I'm young, unscrupulous, highly motivated, highly skilled. In essence what I'm saying is that society cannot afford to lose me. I'm an asset."
Those words appear on the first page of Bret Easton Ellis' controversial-and equally popular-1991 novel American Psycho and set the tone for a story of arrogance and unvarnished greed played out in the supposed "go-go" '80s. They further illustrate why the book is enjoying renewed interest today. What seemed excessive then seems almost quaint today. (Hold off on the angry letters. I'm not talking about the violence. Yet.)
The narrator of Ellis' story is Patrick Bateman, who is, as the book jacket reads, "handsome, well educated, intelligent." He's also a murderous psychopath. And he's coming soon to a theater near you. But wait! He's already arrived in some circles.
In a thoroughly novel and adventurous entertainment marketing effort by Lions Gate Films, 35,000 subscribers have been receiving daily e-mails from Mr. Bateman (complete with original streaming video of controversial outtakes, scenes from the film and interviews with the cast and filmmakers) for the last several weeks. For those unfamiliar with the novel and it's "hero," this is somewhat akin to logging on to your e-mail and seeing that "you've got mail" from, say, Charles Manson. It's creepy. It's horrifying. And a whole lotta fun.
I admit I'm a fan of the book. And proud of it. But I don't want to waste this space arguing its merits-I did plenty of that when I first read it.
In any case, the film is set to open nationally on April 14. Prior to that, however, an extraordinarily savvy group of people have conspired to produce the most interesting film promotion since Blair Witch caught us all off guard last year.
The e-mails are the result of an intriguing collaboration between the author and his former manager/partner, Lions Gate, pseudo.com and E-Mail Shows. The film, directed by Mary Harron and starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe and Chloë Sevigny, has been described as "a period piece"-perhaps the first one to tackle the '80s from such a perspective.
The missives from Mr. Bateman represent yet another Internet invention: Online sequel = eQuel. And the timing, just weeks after Stephen King's landmark online publishing effort, couldn't be better.
Read together, the e-mails (known as AM.PSYCH 2000) unfold as Patrick's story told over 10 years after the novel concludes. Bateman's traded in stock brokering to become, appropriately enough, an Internet mogul. When the book first appeared, many readers were horrified that he did not have to "pay for his crimes." Well, we've gotten used to the concept since then. (We're living in a post-O.J. world now, folks.) And time has done nothing to heal him. One of the great quotes from both the eQuel and the film's promotion is Patrick's admission that his "mask of sanity ... is about to ... slip." Yikes.
That can't be good.
In the spirit of all things "e," I recently conducted a series of "e-nterviews" with the team behind this promotion, as well as a variety of online aficionados who have been caught up in, pardon the expression, their web. The following quotes, from the co-president of the film studio producing American Psycho, are a sample of the conversation found in this virtual roundtable discussion. Think Algonquin without the cocktails.
To access a complete history of the project as recounted by all the participants, please log on to adweek.com for the full text of the online "e-nterviews." The cast includes Mark Urman (co-president, Lions Gate); Clifford Streit (co-producer); Mame McCutchin (production executive), Christopher Trela (producer AM. PSYCH 2000) and Jeanne Meyer, (senior vp/marketing), all of pseudo. com; Deborah Davis (vp/business development, E-Mail Shows); Web Stone (film producer); Christopher Ford (art dealer); Seth Briskman (e-business entrepreneur) and others.
Mark Urman on the significance of the online portion of American Psycho's marketing mix: "We always thought the Internet was a critical element in our overall campaign. Demographically and, no pun intended, psychographically, the Internet audience seemed completely right for a film this edgy, young and eagerly anticipated. We built a lavish site, full of interesting features, smart graphics and other visual assets."
On who did what: "Regarding the eQuel, we worked with E-Mail Shows and jointly thought that e-mail from Patrick Bateman would be a great idea if, and only if, it was authorized and supervised by Bret Easton Ellis and could be presented as a sort of literary/Internet event. Ellis went for the idea, worked up a storyline with his friend and partner Clifford Streit and they were on board.
"E-Mail Shows then suggested that the e-mail show should not be relegated to the Web site alone, but could be driven by an Internet entity with an audience and push all its own. They hooked us up with pseudo.com, which does video streaming and Webcasting; they, too, loved the idea."
Join me online to get the whole story on how this group of intrepid marketers have, in essence, brought the brand of Patrick Bateman to life. God help us all.
Neilan Tyree is an advertising consultant, known primarily as an agency branding specialist. He has left a trail of DNA evidence at a number of agencies, including Merkley Newman Harty, J. Walter Thompson, TBWA/Chiat/Day, Long Haymes Carr and the newly formed Masius. He is currently torturing the good people at Goldberg Moser O'Neill.
Neilan Tyree, Adweek Online
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