Fox Tip-toes in High School for Promo

By Robert Marich
   July 28, 2009 – 20th Century Fox pushed to the limit with a film promotion that was secretly taped a real-life high school graduation and then posted video on YouTube to promote romantic comedy I Love You Beth Cooper.   
   A Wall Street Journal article says that a marketing vender hired by Fox paid an actual valedictorian student to blurt out “I love you, Jake Minor!” during an outdoor graduation speech at Alexander Hamilton High School (which is near the Fox studio lot in Los Angeles). The student also mentioned the movie in her speech.    
   “The goal of the plot, which included a marketing company called the Intelligence Group and at least one other contractor, was to create a ‘viral’ buzz online” and stimulate copy cats at other graduations, notes the WSJ article by Ethan Smith and Sabrina Shankman. Officials of the high school were not aware that a student had been paid to make the plug and not aware the speech was being filmed. 
     “The movie opens with an unassuming valedictorian using his graduation speech to proclaim his feelings for the most popular girl in school,” the article continues. “Fox and its consultants hatched the ruse to recreate the scene at a real high school…The incident represents an increasingly common Hollywood tactic: staging events that look spontaneous to inspire online buzz.”
     The sleuth promotion did not start a snowball as the $19 million Fox production of I Love You Beth Cooper has grossed a soft $13.9 million in 17 days since its July 10 premiere. A 67-second video of the actual Hamilton High valedictorian attracted scant traffic on YouTube when the film was released.
  Marketing to Moviegoers: Second Edition adds here that the film’s conventional marketing materials such as its trailer weren’t particularly captivating—probably indicating an unappealing movie underneath (we didn't see it!). The youth comedy is built around a familiar plot of a teen male geek getting the pretty girl.
     The WSJ article adds that consultancy Intelligence Group regularly polls thousands of teens to identify consumer trends and found the real-life valedictorian via one of its focus groups. IG is a little-known unit of Hollywood talent agency powerhouse Creative Artists Agency.

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