Buzz Machine


New York Times scribe Caryn James astute observations in today’s paper about “staging celebrity in Buzztown USA” gives Hollywood’s spin machine more credit than it deserves. In her piece, Ms. James attempts to reconcile how movie stars’ pre-release off-screen shenanigans help or hurt the film’s box office prospects. She speculates that some of the advance media buzz may be PR-orchestrated.

Was Russell Crowe’s phone-throwing tantrum calculated? Was Steven Spielberg’s high-profile cancellation of the Japanese premiere of “War of the Worlds” designed to generate advance buzz? And what about the aberrant behavior of the aforementioned film’s megastar fawning on Oprah over his film’s co-star (and recent convert to his religion)?

Yes, Ms. James is right to recognize the influence a publicist holds in organizing the “command and control” interviews and advance press campaign such as the photo layout with Brad and Angelina in the new issue of W.

Still, between today’s unprecedented numbers of papparazzi, the proliferation of gossip and celebrity news in the mainstream media, and the myriad blogs, the ability to command and control is significantly diminished. Managing the inadvertent “buzz” an unscripted star may generate is increasingly the calling of today’s entertainment publicists.