Blockbuster's Multi-Million Dollar Ad Campaign Knocks Netflix, Touts 28-day Advantage

Blockbuster sad face

Blockbuster is regrouping for a counter-attack against Netflix. After succumbing to bankruptcy under its $900 million debt, the video rental giant is launching a new national TV ad campaign, at a cost of up to $20 million, which touts its 28-day advantage over competitors Netflix and Redbox, and boasts of its "multi-channel entertainment" offerings.

As we suspected, this is the exact same strategy Blockbuster tried before that led the company to bankruptcy. Except now, they have the tagline: "Less Waiting. More Watching."

The TV spots, developed by Euro RSCG, as described by Blockbuster:

The campaign uses comedy to illustrate exaggerated "relatable" pain points associated with waiting to reinforce how unacceptable it is to wait 28 days for new releases.  It opens with a family hurrying to an airport ticket counter only to be told, "The flight to Honolulu has been delayed 28 days."  The second vignette features a man and woman walking into a restaurant for a romantic dinner to learn "Your table will be ready in 28 days."  The final vignette cuts to a close-up of a dental hygienist leaning over a young girl in an orthodontist's chair, whose mouth is being stretched open by a ridiculous apparatus…" Just relax, the doctor will be with you in 28 days," she says walking away. The voice over says:

"You'd never wait that long. So why wait 28 days for new releases? Blockbuster has hot new titles, like The Kids Are All Right and Charlie St. Cloud, 28 days before Netflix and Redbox. Rent them in store, by mail, stream on demand and on the go. Blockbuster. Less waiting. More watching."

In a company statement, which also boasts of the company's early access to Avatar and The Blindside, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes said the ad campaign "reminds everyone that we are the first and best source for the hot new releases.  Blockbuster has your favorite new movies on the day of the release AND you can get them through multiple channels—our stores, by mail, streaming on Blockbuster on Demand and downloading to mobile for on the go viewing."

This is the exact same strategy and business model that Blockbuster used before, from the "multichannel" offerings (in-store, by mail, on demand) to its 28-day leg-up—even right down to the movies the company is advertising. As Keyes quipped way back in April: ""Do you want to watch The Blind Side or Herbie Goes to Cancun?" Back in June, when he told Fast Company: "Avatar comes out, and you want to stream it, you come to me."

Keyes' statement above could literally be transplanted into any number of our interviews with the Blockbuster chief. Nothing has changed.

Well, that's not entirely true. We haven't seen the "big frowny face" before—except possibly on Blockbuster customers.

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12 Comments

  • Bud Thompson

    Austin: I read most of the pieces you list as they appeared...but this piece has to stand alone as do most journalistic efforts. It fails because you are judging the campaign as inept before it fails.

    If the 28-day campaign saves the company it will be a success regardless of what you think. If Blockbuster finally goes out of business, you can say with certainty that the campaign failed - and tell us why.

    They struck out in the first inning so they shouldn't go to bat in the third? He double-faulted to the backhand side so he should serve to the forehand for the rest of the game? Kobe misses four three-pointers from the same spot, then makes the next six.
    .
    One aspect of the Blockbuster story: Many I know avoid dealing with Blockbuster because they owe the company money for late return sometime in the past.

    I don't care much about Blockbuster...but I do care about fairness and the journalism involved.

  • Bud Thompson

    Chris...You are absolutely correct. This is not the NY Times. Not even close.

    No, it is not a blog. It is junk journalism.

    Why the outrage over Blockbuster? Can't you find a real outrage to be outraged about?

  • acarr

    Bud, thanks for the comment. I've been reporting on Blockbuster and Netflix for a long time. If you'd like to catch up on our coverage, please feel free to read back:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/tag...

    Or check out our many interviews with Blockbuster and Netflix executives:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/165...
    http://www.fastcompany.com/165...
    http://www.fastcompany.com/166...
    http://www.fastcompany.com/168...

    This story is just a quick update on/description of Blockbuster's new TV commercials, since we received the details early and thought our readers might enjoy them.

    What's particularly remarkable about this ad campaign is that Blockbuster isn't trying anything different than what led the company to bankruptcy in the first place. They've had the 28-day advantage for a long time, and according to a recent Blockbuster earnings call, it's failed to gain traction among consumers. What's more, the deals to gain this leg-up with movie studios are tremendously costly--so much so, that Netflix has actually pushed for the deals (delays) itself.

    Blockbuster is also again touting its multi-channel offerings, which created an unsustainable amount of competition for the company. As I told Jim Keyes, it feels as if Blockbuster is boxing an octopus: battling Netflix for subscribers, Redbox for kiosks, and Apple and Comcast for on-demand service.

    And that's not to mention its brick-and-mortar business--the store-based solution Blockbuster continues to try to prop up at extraordinary costs.

    I could go on and on and on, but that would be redundant. If you'd like a more general overview of Blockbuster's struggles, I'd suggest starting here:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/169...
    http://www.fastcompany.com/168...

    Again, thanks for the comment, Bud. You are clearly very passionate about this issue, and I'm glad you can find the time to be outraged over what you deem unjustified outrage.

    Best,
    Austin

  • Bud Thompson

    This is supposed to be journalism??

    What we have here is a badly written - and juvenile - opinion piece

    Why shouldn't Blockbuster try to survive? Why shouldn't they tout what they think is their advantage over other video services?

    Think of GM

  • Chris Reich

    First, this is a Blog, not the NY Times. So skip the journalism bit, k?

    Think of GM? Make crappy cars, go broke, head to chapter 11 with a load of government bailout money, stiff the shareholders, run an IPO as the "new" GM, raise $50 billion and get back to making crappy cars.

    There's a model to emulate.

    As for Blockbusted, they could buy a lot of talent with $20 million and instead they take the one-way trip down advertising lane. That's dull witted management. Advertising will not turn a dud company around. What, the market lacks awareness of what BB does?

    Chris Reich
    www.TeachU.com

  • Chris Reich

    Why do the CEOs of fading companies always go down the same path? First they beef up advertising---because they don't understand that advertising won't make something we do not want, sell. Then it's cut cut cut. Yes, a patient is always stronger after multiple amputations, right? Then it's off to Chapter 11 for the "reorganization" which always means screwing the employees and creditors while doing all possible to protect investors.

    Finally, out of Chapter 11 emerges the same dud company with the same dud products and the same dud management less a bunch of debt and far fewer employees. All for the sake of "saving jobs" is how the story generally goes.

    Blockbuster might be salvageable but not as old Blockbuster.

    Chris Reich
    www.TeachU.com

  • acarr

    We're still waiting on video of the commercial. Has anyone seen it yet? What did you think?

    It's been taken down from YouTube several times by Euro RSCG. Why would they want to remove it?

  • Chris Reich

    The ad is boring and tedious. Like a flight delay of 28 days is just knee-slapping hilarious! They picked idiotic comparisons.

    How about a woman in labor---only 28 mores days! Waiting is painful! (That's mine!!!) Copyright now, all rights reserved, must be 18 to enter. Written permission to use that required in writing. Permission must be granted by the NFL and Disney.

    They use waiting at a dentist??? You'd leave after, oh 2 or 3 days wouldn't you?????

    The ad is moronic. But don't take my word for it---when you see it, tell me what you think. Drop me an email. I'd seriously like to hear some opinions of the ad.

    Chris Reich
    www.TeachU.com

  • Scott Byorum

    Oh, that's classic. Now Blockbuster will forever be associated with a big yellow frowny face. That's just what I thought of them before. Kind of like another vilified gigantoid: Wal-Mart. But their's is a smiley face. That's because they are much more successful.

  • Tim Letscher

    So, Blockbuster's point of difference is their "Rental Exclusivity Window?" Weak sauce.

    Looks like a shaky leg to stand on for who knows how long. If a movie lover REALLY needs to see a rental on the first possible day it's available, they probably should have seen the movie in a theater. Everyone's got an internal movie category labeled, "rental," meaning they'll watch it eventually at a discounted price. Blockbuster is probably missing one of their true advantages at this point which is that they could effectively be a Netflix/Redbox/Gamefly mashup since they offer more than just movies.

    The prospect of getting movies and games in the mail while also satisfying the impulse rental that physical locations provide would appear on paper as a surefire hit. Chalk up the demise to being slow to adapt.

  • Thom Mitchell

    The death throes of a wounded and dying animal are never pretty. That is $20 million that should have gone to the creditors instead of being wasted in a futile attempt to prevent the inevitable demise. Blockbuster's day is done and their current relevancy to the media rental market has become minuscule. Netflix and Redbox have beaten them from both directions - now Blockbuster is essentially a jobs program funded with investor money. A full breakdown of why Blockbuster's business model failed is here: http://www.thommitchell.com/20...

    Thom Mitchell
    http://www.thommitchell.com