Despite Heavy Product Placement, This Momzy Liked Mimzy

mimzyrabbit.jpgMimzy–the rabbit from outer space that warbles unintelligible planetary profoundity, will no doubt be merchandised into oblivion.

Even my 11-year old made a wry commercial slam, “I wonder how long ‘til Mimzy is in Build-A-Bear with a customized sound chip?” Wow. This kid’s been hanging out with me way too much lately.

She’s right though. The wascally wabbit is one trilling, alien cutie, sold out already in New Line Cinema’s “limited quantity” online store. (ahem, test market?) They’re no dumb bunnies, especially if their film financial ties are any indication.

Paid product placement in the U.S. rose 44.5% to $2.2 billion last year and is forecast to jump another 33.7% to $2.9 billion in 2007, according to this article, citing PQ Media, so it makes sense to start arming kids with media awareness on these tactics from the get go. (even the Lonelygirl15 vlogger from YouTube is a pitchmeister now, but we could see that one coming a mile away)

I was irked by the movie’s supernatural Sprite can (must junk food proliferate EVERYwhere?) but I reminded myself the entire film was a throwback to E.T., which had its own Reese’s Pieces blatant placement decades ago, so this should hardly astound. (this Smackdown site compares the two movies, reminding us what’s old is new again)

It may seem weird for a counter-marketing crew like Shaping Youth to justify a film with such mind-bending commercialism, but it’s tempered by an over-arching positive message that I really liked…Fixing something that needs to be fixed in the world.

It has a refreshingly hopeful, non-cynical view that’s been sorely lacking in our society…

Sure, it holds the usual child empowerment schtick where kids can see/hear what adults can’t fathom (think Polar Express, or virtually any secret/fantasy worlds where kids hold magic and adults are dolts grounded in mundane, material pursuits) …but it also flirts on the edge of promise, healing and quantum metaphysics.

Without sounding like a Zenmaster, it seems to convey the need for balance, vision, and inquisitive open-mindedness to uncork all possibilities and resist the party line that things ‘can’t be changed’ or are ‘too big to tackle.’

Admittedly, a bunny on a recurring ‘save and be saved’ humanity quest wraps around some global ideology extending into the eco, techno, inter-connected, media realm…(so the appeal is obvious for some of the change we’d like to see taking place in media and marketing at Shaping Youth)

But there’s also some strong business validation for Shaping Youth’s counter-marketing tactics gleaned from this film…

Youth are not wild about being duped with subliminal backwash any more than adults are, as evidenced in this eMarketer report that shows 12-18 year olds PREFER overt product placement to covert viral and blog marketing, online chat mentions, and freebies from peer poseurs shilling for a brand. (like Proctor & Gamble’s teen site, Tremor)

It also explains why a media maven like me can actually stomach ‘in your face’ product placement like this more than subliminal sidewinders coming at kids (and parents!) with seamless, sneaky precision.

When we reveal the tricks of the trade from the inside out, kids become mindful, savvy, media consumers, assessing their own boundaries and applying it to ALL they see.

Teens particularly prefer to come up with their own ‘aha’ moments, so there’s no need for us to ‘do it for them.’ We lay the groundwork, tell the story and back off…

THIS is why counter-marketing makes sense.

Even though their branding was unusually heavy-handed, the joke might be on marketers, because it was so saturating that my 9 year old goddaughter had ZERO product recall on the soda pop can…it didn’t bother her at all. (nor did it ‘stick.’) The huge logo pivotal to the plotline DID land on a deeper level, for she could name it long after the movie ended, which spooked the heck outta me.

That means it won’t be long before that level of brandwashing is targeting kids in every ambient ad spot imaginable, increasing my challenge to heighten media literacy life skills at ever younger ages.

In fact, today at the gas station, I got some “super premium content” of my own…On my pump purchase screen!

I turned to fuel the car only to have a loud voice startle me from my pumping stupor, jabbering about NBC’s Access Hollywood video with little AT&T & State Farm logos in every corner.

I admit I jumped straight up in the air. Surprised the heck outta me. Ubiquitous.

