Warner Bros. Spams Bloggers, Then Lashes Out Against Reactions

The other day I received a pretty bad pitch from Warner Bros. In fact, it was so clueless I forwarded it to A-list technology blog Techdirt.  Mike Masnick been doing a great job of covering the entertainment industry’s (rather entertaining) ongoing misunderstanding of this whole social web thing, so I’m pleased to see him share the story with his community to continue that dialog (and maybe, just maybe help them – although they haven’t been listening so far).

The pitch was as follows:

Hello,

I am a part of the Warner Brothers word of mouth marketing team and recently came across your blog! Your blog uniquely stood out as dynamic, informative and highly creative. We are seeking bloggers that are passionate about entertainment to help us engage your readers with content that would be interesting to them.

We would like to have you join our WB Word marketing team to let fans know about our latest releases and relevant content/products. As a member of the team, you will be asked to display photos, clips, and stories on your Blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The best part is you will get paid! Additionally, we may even debut event previews and new content so that fans like you get to enjoy it first.

As Mike noted in his reaction:

Here’s a tip for Warner Bros.’ “word of mouth marketing team.” If it’s really “word of mouth marketing,” it probably doesn’t require you to pay people to talk about you…

But this pitch is worse than not being actual word of mouth marketing.  To me, the pitch shows a deeper problem with the media brands of yesterday.

In essence:  Warner Bros. could care less about anyone they pitched.  To them, we’re just numbers.

The reasons we know this?

  • They say “my blog uniquely stood out as dynamic, informative and highly creative” yet they didn’t even personalize the email.  Obviously they said this to everyone.
  • On the landing page they linked me to in the email, (I took that part out, they do not deserve link love) they mention it’s to receive information for a TV show.  Except, blog readers here know I don’t even watch TV.  So why would I possibly care about this?
  • I am vocally opposed to paid blogging.  Of course any time someone tries to pitch me on paid blogging I’m going to react negatively.
  • I blogged about EMI for doing something very similar in a not-so-positive light.  Clearly I’m going to share these pitches with the web.

They are taking the spray and pray, direct marketing approach to social media.  Except, the social web is not merely a numbers game.

The story actually gets even more interesting and really gives insight into the mindset of some of the marketers working for traditional media brands.  Someone from the Warner Bros. team left the following comment on the post at Techdirt:

The WB Word Team is fully accredited by WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association), which is in regular contact with the FTC regarding disclosure laws. As far as the incident you cite in you story, we were in the process of identifying key influencers on the web who we felt would be relevant to promoting our projects (television and not film as you represent in your story). This was clearly an invitation to join our team and was completely transparent in its intent. All of the work done by the WB Word Team is also fully disclosed and transparent and team members chose which projects they want to promote based on their individual likes and opinions of each specific project.  We are dismayed that you wouldn’t call first and check your facts before writing this inaccurate story.

And, a Techdirt commenter responded with a keen observation:

Is this seriously the reaction they would have to this article? All a response like this would do is confirm everything that was said about how they really don’t get it. It’s mind boggling in it’s misunderstanding of the message presented.

I’ve gotta give WB the benefit of the doubt here and assume someone else went to a lot of effort to sound credibly like them. That, or the people in charge of the WB Word Team are astoundingly misguided in how to engage and interact on the “social web”.

Step 1) Try to bribe people
Step 2) Lash out at people who suggest bribery isn’t as effective as engaging your audience

What’s step 3? Sue and lash out at your customers that are trying to talk about your films/television and issue DMCA take-downs against them because they used a clip you provided … … oh … yeah, I guess they do that too.

Indeed.  Maybe it’s time for the entertainment industry to stop fighting the future at every turn and work on understanding their audience and developing relationships instead of treating us like numbers.

When much smaller private companies truly understand how to pitch a blogger, it’s amazing how public companies with billions in revenue get it so wrong.