Avatar Launches “Viral” Web Campaign? SPAM!

Posted on 26 April 2010 by Quaid

A funny thing happened at MovieChopShop last week.  We were overtaken by spam.

Now that’s not a rare thing.  The spam filter for our comments is constantly working overtime, sifting out the viagra and cheap meds comments filled with annoying gibberish and mile-long links.

It’s also not too rare that a “plant-ish” comment comes in–someone obviously employed by or working with a movie or studio to put up positive comments about a movie.  Most notably, we were inundated with a cornucopia of alien-centric comments surrounding the Milla Jovovich movie The Fourth Kind.  Each of these obvious spammers began their comments with something along the line of “They are real!” and followed up by relaying a first-person story about seeing UFOs.  Even when this kind of comment made no sense, the spammers kept a-coming.

Usually I just let this slide.  It isn’t really hurting anything, and the comments can be kind of entertaining in their own tool-ish way.  With The Fourth Kind, each story was silly and riddled with grammatical inaccuracies–mistakes I think some of the plants throw in to make their comments seem “more real.”  It’s fun and silly, and I can even appreciate a small or independent movie’s need to resort to these kinds of guerilla marketing tactics.

Last week, though, MCS was hit by another type of spam.  Within twenty-four hours, we were inundated with over twenty comments regarding James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster Avatar.  Which is fine.  We aren’t HUGE fans of the movie, but I kinda enjoyed it, and whatever…the comments are for you the reader to say whatever you want.

The only problem was that all of these comments were on articles that were weeks if not months old.  And each of them was a formulaic and glowing mini-review of the movie.  The comments were all but identical, each one saying the following:

I like the Avatar 3D movie, particularly the story line, not only it brings a completely new feelings but eye opening thoughts of humanity. I heard the New Avatar 2 is comming soon, cannot wait to see it again…!

But, of course, spammers would be silly to post the same, identical post multiple times.  That’s why half of the comments said the following:

I really like the Avatar 3D movie, particularly the story line, not only it brings a completely new feelings but eye opening thoughts of humanity. I heard the New Avatar 2 is comming soon, cannot wait to see it again…!

See how they stuck a “really” between “I” and “like” there at the beginning?  Sneaky little devils…they almost fooled me.

Let’s break down the message, shall we?

First, the spammer states his or her “like” of the movie….without going overboard.  They also make sure to point out that the movie is 3D up-front, hitting Avatar’s main selling point.  THEN the spammer decides to go farther, complimenting the movie’s story, making sure we know that the film is more than just flashy effects.  He/she ends the first sentence by implying that Avatar has weighty, brainy themes that might appeal to people who don’t usually see big blockbusters.

Finally, the spammer reiterates his or her love of the film, and informs those who aren’t aware that a new movie will be coming soon.  Synergistic cross-promotion marketing, covering BOTH the DVD release of the film AND the impending sequel!

Whether you agree with the spammer’s comments or not, the comment is paper-thin and obvious…and annoying.

As I said,  I usually turn a blind eye to this kind of thing, but the fact that Avatar is using blind-spammers to try and draw attention to their movie is kind of insulting.  BECAUSE THE MOVIE HAS MADE $745,023,267 DOMESTICALLY!  It’s the most successful film of all time, so why hijack our little movie site to sell DVDs?

Really, that’s just classless.  Fox, your movie is doing well.  Our site, in our eyes, is doing well, too.  But your movie is doing better.  So why don’t you just let us write what we want and have an honest-to-god exchange with REAL movie fans who might have something worth a damn to say.  If they love Avatar, that will work out well for you and us at the same time.  But please don’t try and use our site to sell a couple thousand extra dollars of merchandise.

This is the way things are going, folks.  The movie studios see the online film community as their own little playground.  They see sites like MCS as tools to be used to do their bidding!  Okay, I’m getting a bit dramatic now, but it’s hard for me not to look back with nostalgia at the early days of the internet, when Harry Knowles was still an outsider sneaking laptops into movie screenings.  Of course, now that internet movie sites are taken seriously, these sites get treated like real media outlets, so at least we have geeks with access asking good questions.  But when our film discussion gets taken over by plants and spammers, it makes me feel like we’ve fallen…hard.

I’m opening up an entire can of worms here, and I didn’t intend to.  Most of the above ranting is best left for another article, I guess.  My goal here was to ask the question: Why would Avatar even want or need this kind of publicity. Maybe it’s just a matter of numbers…inflate positive comments about your movie, build hype, virally market the film with plants.

But come on, Fox.  You’ve made a couple of billion dollars already.  Give it a rest you greedy bastards.

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