The more ‘captured’ we are as viewers, (think JetBlue inflight TV) the harder it is to ‘shut off the pitch’ leaking in from every direction. Will it create a numbness? Desensitization? Urban wallpaper of brand pollution? Or will we begin to pay to have silence? (e.g. websites with subscriptions to ‘turn off’ the ads)

Oh, and have you seen this? Even the U.S. Postal service is getting into the cross promotional movie-media merchandising act with their post office boxes redesigned as R2D2 coming up this May to commemorate their Star Wars stamp!

In the checkout line for dogfood, animals bound across the retail registers in earflapping splendor to sport a new brand of chow…The videos play as background noise as items are rung up and the monitor is turned ever so slightly for the consumer to be entertained.

Airports? No doubt you’ve seen the ads on the bottom of security bins when you place your junk to go through the metal detector? Can’t get much more captive than that.

Point is, if we’re going to open a dialogue on film product placement, then we really need to look at a much more global conversation in terms of some of the more insipid and heinous tactics specifically targeting kids.

Only other thing that baffles me about the review roundup on Mimzy is that overall, editorial seemed unusually wary and even sometimes coarse for such a mild family film.

It flirts on the edge of a few disjointed contexts, from Tibetan rituals to supernatural scifi and homeland security implications, but it sure didn’t seem to warrant word choice like “beware, scary, frightening, weird, and loopy”‘ but to name a few.

Other than the ominous soundtrack or keep ‘em guessing toy tactics, it was quite mild.

Being a nonpartisan, non-religious-based org, we thought maybe Mimzy was catching heat from the “faith in film” critics, so researched a few of the usual players in that arena and instead found some of the most objective, hilarious, spot-on, well written prose out there!

“Shall We Gather in the Astrals?” bordered on snarky, musing that the film’s Tibetan angle “advocates such a single-minded obedience to one’s dreams, that it almost frightened me. Honestly. Put orange robes on David Koresh or Jim Jones, and you kind of get the picture.”

Then this review nailed the movie as wishy-washy, chiding the tagline, “The future wants to tell us something” —well, WHAT? What does it want to say? Because the movie certainly never lets us know.”

My, my, the general public sure is getting testy. (are these the same folks that honk the split second a light turns green, too?)

Civility, my friends…

Seems to me this movie has more positive than negative compared to much of the drek that’s out there.

I’m not a movie reviewer, so I’ll stay with my support favoring the harmlessness of it all, echoed by many at imdb, and look to the product placement as the most ‘foreboding’ thing about Mimzy.

Sure, the script needs tightening, and there are creative flaws, but as media producers, it seems like a favorable message to some of the slash-n-trash that’s out there.

Anyone want to venture a guess how many Mimzy bunnies will fill baskets this Sunday? Hmn. Here are a few alternatives for ya, from the bunny blogosphere…

Kids’ Free, Fun Rabbit Resources:

How to Say Rabbit in over 100 Different Languages

Rabbit On the Moon: A Short History of Easter: Atlantic Monthly

Rabbits At Easter: Don’t Do It! (Humane Society No-Nos)

Bunny e-Postcards

Kids & Rabbits Free Coloring Book & Educational Guide

The International House Rabbit Society: Global authorities on adoptions, care & all things rabbit!

Save A Bunny

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Comments

  1. From GigaOm, a post about Last Mimzy’s deal with hot shot anime virtual world Gaia who solicited subscriber feedback BEFORE tossing in product placement by bringing users into the mix to determine what they would ‘allow.’ (SMART MARKETING: asking permission rather than forgiveness works wonders)

    http://gigaom.com/2007/04/22/move-over-myspace-gaia-online-is-here/#more-8805

    Here’s what they did:

    “New Line Cinema’s fantasy adventure The Last Mimzy, for example, challenged their users to accomplish a series of tasks in order to get their own special Gaian-only Mimzy (a super-intelligent bunny).Hundreds of thousands of these Mimzyies were given out––meaning some 10-20% of their total user base jumped through the hoops to win the advertiser’s prize. (By contrast, when Nissan began giving away virtual versions of their cars in Second Life, far less than 1% of Residents took them up on the offer.”

    Permission-based marketing & immersive experiential branding (e.g. not a disconnect w/the product)—

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