Late last week the marketers behind the City of Ember were pushing a commercial that featured Bill Murray, a star of the film, as a political candidate in a style very similar to traditional political ads we see today, complete with an “… and I approved this message,” ending.
I’m not familiar with the City of Ember franchise, but this ad was nothing more than an attempt at the quick laugh and in doing so they sacrificed the opportunity to build a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU). City of Ember (CoE)doesn’t have the cultural awareness of Harry Potter, so for many this ad was their first interaction with CoE. The following questions would naturally come up from watching the commercial:
Is this movie a comedy? It stars Bill Murray and the ad is a joke on current political ads.
Is this a political movie? The ad has a highly political tone.
A little investigation (thanks Wikipedia) shows CoE to be a young adult novel series of a dystopian future. That sounds really cool, and something I might take my nine-year old son to see. But why not build upon that with the ad? They’ve broken the potential magic and completely taken me out of what I imagine is a really well crafted fictional environment for the sake of a cheap laugh.
The lesson here is that you shouldn’t risk the overwhelming effort to create a fully realized fictional universe on an ad campaign. Any short-term gain is outweighed by the loss in mystery, aura and authenticity.