a Plane that shows how just including a limited amount of user control can drastically affect a product.

The premise of the site Snakes on a Plane: Send a Message from Samuel L. Jackson is that you can enter a little bit of relative data and can then generate a call to anyone you want from Jackson asking them to see the movie on its Aug. 18 release date.

The site asks both your name and the name of the person you are sending the message to, the numbers of both, and the occupation, hobby, looks, and mode of transportation of the person receiving the message. When you complete the information, the site calls the person in question with a message from Samuel L. Jackson, addressing them by name and telling them to leave their job and hobby behind, pick up the person who made the call and take them to see Snakes on a Plane.

Already, I've sent my wife one of those calls. I've sent messages to my friends from their spouses' phone numbers so they won't know who the messages really came from. And one friend received the message in question from his ex-girlfriend claiming to be his life partner. If you were to visit our office today, you can see the fun this simple calling program has been able to generate.

The site knows most names and can generate these calls. It only has limited choices for occupations, hobbies, and physical attributes, but each one leads to some pretty entertaining Samuel L. Jackson diatribes. And you can preview your message before its sent.

I'm hoping I can create mass confusion here in Kentucky with these calls. And, on a grander scale, this adds to the long list of user-generated promotion that New Line Cinema is allowing for this film. Previously, we have blogged about YouTube videos promoting the film, for instance the Bono parody song dedicated to Jackson. Henry Jenkins has questioned what the film will mean in relation to Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory. Now we can add this to the long list of promotional tools.

What will this translate to on opening day? Will allowing fans to become such active proselytizers and merely providing them with the tools to do so lead to more fervent response than the movie would have gotten through traditional methods? My insticts say yes, but one of the women here in the office with her desk close to me could be right in that people may enjoy the promotion but still have no interest in seeing the film.

I'd bet against it, but we'll be finding out soon. And, either way, I still have a long list of relatives and friends who can expect a call from their bro Sam Jackson.


So what does it mean if all these efforts fail? What if the movie is a box office flop? Is transmedia story telling and marketing no better then posters and TV ad buys?

What if the new medium of telling the story becomes what people actually want?

Posted by: Siddiq | August 9, 2006 11:29 PM


I think an important distinction here is that what this film is doing, while it is clever marketing, isn't really transmedia storytelling. This is a campy, over-the-top horror flim that is going all out to promote its eclectic-ness. It's not shooting for high quality, and I think that there's a very good chance it will turn a substantial profit, even with Samuel L. Jackson's fee, because it shouldn't be nearly as expensive as many of the other summer blockbusters (though I could be wrong, as I don't know the level of special effects that will be employed).

But, if the film does fail, I'm sure there are plenty of people who will throw stones at what we're calling convergence culture.

In your last question, are you making a distinction between transmedia marketing and transmedia storytelling?

Posted by: Sam Ford | August 10, 2006 3:22 PM
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