'Sicko': Buzz From TV Marketing Can Create Healthy Profits

Advocacy advertising doesn't fly on U.S. TV stations and networks.

And, despite what you might think, ad materials for Michael Moore's "Sicko," his new documentary on the medical business, don't come off that way.

At $9 million to produce, the movie doesn't have the biggest advertising budget.

But, hey -- does it really need it? Film producer/distributor Harvey Weinstein, the master of spin for any movie, spun "Sicko" nicely to some big, controversial noise. Even then you don't need much help here, not with Moore's name attached.

Where did those selective ads run? News programming, including CNN, was the perfectly targeted place. News viewers, who perhaps feel they are smarter than the rest, are always looking to be engaged or enraged. And even bigger than the official advertising effort, news viewers were treated to scores of news stories about Moore's attack on the medical business and his default target -- the U.S. government.



As usual, the trailer/commercial has its typical Moore-isms. One scene has Moore with a megaphone standing on a boat in the waters of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with a couple of good souls who spent their time trying to save lives during 9/11.

Why? It seems that the prisoners at that U.S. base are getting free medical attention. Within shouting distance, Moore on the megaphone targets a lookout tower, asking if the people on the boat can get the same care.

There was the usual rogue TV-like marketing as well, with movie clips making their way to YouTube illegally --for a while, anyway. After a short time they were pulled down.

That did not hurt the movie at all, even with some 500 YouTubers screening perhaps the entire movie in what amounted to a free theatrical preview. Such an effort will build devotees and agents for the film, amping up the so-called word-of-mouth marketing that is the gold standard for movie marketers.

The buzz has been so loud, Weinstein decided to move up the release date to this past weekend, opening the movie in 40 select markets -- another typical Weinstein touch.

What did TV have to do with the marketing of a movie? Plenty -- but don't look for it under the paid-advertising column of your film ledger sheet.

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