Stay Tuned/22 June 1997

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

22 June 1997
(Sunday Papers)

This was a very slow advertising week, so we're going to have to content ourselves with scraps and bits.

Tie Me In, Tie Me Down

First the movies got their own domain names so that the studios could hype them in advance. I'm not opposed to promoting movies via the web, but wouldn't it make more sense to go to something like, instead of taking for a site which will last a few months at best?

Then the studios began selling promotional merchandise before the movie actually opened.

Now the "tie-ins" are trying to jump the gun as well. "Tie-ins" are where you have products which have absolutely nothing to do with the movie, but mention the movie in their ads or their packaging. (Sometimes I wonder whether there's a floating scale for who must recompensate whom in these deals. I mean, if General Mills has the official rights to hawk The Lost World on their packaging, who benefits more, the studio or the cereal? Who pays?)

Anyway, several large companies have bought a piece of Hercules, or vice versa, but the problem is that they've already shifted into high gear and the movie hasn't even opened yet. I dunno. This isn't causing me to lose sleep or anything, but something is wrong here.

I'm staring at four pages from Nestlé, and this is just plain ridiculous - it looks as if they're plastering a Hercules logo on every product they sell. For the ice cream that's ok, but a Hercules-centered ad for Alpo? (No, I'm not kidding.)

With promotions like this, the unfortunate backlash, at least on my part, is that I get so sick of the hype that I rebel against actually seeing the movie. This isn't going to happen with Hercules - the idea of Gerald Scarfe designing a Disney film is too good to miss - but it's happened before with certain blockbusters I won't mention.

One interesting side note: Nestlé is offering some sort of game where you buy products and collect points to get some Hercules goodie - and they are extending this to most of their common U.S. grocery products. They offer a chart ("Your Nestlé Shopping List") of allowed products which is very useful in a far more interesting game: the game of Who Owns What. I knew they had Alpo, Carnation, Hills Bros., and Nestea, but I had no idea they owned Friskies and Taster's Choice.

And, yes, they are offering a special Hercules candy bar.

It Does Them No Credit

I got a check in the mail the other day for the odd sum of three thousand five hundred fifty-six dollars and seventy-eight cents.

It was sent from the "Household Finance Corporation" and said, in big letters at the top, "This money is yours to use right away!" But the letter, and the fine print, revealed that I was actually signing a promissory note.

Yes, due to my good credit history, I was being given - with no solicitation on my part whatsoever, I'd never heard of them before - this preapproved loan, with a pre-set repayment schedule of $114.00 a month for 48 months.

The supreme irony of this is: a few years ago, when I was very much living from hand to mouth, I'd have thought that was a pretty good deal. Three thousand could have done a lot of things that needed doing and that I just didn't have the cash to do. I could have paid off another outstanding debt or two with it, and then easily had the latitude to afford $114 a month. I might very well have done it.

And I'd have been ripped off. Royally.

Oh, I can't knock these people too hard; they're not being deceptive. Not only do you have enough information in the paragraphs above to figure out how bad a ripoff it is, but they also have the "disclosure box" as required by law, right on the back of the letter, with an imposing-looking black border. And they don't conceal that the "check" is a loan ... the letter is very forthcoming.

No, they're doing nothing illegal or particularly unethical. But I don't like them anyway.

For the record, if you didn't want to do the multiplication above, the total amount that I will have paid back, if I make 48 payments of $114, is $5472. This jibes with the back of their statement: they state that number directly, right in black and white.

Now do the subtraction. Paying $5472 on a $3557 loan (I think they include the cents so the number will look bigger than it is) means that I will pay an extra $1915 in interest - more than half again the amount I borrowed by signing their check. This, too, is all in black and white. The interest rate: 23 percent.

Look, most credit cards these days are hovering somewhere between 14 and 18 percent, and even that is near usury as far as I'm concerned. If you need credit, and you have any sort of credit rating whatsoever, go apply for a credit card that has one of these teaser rates for the first year - often as low as 6 percent - and do your damnedest to buy what you need and pay off in that first year.

And if your credit history prohibits you from getting a card, take consolation in the fact that all you're missing out on is a rigged game that has ushered many well-meaning people into bankruptcy.

But if you get one of these "checks," burn it.

That's it. I did say it was a lean week. Sorry.

Hindsight: 26 February 2007

The comments on domain greediness overlap with the "Web Matters" rant on 11 May.

On 23 June, the day after posting this, I added the following:

"The Warner Bros. URLs above, which I wrote down without checking, turned out to be very good guesses. There are many more: and, for example. Greedy little boys. Save some domain names for DC Comics ... remember, the people whose creative property you're franchising? Oh, wait ... Warner hosts the DC Comics web page. (Phoo.) OK, fine. (Rats.)"

I had of course forgotten that DC is a Warner subsidiary. By the by, now redirects to the general DC pages, which is probably better than leaving around an expired promotional site ... although such sites have their own sort of amusement value, like looking at a list of dead computer systems which were all supposed to be the Next Big Thing. Why not dance on the bones?

In March 1998 I added the comment, "I liked Hercules, but apparently no one else did." I guess I had been seeing a lot of negative reviews at the time. I still think it has the distinction of being the only Disney animated movie that doesn't look like all other Disney animated movies, and that bringing in Scarfe (scrapping months of previous designs) was a very gutsy thing to do. Pity Disney isn't gutsy more often.

The loan offer is indeed the "odd and deceptive mailing" referred to in the previous column. In case you were wondering.

and now back to our program

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