It appears that Twentieth Century Fox’s attempt to create a viral buzz for its new movie “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” failed so spectacularly that it may end up succeeding. A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article explains how marketing executives at Fox hired a high school valedictorian, Kenya Mejia, to imitate a scene in the film, paying the eighteen-year-old $1,800 to conclude her recent valedictory address (at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles) by professing her (secret) love for a classmate.
Here’s what she said: “I was recently watching the trailers for the upcoming movie 'I Love You, Beth Cooper,' about a valedictorian who confesses his love for the most popular girl in school during his graduation speech and this inspired me to make a confession of my own. Given that this is the last day of high school and not knowing what can happen, I cannot let this opportunity just pass by. So here it goes … I love you, Jake Minor,” she pronounces before striding off the stage, as the aforementioned Minor whoops it up in the audience.
As it turns out, Fox hired consultants to videotape her speech, who deliberately kept the production values low, hoping to make the video look authentic. Then the consultants posted the video on YouTube, expecting it would generate buzz online.
Unfortunately for Fox, hardly anyone saw the clip, and the film bombed at the box office, taking in just $13.4 million in its first three weeks of release (about $6 million less than it cost to produce). But the WSJ article highlighting the ploy’s spectacular failure has generated a lot of attention, and now people are watching the clip online, where the consensus seems to be that “it sucks.”
But the question people should be asking is: What prompted the WSJ to publish a story about this clumsy viral marketing stunt? It’s worth nothing that the authors of the article (Ethan Smith and Sabrina Shankman) disclose that Fox is owned by the same parent company as the WSJ, which makes the scheme doubly distasteful. Not only does the high-profile publicity give Fox the opportunity to salvage something from the whole affair, the WSJ gets a compelling article to boot.