From Harvard to Hollywood -- Buzz Is the Answer

  • by March 27, 2003
In addition to the millions generated from product placement fees, the producers of the Fox hit "American Idol" have followed the 'insider' Hollywood formula for increasing box office sales.

They've got their Internet Buzz machine in gear.

Buzz, word of mouth, viral, guerilla. Call it what you will -- but it is all really the same thing and it has been around for a long time.

Some even say it has been proven to be the most trusted form of marketing and advertising, arguing, "Who are you going to trust more, an ad or a recommendation from a friend?"

Movie studios have long recognized the value of Internet Buzz Building for that opening box office number, and over the last 3 years, studios and other savvy clients of agencies like 1st Approach have been budgeting more towards online buzz marketing.

"Not only is it cost-effective, says Jeff Greenfield, vice president of 1st Approach, a strategic media and entertainment marketing company, "but since the success of the sleeper hit 'Blair Witch Project,' which was launched exclusively through online buzz marketing, it provides an immediate response -- which is unheard of in a traditional campaign."

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But , how do you measure buzz?

Unlike a traditional CPM campaign, determining what effect word of mouth plays in a marketing campaign can be elusive.

Enter David Godes and Dina Mayzlin, assistant professors at Harvard Business School and the Yale School of Management, respectively, who have published a 44-page study of the word-of-mouth phenomenon, how to measure it and specifically how it relates to television ratings.

Among their findings: early conversations are the most important in creating buzz, and breadth is more important than volume.

"It may not matter if the new version of 'Hollywood Squares' is enthusiastically discussed among 'Hollywood Squares' viewers," says Greenfield, "but when discussion moves to the viewers of 'ER' and 'American Idol,' that's buzz."

Buzz firms like 1st Approach add in the appeal of a contest with a trip Greenfield calls the 'Hollywood Underground Tour' -- a "3-day fun-filled backstage tour of Hollywood."

From Harvard to Hollywood -- now with Buzz on TV -- looks like we've finally got something to look forward to for the fall season.

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