Monday, January 2, 2012

Amazon's Bad Video Marketing

Welcome to 2012, and my brief article to kick off the year. Many friends have complained about how skittish Netflix's recommendation system works. I've had people talk to me for 20 minutes because a "gritty" or "visceral" suggestion ends up being unappealing, uninteresting, and unentertaining. I've argued that it needs improvement, too.

Amazon, however, seems to go above and beyond in terms of trying to sell me on stuff for which I have no interest. Every single week, I receive an email telling me about all the great new and upcoming Amazon digital videos to rent or own. And every single week, I see nothing of interest.

This weekly nuisance has happened for months now, but today was a new low. This was worse than movies I didn't care about; my time (all 20 seconds of it) was completely wasted.

A lot of this is garbage, & most of it is in the email they send me anyway.
Obviously, Amazon runs a business, and they want to advertise new products and promote their biggest-selling items. That's fair. Also obviously, the movie industry is a flawed market full of products that don't appeal to me. That's not fair (because it's so wasteful), but this is hardly Amazon's fault.

I do start to get annoyed with Amazon, tho, for being a nuisance to me while trying to help pictures like In Time become profitable. See, when a US picture cost $40M to make but only takes in $36M, it is considered "a bomb." Sometimes this happens because movies are not marketed properly; sometimes it happens because they're not any good.

Today, a lot of awful movies are salvaged because of the international film market. One awful film called Attack of the Clones made $310 Stateside, then another $340M in other parts of the world. 2007's Alvin and the Chipmunks "earned" $217M in the US, then $361M abroad. Even a bomb like Green Lantern can equal its US take overseas; that's why it actually covered its $200M budget. So, yes, if your movie is full of special effects and it's dumb and has a bad story and script, the foreign segment of film-watchers might bail you out.

Junk, more junk, worse junk. Ugh.

The same holds true for the "after-market," which includes all post-theatrical-release sales for a flick. As online video sellers like Amazon and ITunes have grown more popular, this source of revenue has only increased. The show Family Guy was brought back from cancellation on the strength of its DVD sales alone.

So why am I annoyed now? Click on these pictures, folks. Final Destination 5, which I wouldn't watch if the alternative were to just throw $20 out a window, is the top-billed offering. It's true that FD5 has 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it's actually only 28% if you look at the "Top Critics" rating.

Similarly, what Amazon promotes as "Popular Prime Instant Shows" are of no interest. I don't care about the 2nd seasons of Sons of Anarchy or Glee. I don't even know what Slings & Arrows is. I kind of like the fact that The French Chef with Julia Child is popular, but I don't want to pay to see any of these. And since I never have, I don't appreciate Amazon pushing them at me.

The "Recent Releases" are even worse. Dolphin's Tale, Midnight in Paris, and Abduction? No, no, and hell-no. Warrior is actually a well-received picture, but I also have no interest. Do you think that with all of Amazon's money and programmers, they could look at what I've browsed and purchased, then send me an email with recent releases that match my tastes? Yes, they could. Will they? Apparently, never.

The next list, "Best Selling Television Shows" is a bust. I'm not going to watch The Closer, Leverage, Prime Suspect, and Top Chef any time soon. If I had a couple of broken legs, maybe I'd catch the first two as I recovered.

The "Weekend Sale" options are also not good. In fact, almost every week they're downright terrible. This time out, it's The Smurfs, Columbiana, Mr. Popper's Penguins, and Glee the Concert. Nothing in my Amazon browsing and purchasing habits should make anyone think I have any interest in any of these. What's worse, all of these, except Glee, were trashed in reviews. Hell, only Smurfs and Glee were even successful!

The email closes a list of links to deals on dvds and digital rentals/purchases. Just above that is a list of "Top Pre-orders." But Moneyball, Contagion, There Be Dragon, and In Time? That's a pretty weird lineup. Only the first two were well-received by critics (and audiences, for that matter). I don't think a look at my history with Amazon would suggest I'm interested in any of those; maybe Contagion.

What I'm saying is that before I even reached the section with "Special Deals" "Movies Under $5" and "TV Seasons Under $15," I am annoyed and tired of Amazon shilling garbage out to me. I felt this way from the moment I saw Final Destination 5 as the headliner, and it only got worse and worse. Actually, the awfulness of the choices encouraged me to keep looking - but not in a good way.

At some point, Amazon should want to get what I call "positive attention," not "negative attention." At some point, they should want to advertise more effectively to their members/users/whatever. At some point, they should stop pestering me with what amounts to spam. The videos that they highlight every week do not make their service look like a quality operation, and they don't inspire me to anything except for write snarky comments and wonder why their capitalism is so cheap and flimsy. Who's that good for?


  1. Hmmm... I suppose Amazon's new shtick does not appeal to everyone. Like every other marketing tactic, room for improvement will always be present. I bet Amazon's still trying to figure out the pros and cons of this strategy. And we all wait for whatever happens. =)

  2. Your positivity is nice, but Amazon sends targeted ads to me on products I browse in the rest of the store. So how is it that they learned nothing about marketing that stuff, and why just send an email blast that amounts to regular weekly spam?


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