POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
A scene from Banksy’s “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Image courtesy of the Cinetic Media.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Schiller had received money for marketing the movie. This was not the case.
“The most interesting people for me live in that grey area.” says Wooster Collective‘s Marc Schiller, defending the marketing campaign of Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary about famed street artist Banksy, “They constantly confuse and keep you guessing.”
Perhaps these opinions explain why Schiller refuses to disclose his own financial ties with the film, while having marketing for the movie completely co-opt his twitter feed and authoring 15 or more posts on the artist over the past month. According to indieWIRE, Producers Distribution Agency is handling the marketing for the movie – a team that includes Schiller, Richard Abramowitz, and Donna Daniels. Schiller linked to this article himself over the weekend, but when I asked him over twitter if he was doing the marketing for the movie he denied it. “Nope,” he told me. Continuing, “Why would I lie? You know we’ve been passionate about this for years. We’ve been very close to the film for a long time.”
I don’t know why he’d deny his involvement either. Believing in Banksy before taking on the marketing for the film (as his blog clearly evidences) is no excuse for failing to disclose
financial ties to the movie. Schiller does not offer an impartial opinion on films he’s marketing, but presents himself otherwise. It’s dishonest and abusive to readers and twitter followers who didn’t necessarily sign up to read endless updates about the film.
This is particularly a problem in the case of Melena Ryzik’s New York Times feature on the movie, which quotes Schiller on the subject of the film without mentioning his work marketing the film. ‘“Banksy is making a movie that's 100 percent like a Banksy exhibition,” Mr. Schiller said. He called it a prank, then corrected himself, labeling it “a Banksy event.”’ The suggestion that by merely watching the movie, viewers have the opportunity to partake in Banksy’s mischief may be a powerful motivator to see the movie, but it’s marketing think. That’s fine, but not mentioning that you’re being asked to think that way is not. In fact, it’s illegal.
UPDATE: After the jump, and article related to Schiller marketing tactics run in the WSJ October 15, 1999.
‘Genie’ in a computer; Internet marketing campaign creates cyberbuzz for teen pop singer Christina Aguilera. By Erin White, The Wall Street Journal
The trick was marketing Aguilera without making teens feel they
were actually being marketed to. On a 1-10 scale, Internet marketer
Ken Krasner says, teens “have their bull detectors on 11. “
They posted information casually – sometimes sounding like fans,
sometimes like official spokesmen – but always making sure not to
come off as lame adults trying to be cool or marketers pitching a
Many record-company executives may be worried about losing revenue
from the distribution of music over the Internet. Nevertheless, they
are using the Web as a major part of their marketing strategy, and
pumping up the volume to new levels.
“We have figured out how to use this medium so that it really is
meaningful – it’s not just experimental anymore,” says Neil Foster,
chief financial officer at RCA Records.
Internet marketing, adds Nick Cucci, the label’s marketing vice
president, is no longer, “Oh, let’s make sure we have a Web site. “
RCA, a unit of Germany’s Bertelsmann AG, started to build
Aguilera’s Web presence even before her first single, Genie in a
Bottle, was available in stores. Just as the record started to get
radio play in May, RCA hired Electric Artists, a small New York
Internet marketing firm, to handle a six-month campaign to put
Aguilera’s planned album on top of the charts.
Founded two years ago by Krasner, a former RCA marketing
executive, and Marc Schiller, former new media head for the House of
Blues chain, Electric Artists is at the forefront of Internet music
marketing. Its clients include Capitol Records, Elektra Records and
Jive Records, and artists ranging from Depeche Mode to Emmylou Harris
to Melissa Etheridge.
In June, Electric Artists kicked off what it called “Stage One” of
its plan: surfing the Web to see what people were saying about
Aguilera. After recording the song Reflection for Walt Disney Co.’s
animated hit Mulan, as well as doing a two-year stint on the Disney
Channel’s Mickey Mouse Club, Aguilera had already generated some
discussion in chat rooms and fan sites. So had her new single, Genie
in a Bottle. But many people didn’t know she was the singer on the
Genie single. That’s when Electric Artists’ team of “posters” –
mostly recent college graduates – stepped in.
The posters first compiled a list of teen-age sites, news groups
and e-mail addresses for Web-savvy fans. The tally today tops 1,500
individual fans, 30 news groups and 25 sites. In early July, the
posters started Stage Two: generating online discussion among fans.
“Does anyone remember Christina Aguilera – she sang the song from
Mulan, Reflection? I heard she has a new song out called Genie in a
Bottle,” a typical Electric Artists posting would say. Staffers also
spent time monitoring teen bulletin boards and fan sites to answer
“Christina Aguilera” whenever a fan asked “Who sings that Genie song? “
As Aguilera’s single got more airplay – still the most important
driver in creating a hit – Electric Artists fed fans more information
about her via the Web and encouraged them to request Genie on radio
stations and MTV. Pleas that said, in essence, “Call your local
station to request it. It is No. 19 now, and we can make it No. 1. .
. . Please help! ” went out in mid-July. According to Schiller, those
requests went to a core group of fans the company already had
cultivated, so they knew the requests were coming from Electric
Artists. The company even listed a Web link where fans could find
phone numbers of radio stations playing the song.
The effort helped drive Genie to the top of the singles charts,
but the push was still on to prepare for the album’s debut. Electric
Artists continued to send out Web updates on such items as Aguilera’s
TV appearances and encouraged teens to visit the several official
Internet sites operated by her management and RCA Records.
In August, Electric Artists began its biggest push, generating
attention for the Aug. 24 launch of Aguilera’s album in stores. The
marketers put 30-second song snippets from the album on one of
Aguilera’s official fan sites for fans to download. But they
recommended against higher-tech gimmicks that would allow downloading
an entire song for fans to play with a special computer attachment.
Aguilera fans “are not the Webhead electronica rave crowd,” Krasner
In the final days before the album’s debut, RCA also hired a
direct-marketing company to make an electronic postcard filled with
song snippets and biographical information. On Aug. 23, the postcard
was e-mailed out to 50,000 Web addresses culled from a database of
people considered prospective buyers based partly on their previous
Another tactic: persuading big music retailers to post the album’s
cover on their Web pages. Although teens usually know the names of
artists and albums to look for, parents shopping for their kids often
don’t, so winning prominent display can be a big sales help, Schiller
The result was just what RCA executives hoped for: The album
debuted at No. 1 on the charts and has sold more than 951,000 copies.
It reached double platinum status – meaning 2 million albums shipped
– in record time and still remains in the top five.