$57.38 of swag makes news in Modesto

Modesto Bee editor Pat Clark tallied up the retail value of the goodies she received from Dreamworks to promote the movie ‘Just Like Heaven’ (cheesecake, candles, free mp3 downloads) and comes up with the figure $57.38. She marvels that the studio would spend this much, noting that if the studio sent the same goodie assortment to every paper in the country as big or bigger than the Bee (there are 1456 of them), the total would come to $83,545. She writes:

And it’s a total waste. No one writes or chooses favorable stories or reviews based on swag. Plus, it’s unethical to keep it. So we hand over anything worth anything to our bosses, and when the holidays roll around, it’s auctioned off in a buildingwide Book of Dreams benefit sale. At least that way, a little money goes for something worthwhile.

So, here’s a thought for studio flacks – instead of sending overpriced, French Tulip-fragranced candles, drop us a postcard saying that the money typically spent on publication promotions was sent to feed starving children in Africa, or to help rebuild the Gulf Coast, or to some society researching a cure for some disease.

The result would be the same: an honest review – great, good, bad or ugly. But at least the studio could claim a little respect and some good karma for doing the right thing.

The thing is, this kind of promotional campagin isn’t about trying to get a good review– it’s about trying to get good space and placement for the review in the paper in question. And given the size of studio marketing budgets, it’s actually probably a relatively well-deployed $83,545. Particularly if studios are indeed cutting down on newspaper advertising, size and placement of reviews (even, to some extent, not-so-good reviews) will become increasingly important as a way to reach newspaper readers. And while I’m sure no newspaper editor would consciously give a movie extra coverage because of a cheesecake, they’re just as unsconsciously susceptible to marketing cues as the rest of us.

(By the way, anyone is welcome to send me stuff.)

(link via Romenesko)