Subtractvertising

Most people who know me know that I love going to the movies — not the movies themselves, mind you, but actually going to the movies.  It’s great to sit on your couch on the weekend and catch up on stuff you missed on Netflix or whatever, but in the end it’s not the same as being in the theater, which is why every weekend when the inevitable, “Anyone want to do anything?” group text comes out, I offer up “Sure — movie?”

No one ever takes me up on this because I’m awful to see movies with (seriously, I walked out at the end of both Gravity and Lincoln complaining), but also because we’ve recently been spoiled by the AMC Courthouse theater, which has assigned seating in reclining chairs.  I’m not making this up — if you want to see Harry Potter 8Deathly8Hallows in 3D at midnight on the night it comes out with 12 of your closest friends and all sit together, you can buy your tickets online and then waltz into the theater at 11:59 and not have to worry about getting stuck in the front row or splitting up the group.  Even if you bought tickets for the front row, you can recline, so it doesn’t matter.  There’s no bad seats in the house!  It is, without a doubt, the. single. greatest. development. in cinema history.

If you’re wondering if my glowing recommendation has monetary incentive, I would like to point out that my blog has literally ones of readers — you’d be surprised how little that kind of readership draws in the way of revenue (it’s even less than the $1.18 I have on my AMC card toward a free popcorn or cine-snack of my choice… which is my real monetary incentive).  However, I would also like to point out that the AMC Courthouse theater has the freshest popcorn, the friendliest staff, and showings starting as early as 9:30 AM on most weekends — tell ’em CCM sent you!

Anyway, the point is they only show half the movies that are out at a given time; the other half are shown by the competing Ballston Regal Cinemas, which I’m contractually obligated not to link to.  The problem is that it always seems like the Regal has the good showings, but it’s farther away, in literally the worst mall in America, and it doesn’t have reclining seats.  So if we want to go to a movie, we have to hope it shows up in Courthouse, otherwise we won’t end up seeing it.  This, in turn, means I don’t get to see movies that often, which means that when I do go to the movies, I want the whole experience — I like to get there a bit early for the pre-preview-previews (movie trivia’s the illest), the previews, the post-preview-pre-movie-announcements (otherwise how will I know where the exits are or whether my phone dreams?), and obviously the movie.  Then I stay until the end of the credits, because you never know what kind of post-credits-pre-rating-warning-(seriously, why do they end the movie by telling you what the movie you just saw was rated? Isn’t it a bit too late for that? “Oh I saw Saving Private Ryan with my 7-year old because I thought was the heartwarming tale of an integration-era Army basketball team learning to see past racial differences and triumph agains the all-white Navy squad, and now they tell me it’s an R-rated gore-fest!”)-teaser they’re going to show for the sequel to 12 Years a Slave (spoiler: it’s 13 Years a Slave, and it stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and the rest of the gang!).

One thing I’ve noticed in my considerable time at the theater is that every winter, the good folks at Cougar Town buy out a bunch of pre-preview spots, ostensibly to convince people to watch their show.  I want to preface this by saying that I have heard great things about Cougar Town.  Abed from Community loves it (and has actually been on it), people I know who watch it say it’s either “hilarious” or “really not that bad? I guess?” and it’s by the same guys who did Scrubs, which is on the Official List of Best TV Shows of All Time*.  The largest criticism I’ve heard of it is basically that “it has, like, a really dumb name,” which is also true of such classics as Mork and Mindy and the zany hospital classic-mix-up sitcom, Er?.  Furthermore, it started on ABC, which is easily the least offensive of the major networks.  Compared to the doddering-old-man-trying-to-stay-hip-with-the-kids that is NBC (“kids these days hate 30 Rock.  Michael J. Fox is still relevant, right?  While we’re at it let’s move Scrubs to ABC and fire Conan!”), the laugh-track-laden CBS (“Let’s take the one original show we’ve had in years and drag it on for 14 seasons.  Maybe throw in a slap bet. Helloooooo, middle America!”), and Fox’s Animation Domination (I have nothing bad to say, I actually like Fox.  Plus Brooklyn 99 is easily the best new comedy on TV this season), stuff on ABC looks well-produced, well-written, and even if it’s generally vapid, at least it’s entertaining.  Now C Town is on TBS, which is the Superstation, so you know it’s … super…

My problem with Cougar Town is apparently that I’ve never watched it, and after being subjected to their ads, I don’t ever want to.  Check out this rad ad (r’ad), for season 4:

The entire ad is just the cast (I’m assuming it’s the cast, it could be random people, since no one speaks)  being drenched in wine.  The promo for this season at least has cast members talking, but isn’t much better — I guess they like wine a lot? That’s probably a thing in the show?  Maybe these ads are hilarious to people who watch the show, but I can only guess, because I haven’t watched the show.  I don’t have to guess that they’re not hilarious to people who haven’t watched the show, because again, I have not watched the show, and the ads are not hilarious.  From what I can tell, the show is about A) people drinking wine, and B) there is no B, because that’s all I can tell.  For all I know, it’s a show about a bunch of recovering alcoholics and Courteney “I have too many e’s in my name and my last name is hilarious, here check it out:” Cox plays an evil villain whose life goal is to get her “friends” to relapse, either by setting full glasses of wine in front of them and then telling them not to drink with a wink and a nod or by literally throwing booze at them.  Major selling points of the show appear to be, “Oh I remember her she was the bitchy chick from [Scrubs | Freaks and Geeks],” and, “Hey look they have a George Constanza type!”

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 11.56.53 AM

Jason Alexander was originally offered the part, but they reneged after finding a younger, balder him.

 The videos I linked are TV spots, because I couldn’t find any of the ads that run pre-movie, but know that the ones that run in theaters are longer.  Imagine the one where Courteney “seriously… my name is” Cox throws wine at people, but for like… 5 minutes.  They ran one in 2013 that boiled down to the annoying voiceover guy whose words are echoed by a sign for some reason repeating, “This season: more wine!” until a good Samaritan went to the projection room and held a flame under the tape to save future generations from ever being subjected to such torture.  (Theater security showed up, but instead of escorting him out they gave him a high five.  He got a standing ovation upon returning to the theater, and the manager gave him free popcorn for life.)  Sitting through the ad was almost enough to make me wish I hadn’t gotten to the theater early, but then I wouldn’t have gotten a good seat (this was prior to the advent of assigned seating).

The point of the ads is presumably to get people to watch the show.  I would think that the people who already watch the show … already watch the show.  It should be sufficient to do a quick “Hey guys, still on!” ad — something that doesn’t actively turn people off from watching it.  You could even do something that makes people who haven’t watched the show want to watch it, by showing funny scenes that aren’t just inside jokes, or, worse, one inside joke repeatedly.  The advertising should be relevant to the target audience, and I don’t think it is (or maybe I’m just super not the target audience, which is unlikely, because of how much I like wine).  The only thing about the ads that could possibly draw me into the show is the idea that if I start watching it, the ads might become bearable.  But I’m not about to watch 5 seasons of Wine Wars to make 5 minutes of my life less awful every other month, so they can count me out.

Congratulations, Cougar Town.  Your advertising lost you a potential viewer.

* There is no link here because I could not find any such list, since none of the lists I checked actually mentioned it, and I have yet to publish such a list… until now…

  1. Some stuff
  2. Scrubs
  3. Some other stuff
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