Interview: Brett Erlich on Viral Videos, Product Placement, and The Rotten Tomatoes Show


socialnerdiashow_bretterlich_rtBrett Erlich is the co-host of The Rotten Tomatoes Show, as well as a writer, co-host and associate producer for InfoMania. Both shows are on Current TV and you need to watch them if you haven't already. Take a second, stop watching CNN or MTV and go watch some Current.

I had an awesome time talking to Brett on The Social Nerdia Show! and you can listen to it below, on blogtalkradio, or as a downloadable/five-star-reviewable/subscribable podcast on iTunes).



bretterlich_pointing_socialnerdiaI've been a fan of Current for a while now. With shows like Vanguard and Super News!, it's as if Current knows what I want to watch. So when I heard that The Rotten Tomatoes Show (based on rottentomatoes.com) was coming to my television via Current, I got very excited. With hosts like Brett Erlich and Ellen Fox, as well as a ton of clever viewer-created movie reviews, the show has become a part of Thursday nights for me.

Brett told me about how the show got started, how they select the user-generated reviews, and how much he enjoys working at Current. The show is a great example of what you can do by combining television and the web. Part of its success is that they are crowdsourcing some of the best material to movie fans and critics sitting in their living rooms.  Brett explained that it's good that the show is more than just the opinion of the hosts and that "the more people we have contributing opinons, the better the show gets."

So many people becoming film critics and spreading the word like a virus has definitely made it a bit challenging for movie studios. They can no longer simply depend on great marketing and polished trailers. For a movie to succeed, it might actually have to be good these days. Word of mouth has gone from casual conversation at a dinner party to millions of random people sharing thoughts in the internets. Sure, some movies like Snakes on a Plane bomb even with great online buzz, but I doubt District 9 would be the movie it is if it had come out 10 years ago.

Brett thinks that the internet is definitely affecting the way movies are promoted and how well they do at the box office. "You're going to see a lot of studios trying to crack the code.. It used to be that they put a bunch of billboards and trailers, to get the word out. Now, they have to try to appeal to specific journalists and twitterers out there who have a lot of followers and have ganered the respect; the problem is that they (the movie studios) are going to have to infiltrate the sanctity of the honest reviewer."

bretterlich_viralvideofilmschool_socialnerdiaTo influence the honest reviewer, movie marketing needs to be more creative and relevant than ever before, and the 'product' is going to have to be the real star. Same goes for companies trying to market themselves by going viral. The social web allows companies like Evian to put out videos of rollerblading babies, but it has to be pretty good for people to care about it. I've only put a few videos on YouTube so I'm no expert, but Brett has accumulated a wealth of knowledge that he shares through his Viral Video Film School videos. I was glad to hear that Brett shares in my appreciation of well-thought branded viral videos: "I love corporate made videos. I think they're hilarious.. I can't believe they found so many babies rollerblading.. there's definitely room for good advertising, good programming, good product placement."

macandme_socialnerdiaApparently, everyone in Hollywood knows who the branding experts are: "People in the industry know who's responsible for all the product placement." But all this branding and product placing has to be done in a reasonable and creative manner. I mean, give us some kind of payoff and make sure you're being honest. "I just think that we don't want to be lied to," Brett said. We all know that marketers want us to tell their friends about their brands (that's actually the basis for Bain & Co.'s "Net Promoter Score"), but making it irrelevant or harder for users is not going to work. As Brett said, "if you're going to play me a 30 second video, before this 20 second video I really want to watch, I'm not going to watch either of those things and I'm going to tell my friends."

Now, we didn't just talk about viral marketing and full-blown movie product placement (such as can be found in the movie-length McDonald's and Coca-Cola commercial known as "Mac and Me"). We also talked about Ivy League schools, the awesomness of Nissan Xterras (which we drive, and no, this is not a product placement), the beginnings of Comedy Central, Viper from "Top Gun", a close encounter with Al Gore, and Brett's cousin Bill Lee, who happens to be a former Major League pitcher and the author of "Have Glove, Will Travel." I had to tell Brett about how I added his name to Lee's wikipedia entry because it is the first time that the Wikipedia editing geeks don't delete an entry I write (well, maybe because this one was actually true). I even had the opportunity to ask Brett some of the classic questions from "Inside the Actors Studio." Oh, and by the way, in case you're wondering (and I know you are), Brett does like tomatoes.

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