If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

It’s not a philosophy: It’s the rationale for parody ads–the hot, new marketing strategy in Hollywood.

Witness last weekend’s spate of Men in Black-esque images in newspapers across the country. Not only was there the MIB ad–with its trademark shot of the dark-suited, sunglasses-donning duo of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones–but Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon looked suspiciously Smith-and-Jones-like in the display ad for their comedy Out to Sea. And then young-uns Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa and Scott Bairstow also did the sunglasses thing (and dressed in all-black, to boot) in a plug for their new movie, Wild America.

Coincidence?…Try again. In Hollywood, imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery–particularly if the suits think there’s money in it.

For the record, Linda Goldenberg of Morgan Creek Productions says her company decided to go with its Wild America sunglasses campaign on the spur of the moment–just something for fun, she says. She declined to state that it was specifically in response, or in anticipation of, a monster weekend by MIB. She said the photo was taken from a months-old shoot. (But the ad’s MIB influences go even deeper than that–its stars are referred to as “Mr. Thomas,” “Mr. Sawa,” and “Mr. Bairstow” in the copy, a la, the “Mr. Smith” and “Mr. Jones” gimmick of, yes, MIB.)

Wild America and Out to Sea are only the two latest examples of parody ads. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery earlier did a goof on The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Its “Something Else Has Survived, Baby!” was a parody of the Lost World tag line, “Something Has Survived.”

Advertising experts are split as to whether this sort of wink-wink, copycat advertising is a good idea.

“It’s only going to reinforce that, at this cultural moment, the movie is Men in Black,” New York magazine media columnist Barbara Lippert told Daily Variety.

But says Saatchi & Saatchi Pacific ad exec Alfa Tate O’Neill: “It’s about being playful. You smile and go, ‘I get it.'”

The jury’s out as to whether moviegoers “get it”. Out to Sea opened with a tepid $5.1 million its debut weekend, Wild America with an even tamer $1.8 million. And the movie everybody was goofing on? A cool $51.1 million. Sometimes it pays to be the original.

Source: E! Online
Author: Joal Ryan

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