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Why Ghostbusters has got its Facebook marketing so wrong

Posted on July 8, 2016

 

Regular movie-goers may have noticed a trend over the last decade or so for reboots, or remakes, of classic films. Some of these have been successful (such as Mad Max), even improving on the original, and some have been absolutely appalling (Fantastic Four, for example).

There are some films, however, that you would argue shouldn’t be touched. Films that are so perfect in their execution that any attempt to remake, or reboot, them would only lead to an inferior film designed solely to cash in on the success of the original. One such film is 1984’s Ghostbusters.

First off, let’s clear something up. This movie isn’t a reboot. It’s a remake. A reboot would imply there will be more of them. There won’t. Therefore it’s a remake.

Before I go into this, I should put all my cards on the table and ‘fess up as a Ghostbusters fan.

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I have Ghostbusters T-shirts, I have figures, I have the Lego Ghostbusters firehouse, I have the movie in several different formats and I’ve even been to Tribeca, in New York, where you can visit the actual firehouse used in the film.

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They have a Ghostbusters II sign inside on the wall. True fact.

Additionally, I’ve also met Ernie Hudson (aka Winston Zeddemore) and, I’m happy to say, he’s a really nice guy.

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So yes, I’m a fan. I’m also a social marketer and I have a degree in film, so I’m uniquely qualified to dissect their efforts.

Now, Sony decided it was high time they made some more money from this franchise and, with Harold Ramis having passed away, went down the route of rebooting the film with a new cast. This, in itself, wouldn’t have been something opposed by me or by the legions of Ghostbusters fans around the world. Although reboots are becoming very tedious, as mentioned earlier, some have turned out very well indeed. For this to work, however, it would need a really quirky director who understands the nuances of sci-fi comedy – something Ivan Reitman absolutely nailed with the first film. It would need a very clever premise, perhaps something like the recent Star Trek reboot featured (I know, a lot of Trekkers disliked it, but it was very clever indeed). It would also need a hugely talented cast, as replacing the likes of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd is no mean feat.

So, the director

Who did Sony turn to? Paul Feig – a man known for such terrible efforts as Bridesmaids and Spy. Now, I’m sure these films have their fans. All films do – even films like Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie have fans. They appeal to the lowest common denominator, but they still have fans. Ghostbusters fans are a different demographic entirely though. They require an intelligently made film, not a film full of gross out humour and jokes about willies – which is what you get from Paul Feig.

The cast

Sony then decides to cast the film with all-female leads. This, again, isn’t something that is completely unwelcome. Gender swapping comic characters is a well-known and established medium within the geek community. It would have to be the right leads, though.

But no, Feig and Sony went with the Bridesmaids duo of Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig.

Understandably, the Ghostbusters fans were unhappy about this. Not only is Ghostbusters being remade with a completely inappropriate director, it’s being cast with some of the least funny actresses around today. Criticism of the casting was responded to with calls of sexism and misogynist attitudes. “You don’t like the new cast because you’re sexist” was the typical response.

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It’s mainly males slagging off the film, Suzanne, because it’s mainly males who are into science fiction comedies like Ghostbusters.

The premise

OK, so maybe the film will save itself with an original premise. It’s not a continuation of the Ghostbusters storyline, it’s a remake (or reboot, if you want to use the on-trend buzz term). But what have they done with the premise? Well, absolutely nothing. It’s the same story as the original, with the same character types and even the same set pieces. It has the library sequence at the beginning, it has their first ‘call’ and it has the moment they hire an additional member of the team who happens to be black (cue lots of racial stereotyping jokes).

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This is why the film has been so badly received.

The Facebook marketing

With the film receiving such universal condemnation on its very announcement, things could only get worse. Sony needed to advertise the film and generate hype, as it does with every movie, so took to Facebook to promote it. Now, Sony could have created a new Facebook Page for the movie, and attracted people who were genuinely interested in seeing the film. That would have been the sensible way to go.

No, Sony decided to use the Facebook Page for the existing Ghostbusters movies – which was ‘liked’ and followed by fans of the original film – including myself. You can probably see where this is going. Every single post made on that page introducing the new characters, talking about the new film or sharing details of the film was responded to with hatred and vitriol from the people who follow the page.

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It got to the point where I actually felt sorry for the person updating the page. As someone who updates Facebook pages for clients myself, I know what it’s like. Imagine knowing that every post you make was just going to receive hundreds and thousands of people complaining about it. You’d be afraid to post anything. You wouldn’t want to come into work.

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Still they persevered though. Post after post receiving negative responses.

After a while, some of these comments were responded to by people defending Sony, accusing the detractors of being sexist (a bit of a tired response at this stage) and geeky, nerdy, living in their mother’s basements… you get the idea.

