Fox nabbed by its own newspaper in lame 'Beth Cooper' viral scam
Any worries that the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal would go easy on its sister company, 20th Century Fox, were erased today by the paper's hilarious front-page scoop detailing how the dunderheads in Fox's marketing department had failed, quite spectacularly, in their efforts to stage a fake event to create viral buzz for the studio's recent comedy "I Love You, Beth Cooper," one of the summer's leading box-office duds.
If you'd attended the graduation ceremonies at L.A.'s own Hamilton High last month, you would have heard Kenya Mejia conclude her valedictory address by revealing her secret passion for one of her classmates, calling out, "I love you, Jake Minor!" As the Journal dryly reported: "The crowd roared. Mr Minor stood and pumped his fist in the air. A few days later, Ms. Mejia cashed a check for $1,800."
The check came from Fox, who'd hired a CAA-owned firm called the Intelligence Group to recruit and hire the MIT-bound valedictorian to re-create a key scene from the studio's soon-to-be-dead-on-arrival teen comedy in hopes of creating a wave of YouTube buzz about the film. Having shrewdly noted how gullible most Internet surfers are, movie studios now regularly engage in these clunky ruses. In May, Sacha Baron Cohen, the star of "Brüno," surfaced at the MTV Movie Awards, creating shock waves after being abruptly (and suggestively) entangled with the rapper Eminem in what was supposed to look like a technical malfunction. After several days of breathless Web speculation, the rapper acknowledged that the stunt had been staged by the filmmakers.
At least the "Brüno" stunt worked. Fox's scam backfired in almost every way possible. First off, nobody noticed the YouTube video, which more than a month after it was posted had fewer than 2,000 views, a minuscule number by Web buzz standards. (If you watch the clip, you'll notice the firm the studio hired to execute the stunt poses as a high-school-aged attendee, saying "My friends and I were taping my cousin's graduation ....") Secondly, the movie itself flopped. And thirdly, the stunt managed to outrage Hamilton High officials, whom the Journal says were "horrified" when informed that a movie company "had essentially planted a paid advertisement in the midst of a graduation ceremony."
To add insult to injury, Mejia, the valedictorian, admitted that she hadn't bothered to see the movie either. Fox clearly wasn't happy when the intrepid Journal reporters called, asking for an explanation. A studio spokesman offered this terse statement: "We hired an outside company to look for viral opportunities for this movie, and this is one of the opportunities they found." In other words, the studio feels no need to apologize, since apparently no one seems to think it did anything wrong. When it comes to Web buzz, at least in terms of the moral choices at today's media conglomerates, it's clearly a case of buyer beware.
Here's the actual incriminating clip, complete with fake home-video-style camera jiggles: