Getting personal–even intimate–with fans and influential folks on social media is increasingly part of how movies are marketed these days. We all shed real tears for the fellas on Tinder during SXSW who learned that the flirty lady they were chatting with was actually viral promotion for the forthcoming AI thriller Ex Machina–and now, we can all feel a chill up our spines in the way that mini-major studio STX Entertainment is marketing its debut feature film.
That film, The Gift, stars Joel Edgerton (who also wrote and directed) as Gordo, and Jason Bateman as his former high school classmate Simon. In Gordo’s attempts to be thoughtful and reconnect, he becomes increasingly creepy in the gifts that he presents to Simon and his wife.
One element of Gordo’s creepiness is the age-old (well, decade-old) tradition of social media stalking–and that’s the element that The Gift brings to its marketing today. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 writers/editors/critics/reporters who cover the film beat were targeted by The Gift‘s marketing team to receive personalized gifts, complete with a note from Gordo that gets a little too far into their life.
I received one, wrapped neatly in blue paper with a red bow, and inside was a gift based on a joke I had made on Twitter years ago–after buying a new car, I tweeted that I was considering getting a vanity license plate that read “AIKMAN,” so police in Texas who saw me would assume I was the former Dallas Cowboys legend and avoid pulling me over. Not the sort of thing you need to think about twice–so it was a heck of a surprise to see that plate in the box, along with a handwritten note from Gordo making reference to my “million-dollar idea” and inviting me to listen to Blackberry Belle by the Twilight Singers, an obscure favorite album, signed “@yourfriendgordo.”
If you’re covering the entertainment space as a writer these days, you tend to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior of this kind, and the card includes an STX Entertainment logo on the back, so the response on Twitter from others who’ve received gifts suggest that they’re aware that this is a marketing stunt. And as those things go, it’s certainly a memorable one–the gifts and notes are definitely creepier than they are thoughtful, and it certainly paints a compelling picture of what the movie contains. (And hopefully no one with a history of actually being stalked made it onto the marketing list.) Meanwhile, Gordo is still actively tweeting about koi fish, and the Doors’s “People Are Strange.” So is stunt marketing, Jim Morrison. So is stunt marketing.