I’m every bit as gullible as the next guy, assuming I’m not standing at a Tea Party rally, but I’m way too cynical to be comfortable with the ad campaign around the new Yogi Bear movie. (Which I’m indirectly contributing to via WordPress’s built-in search engine optimization. Irony noted).
Today I’ve already seen about a billion links to a video with an “alternate ending” for the movie, supposedly leaked by people working on the film (with the YouTube info text helpfully telling you the date of the movie’s release). And it’s edgy because it shows Boo Boo shooting Yogi with a shotgun in what I’m assuming is a parody of The Assassination of Jesse James but have no idea because, much like Yogi Bear, that movie never seemed like anything I’d want to watch.
And because of the way retweets work, a majority of the links came with the warning “watch this now because it will be taken down immediately!” Presumably, as soon as the studio found out about what some naughty, rogue animators were doing.
Except this is the same movie that had an initial teaser poster with a visual and verbal double entendre, which made its own rounds across the internet as people stumbled over each other to write “oh no they didn’t!” posts (like this one) about it. And even though those blank, glassy eyes are incapable of winking, the ads most definitely are. The tagline was since changed to the more innocuous “Life’s a pic-a-nic” or “Please do not feed the bears,” we’re to assume after one of the higher-ups at the studio was alerted by a younger, hipper staff member that “Great things come in bears” had people giggling at their cluelessness.
I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I’m genuinely impressed by a marketing campaign that’s so insidiously successful. Somebody, somewhere realized that they had two options when advertising a movie based on a dated cartoon character: act like they’re in on the joke, or invite legions of internet hipsters make fun of them for being clueless. They chose the road less traveled, and that’s made all the difference in site traffic and trending topics.
On the other hand, it’s shockingly cynical. They had to realize that the type of people who would say “Pfft. Hip Smurfs,” and go on about their business, are the same people who wouldn’t hesitate to link, tweet, retweet, share, stumble, and Like a poster or a video if there’s even the slightest hint of subversiveness. They’re not just promoting your movie for free; they’re doing it while believing they’re mocking you.
Whenever pop culture starts to do a Vizzini with the whole mocking-and-self-awareness cycle of media manipulation, it just makes my head hurt. Is it wrong that I want my viral marketing campaigns to go back to the simpler, more innocent days of subservient chickens and half-naked men wearing nothing but a towel and deodorant?