Behind the Movie Blurb: How One Man’s Tweet Became an Ad

Tweet Becomes a Movie BlurbDo you ever look at the fine print of a flashy movie blurb on a review? What our eye hones in on is the large font proclaiming a film was “THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE!” and we don’t always notice who said the movie blurb or what press venue they were from. For all you know the comment could have been made by someone who doesn’t even exist.

Twenty years ago Entertainment Weekly shared some insight about some of the people behind the blurbs. Back in 1991 EW revealed, “Though the movie companies won’t comment on this practice, they seek and receive favorable reviews from wherever they can.” This practice still seems to be true and the latest place studios are finding reviews is social media.

As 2013 was coming to a close, famed New York Times critic, Tony Scott (also known as A.O. Scott), casually Tweeted:


A producer of the film Inside Llewyn Davis, Scott Rudin, saw the tweet, and asked Cynthia Swartz, the movie’s publicist from CBS Films, to reach out to Scott to ask about using the Tweet in an ad. She asked if she could shorten the tweet for the ad. Scott responded with:

“Well this is a new one. I’d prefer though that my tweets not be used in advertisements. That seems like a slippery slope and contrary to the ad hoc and informal nature of the medium.

And changing the tweet is basically manufacturing a quote, something I avoid.

So I’m afraid the answer is no.”

On January 4th there was a full page ad in the New York Times for Inside Llewyn Davis. The ad was nothing, and I do mean nothing, but A.O. Scott’s (edited) tweet. The very one he said could not be used in advertisement. Mashable was swift to point out that the $70,000 ad placed by CBS Films could be in violation of Twitter’s guidelines for using tweets in broadcast.

Producer Scott Rudin is confident he was allowed to use the quote. He told a reporter at the Times “that he has frequently used tweets before in ads for movies or plays, and that he recognizes no distinction between what a critic writes in a review or on Twitter.” He went on to explain, “If a critic is going to tweet it, we’re free to use it. We’re free to edit any review. We pull out what we want.”

I have been fascinated by blurb-gate this week as I think it has the potential to turn a lot of things around within the social media world. It certainly has made me think about casual reviews within tweets in a new way. I go to movies often and I tweet about TV and books I love all of the time. If someone is looking for a recommendation for a movie to watch or a book to read I am happy to give it over Twitter. Using Rudin’s logic, my tweets of endorsement could be used as ad blurbs. What becomes murky is how does that change the original status of my original tweet? If someone uses my words in a blurb is my Tweet now an ad?

Tweets should not be pulled and sampled and quoted from like traditional forms of press. The social media medium is just not the same as other forms of journalism. Readers shouldn’t be duped into reviews within timelines.

Do you ever Tweet about films you enjoy? How would you feel if you saw your Tweet being used in an ad without your consent?

Image Credit: @KristineStewart

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