Rupert Pupkin lives – but not necessarily on Skittles

Last week, I re-watched Martin Scorcese’s piercingly funny, King of Comedy, where two psychotically-obsessed fans (Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernhard) kidnap a popular late night talk show host (Jerry Lewis). The reason? For Bernhard it’s love. For De Niro (aka Rupert Pupkin), it’s because he wants to appear on the show and become famous.

Pupkin has a modicum talent and spends his days practising in the faux talk show set he built in his basement. He’s not interested in pursuing the paying-your-dues route; playing clubs, honing his act. He wants a quick hit. And (scene spoiler…) when he gets on the show with a passable, if corny act, the tabloids and MSM splash him and his (mis)deed on their covers and he succeeds.

The recent Skittles foray into social media reminded me of the film.

Why? Because both were gutsy moves. Audacious, high concept publicity stunts (or so it seems). I’m not sure what Skittles objectives were when the company turned its home page into a Twitter search, complete with racist slurs and salty language – hey, isn’t candy supposed to be sweet? I’m also not sure why they removed anything on the site that might be remotely fun for kids (who presumably are eating the stuff).

From my perspective, rather than embrace social media (i.e. a two-way dialogue), the company used it to create buzz. However, as the comments – good and bad – were pouring in, did the company say anything? Were they part of the conversation or idle bystanders?

And did the brand increase its equity by actually engaging its customer; reach their target audience; sell more product? I’m not sure they did.

This is by no means scientific, but yesterday afternoon I went to two stores and asked if their Skittles were selling better today. Both looked at me like I needed my head examined.

Now, if this program was conducted by a beer or a condom company trying a new way to reach its customers through an edgy conversation, I think it would have moved the needle.

However, I feel it’s important for every brand, business and individual to understand who they are.

As of yesterday, Skittles removed the Twitter feed from its homepage. I guess we’ll have to watch to see where they take it from here.

The moral of the story: P. T. Barnum (or Rupert Pupkin) lives.

BTW, if you want three more perspectives try: Ian Capstick, Collin Douma and Louise Armstrong.

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Surf’s down

Today in the Globe and Mail, Keith McArthur (subscription required) writes about how the Television Bureau of Canada (TVB), an organization that ‘markets the benefits, values and effectiveness of the TV medium to advertisers and agencies’, wants to ‘protect the public’ from a new Chanel TV ad because it’s been deemed too racy for Canadian viewers.

Thank goodness we have their protection

But OK, you can view it here.

Personally, I think the ad is quite French (read sexy), with images that may even entice people to stop clicking for a second and watch. Regardless, it’s certainly tamer than many things on TV.

And in this channel-changing world in which we live in, something with a hint of originality and style, that harkens back to Jean-Luc Godard no less, is more likely to make us sit up, take notice and maybe even remember the product it’s promoting.

Now there’s a concept.

So why censor it? Viewers can do that themselves with a flick of the clicker.

Or better yet, as Peter Finch said in the brilliantly satirical, Network, ‘Turn off your TV…’

But still, a group of small-minded Canadian bureaucrats wrong-headedly believe they are here to deliver us from evil.

Who’s going to deliver us from them?

Keep it short(y)

I saw a terrific noir-ish movie this weekend. The Lookout is written and directed by Scott Frank (who also wrote the script for Get Shorty and Out of Sight). The film is smart, dark, witty, fast-paced and generally surprising, with excellent acting from the entire cast. And at 99 minutes it sped by. I wish more movies ‘cut to the chase’.

The reason I went? Johanna Schneller (subscription required), one of the Toronto’s more original film columnists, gave it a strong recommendation, highlighting the acting and noting that the project was passed around Hollywood for a number of years as the best script that no one wanted to produce.

So I found out where it was playing and went to a 9:20 show. I expected the theatre to be crowded, assuming that a bunch of people would have read the Globe and Mail, but there were no more than 25 patrons there (out of a city of nearly five million).

And it occurred to me that it wasn’t too long ago when a critic raved about or pointed you to an off-the-beaten-track movie, you rushed out to see it. And if you liked it, you talked about it and there was a real buzz (when that term was used ononmatopoetically – since 9th grade, I’ve loved that word).

And if you were doing PR for that indie film (like I used to do) and this happened, you knew you had done your job. You encouraged a reviewer to see a film, they liked it, wrote about it and the audience came. That’s what good publicity was all about.

But it looks like things have changed. Match me, Sidney.