The meming of life: Going viral can sometimes give you a cold

The marketing of ‘The Snowman’ shows that when it goes wrong, it can go very wrong

 Michael Fassbender, who starred in ‘The Snowman’. Photograph: James Alcock/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Michael Fassbender, who starred in ‘The Snowman’. Photograph: James Alcock/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

 

Pinning your movie’s hopes on a viral campaign is a bit like making a fruitcake: inadvisable. Also, if done correctly, you end up with a product that’s rich, zesty and multi-layered, but 99 per cent of the time you deliver something shiny, bland and embraced only by the elderly.

No one in Hollywood has doled out a bigger portion of inedible, tissue-wrapped barmbrac lately than the media team for ponderous Scandi-thriller The Snowman. Featuring a Norwegian serial killer pursued by Michael Fassbender, the film is now, two weeks since release, famous mostly for its disastrous marketing campaign.

‘The Snowman’ is now, two weeks since release, famous mostly for its disastrous marketing campaign.
‘The Snowman’ is now, two weeks since release, famous mostly for its disastrous marketing campaign.

Most notable were posters spread throughout Twitter and Facebook, in which a childlike scrawl blared the faintly nonsensical challenge “Mister Police you could have saved her I gave you all the clues”, signed off with a weird, clumpy drawing of a snowman. Within the film, this may have been morbidly chilling but, delivered via Twitter posts, it was more reminiscent of an absent-minded doodle.

“It looks like a disgruntled toddler upset that it can’t eat any more candy,” claimed Mashable’s Jordan Bowman, while Twitterer Will Goss thought it wore the face of “Harold from Marketing when he forgets to bring hummus for the office party”. Still others thought the snowman itself represented a subliminal eight, which is the percentage RottenTomatoes lists for the lacklustre thriller.

Sometimes film marketing is better served by ditching all reference to plot entirely, as evidenced by the current box office number one, Thor: Ragnarok, which decided to simply shove Jeff Goldblum in front of anything that smelled of page views instead.

So we saw viral videos of him judging other people’s Jeff Goldblum tattoos, flirting with ITV’s Holly Willoughby, reading aloud mean posts from the IGN message-boards, and singing his best approximation of the Jurassic Park theme. For those not fully sated, there was also GQ’s 5,000-word oral history of the actor, in which everyone from Woody Allen to Glenn Close discussed precisely why he’s so awesome. So awesome, in fact, that none of us watching realised that none of it had anything to do with Thor whatsoever.

Finally, the greatest example of low-key, low-cost marketing was Disney’s promo for the incoming 2019 live action Lion King remake. Featuring a stellar array of black actors, such as Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor and James Earl Jones, the release of just the cast list itself became the biggest movie news of the week. With all the pratfalls of viral marketing, Disney has managed to whip up something special from little more than a black square jpeg.

In a field of diminishing slices, Disney managed to have its fruitcake, and eat it too.

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