In case you haven’t heard, today the 4th will be with you. But it’s not May the 4th, the organic holiday that sprung up in the Star Wars community in the last decade. Today is a different fourth. One invented by Disney, to go along with their marketing department’s plans for total Star Wars world domination.
Yesterday’s drop of the BB-8 toy and leaks of Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren masks were no accident. They were simply the run up to today’s opening salvo of marketing insanity, as Star Wars releases tons of toys and merch today for The Force Awakes, including an 18 hour YouTube stream of toy unboxing. As anyone who has paid attention to pop culture in the past few years is doubtlessly aware, Disney is ruthless in marketing their A List properties. Every major movie drop comes with a full six-week onslaught preparing the way. Star Wars, which doesn’t come out for another three and a half months, is starting today.
Let me for a moment pull the curtain back and talk about the sausage we here at Anibundel make on a daily basis for your consumption. In today’s blogging economy, entertainment sites of all stripes are content churners. We have to be relentlessly posting all the time. Ads want eyeballs, eyeballs want content and content wants new information. Savvy marketing departments like Disney, and others, use this to their advantage. The run up to releases can last four weeks for smaller properties, like Inside Out, while larger ones like Age of Ultron, go for a full six. During the onslaught period, information is released everyday, without fail, whether it be a new interview, a new trailer, new tie in products, a new clip, a behind the scenes CGI breakdown of said new clip, and on and on. The idea is to make sure there is at least one thing a day that entertainment sites will post which will keep their upcoming release date forefront and above the din of the internet. Disney’s current six-week campaign–in case you haven’t noticed–is for The Muppets TV show. We currently do a post a day of their stuff. (We could do more, but I am unwilling to become a single subject dominated site.)
For the record, it was this symbiotic relationship that entertainment sites have with the major marketing departments that Jill Pantozzi of The Mary Sue was talking about when she announced that the site would no longer be “promoting” Game of Thrones earlier this year. (And it still blows my mind that Alyssa Rosenberg of the Post somehow spent a decade doing entertainment blogging and yet somehow missed that these are the facts on the ground for 90% of entertainment sites.) Now, you might be slightly horrified reading this. Why would I be willing to do such a thing? Why would I give these marketing people the free publicity? Well, because it works. My biggest post last May, in a month of big posts, was posted on May the 4th, and it was the new pictures that Star Wars dropped from the upcoming movie. They got press for the new movie. I got eyeballs. The system continued.
But three and a half months? This is a little frightening. By the end of the six-week Avengers run up, we saw the actors starting to lose it, RDJ walked out of interviews in a huff, and others found themselves apologizing (or in the case of Jeremy Renner not really apologizing) for starting to get punchy and go off message. People started noting how exhausted they seemed by the “endless” promotional campaign. And that was only six weeks. I’m already seeing people complaining about The Muppets endless promotional string, from the dozens of promos tying in every ABC property imaginable, to the “in world” stuff like the People Magazine’s expose on Denise the Pig. Part of why The Muppets feels overboard is that it’s rare for TV to do a six-week run up. Those usually do four at most. (Even Game of Thrones only does four.) That Disney is doing six for it suggests that they are desperate for it to hit.
What does it say that they’re doing 15 weeks for Star Wars? Well, part of the success of the original movies (and of the prequels, for what it’s worth) is the merchandising. Mel Brooks hit it on the head in Spaceballs that it was all about the toys and the dolls and the games and the lunch boxes and the flame throwers all the other things to sell to a generation of children. As we know, the first push of Christmas toys comes in September. Unfortunately, the movie is not placed well for Christmas sales. If they waiting for the merch push until the movie came out, they would have seven whole days. That’s not going to make the bottom line. Instead it seems best to coordinate the two–sell the toys before the movie comes out as part of the promotional whirlwind, and ensure the entertainment sites 15 weeks of solid content that will bring in eyeballs excited for the relaunch of a franchise that captured the imaginations of two generations of kids.
After all, you want to get your dog a BB-8 for Christmas, right?