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Many fans even had their comments deleted by the moderator of the page – not because they were offensive or sexist, oh no, they left those there. They were deleted because they were genuine criticisms of the remake. The sexist comments were left to suggest that any negative reactions the film was receiving were due to idiots. They weren’t.

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Critics were told if they don’t want to see the new film then why did they like the page… which is the real issue here. They didn’t. They liked the page for Ghostbusters, the 1984 comedy. Their liking for that film was hijacked by Sony to promote something they were never likely to want to see.

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That’s not me saying that, either. The cast and director know this. They have even admitted the film is not for the original fans. In an interview with Graham Norton a few weeks ago Melissa McCarthy called fans of the original ‘basement dwellers’. She and her fellow cast members commented how the new film was not for the original fans. So why promote it to the original fans? Seems Sony has made a terrible mistake with the marketing.

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With this blatant disregard and lack of respect for the fans, is it any wonder the film has been so badly received?

One fan recorded his reaction to the film’s first trailer being released – and his reaction has received over 2,000,000 views on YouTube.

His reaction is not uncommon. The official trailer for the film is ‘officially’ the most disliked trailer of all time on YouTube. At the time of writing this, it has 893,615 dislikes.

Sony has been publically criticised for deleting comments from the trailer on YouTube, with just the obviously sexist ones left untouched. Again, this to make out that the negative criticism is unfounded sexism.

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I won’t go into the specifics of why the film has so widely missed the mark, but the trailers show lots of sexually suggestive humour, racial humour, talk of ‘slime getting into every crack’ and some base objectifying of Chris Hemsworth. None of this gutter humour was present in the original film, this has all come from the director and the cast and it’s not what Ghostbusters is about.

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So what can we expect when the film is released? If social media is anything to go by the film will disappear without trace. People won’t even see it just to say how awful it is; they’ve already established those opinions from the trailers and the marketing. Well, the problem lies with who the film is really pitched at. As they’ve already admitted it’s not being made for Ghostbusters fans, so just who is it aimed at?

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A science fiction comedy, directed by the man who brought us Bridesmaids, starring some particularly crass female comedians? Here’s a Venn diagram to explain who will see the film.

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That’s a very small, almost non-existent, demographic. While attempting to aim the film at a wider audience they have succeeded in alienating everyone. I personally don’t know anybody who has said they will go and see it, and I know a lot of regular cinema goers. Being a film graduate, you’d expect me to know quite a few film buffs.

This film is not for them. Still Sony persists however…

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Even the ECTO-1, the Ghostbusters’ car, has come in for criticism online. Rather than go for the iconic look of the original 1959 Cadillac, they’ve opted for, well, this.

It’s almost as if they’re not even trying by this point.

Buying opinions?

As a final social media nail in the coffin, I turn to original Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson. Ernie is on Facebook, and regularly posts about his time working on the original films. When news of the new movie broke he was, as you could imagine, quite disparaging. Like many, he didn’t see the point:

“I heard it was going to be a total reboot, and that it would have nothing to do with the other two movies. If it has nothing to do with the other two movies, and it’s all female, then why are you calling it Ghostbusters?”

Ernie went on and on.

Sony realised that someone connected with the Ghostbusters universe had a lot of sway, so they hired him. His subsequent posts were all in favour of the film. This means, rather depressingly, that his opinions have now been bought and you can’t believe what he posts. The fans certainly aren’t falling for it.

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What should they have done (apart from not do it at all)?

Anyhow, before I digress into some huge tirade about the film (something I promised I wouldn’t do) I’ll leave you with a summary of what they should have been doing with the Facebook marketing – assuming they were intent on making the film they have made and, as they have openly admitted, it isn’t for the fans.

Start with a new Facebook page for the movie. Don’t hijack the existing Ghostbusters Facebook page, as anybody who has ‘liked’ that page on Facebook is going to be a fan of the original. This film isn’t for them, remember? That’s what you said.

Do not delete negative comments – it makes you look underhanded.

Do not ignore the negative comments – it makes you seem blind to feedback.

Do not stoke the fans’ anger by posting updates that are the antithesis of what the original films are about, such as long lingering shots of Chris Hemsworth overlaid with sexual connotation. This is a Ghostbusters film, not an advert for Diet Coke.

Do not buy placements on Geek sites like Mashable trying to promote the film – we’ve already established the original fans are not interested.

Don’t buy people’s opinions, people like Ernie Hudson, in an attempt to get positive press for the film. Fans of the original know his real opinions, he made them public. Having him come out in support of the film just looks desperate.

Do you know what, I’ve had enough now. The whole presence of this film leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. I’m going to watch the original and try to forget this abomination even exists – as I’m sure the director and cast will in a few months.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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