Film adverts: where exactly do the quotes come from?

I’m always intrigued by the blurbs on print adverts for the latest films. Usually, the more obscure the film, the more obscure the person supplying the congratulatory “must-see” quote.

Which is why a (printed) advert for Holocaust drama The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in The Times today caught my attention. Here is what the critics had to say, with names given in full, in the original annoying syntax.

  •  “Stunning, simply stunning” (THEEDGE – 4 ROCHFORD, ESSEX)
  • “A great achievement” (NIMROD-14, UK)
  • “A must-see…This really is in my opinion, the best film of 2008 so far” (JOSEPHSALIBURY, UK)
  • “An incredibly powerful, moving story… I would recommend it it immensely to everyone” (HANNAH EDWARDS, UK)
  • “Please, please see this film, it will remain with you for a long time.” (MJAVFC1, UK)
  • “Truly heart-wrenching stuff” (OLIVERGBYRNE, CALIFORNIA, FULLERTON)
  • “This film wrenched me apart adn reminded me of humanity inside even the most hardened man” (TOMASSHAFFENDEN-1, UK)

As you can see, these are not film critics. They are in fact commentors on the IMDB page for the film. It even says so in tiny, tiny writing in the bottom right-hand corner. 

I find this puzzling: why not take something from the Times’ own film critic who called the film “one of the most moving and remarkable films about childhood I’ve ever seen”?

Why not do something creative with social media and quote from a specially designed online presence for the film – even if it’s just a Facebook or Myspace page? Just how relevent are the views of OLIVERGBYRNE, from California, to British people?

A more extreme and amusing example of obscure film-blurbism Guy Ritchie’s not-awful-but-completely-bewildering Revolver (about gangsters, unsurprisingly). The film was universally panned by critics, yet huge billboards appeared around towns declaring it “Brilliant…Guy Ritchie back to his best!”

Fair enough if that’s what you think, except that the line is from The Sun’s online film e-zine Film First which had bagged a WORLD EXCLUSIVE interview with the director, as The Guardian pointed out at the time. Private Eye established that the “brilliant!” part of the quote was from none other than The Sun’s Page 3 girl Ruth (she makes a brief appearance in the film).

But the real point is this: if you want to know how good a film is, don’t listen to the film companies or their PR goons – go to IMDB and Metacritic and find out for yourself. That way, you can read all the good and bad comments, not just the ones cherry-picked by ideas-starved marketeers. 

With cinema tickets costing upwards of £10 in London, I know who I’d trust.


5 responses to “Film adverts: where exactly do the quotes come from?

  1. That’s really interesting. I’m equally as fascinated by similar quotes pulled out on to book covers etc – after finding myself quoted in a review I did ages ago for a new book – I had forgotten about it, but I’m pretty sure I gave permission. I wonder if those contributors did, I don’t suppose they would object.

    When my own book came out with a very small publisher, I set up a website for it and started to include feedback about it, and still try and find time to add to it, from emails or messages on facebook that I get from readers.

    Because it’s a long hard slog getting interest in a book, I was grateful for those comments and continue to be, but at one point I felt I would have sold considered selling my soul to get some clever person at a posh paper that clever people read to say something – anything – about my book. These days I know that’s not going to happen so I keep plugging away with the kind comments from readers.

    Having faced those thought processes, I ‘get’ that word of mouth marketing is great but I can’t see why they would choose not to include a review from a major paper if they had one. I’m not bitter! Why not include both?

  2. Seems to me you answered your own question!

    I too look to IMDB for movie reviews. Increasingly, I’d say more and more people are doing the same.

    At the start of this post you ask why don’t they use comments from critics, and then what you do is say that to get the real lowdown, head to IMDB.

    I think this is great advertising.

  3. patricksmithjournalist

    @Linda, that’s a really good insight into how hard it is to get something credible on your book jacket – and I think youy’re right, some mix of “established” critics and ordinary folk must be the way forward, though I’m not sure all marketing needs to be in poster/print advert format or even on a physical book.

    @Dave, great advertising for whom? IMDB? Miramax? I don’t think I’ll affect ticket sales that much…
    The point I was probably not making very well is that Big Media misunderstands UGC. As Clay Shirky said yesterday, people on Wikipedia and IMDB are having a conversation, but they’re not talking to you – or indeed the general Times reader – they’re talking to each other.
    I’m not sure it has much worth printing a poster of a few cherry-picked comments from a website to market a film. A newspaper ad is just not the place for them. It seems like an old media solution to the problem of not having enough good reviews to fill the space.
    As for the question, like the Daily Mail, I just like posing questions in headlines.

  4. Perhaps the practice of PR ‘driven’ quotes on billboards and hoardings could be transferred to other pastimes or sports? What would be on the hoarding outside Hillsborough for instance? What would be on the hoardings outside the Trafford Centre or similar? Or best of all what would be on the hoardings outside banks at present? Who would be quoted on these billboards? (I think I’ve just invented a new enterprise…………see yer).

  5. Pingback: Why I can never trust travel journalism again — Dave Lee / jBlog

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