I used to say in Army PSYOP that the most effective way to get inside an adversary’s decision cycle (i.e. get him to do something he wouldn’t otherwise do) is to do so in a way that your adversary doesn’t realize you’re trying to influence him. It works the same way in marketing – the most effective advertisements are subtle. Maybe sometimes you don’t even realize they are trying to sell you something. Maybe you just experience an emotion which you associate with a particular image, or brand, or product. Oh, I suppose some people respond best to those Sally Struthers commercials where they show you one starving child after another in an effort to get you to send them money. But I maintain that the average, educated Western person doesn’t respond to most appeals where they come after you with an emotional sledgehammer.
Side note: for you military buffs, I know it’s not called PSYOP anymore – it was when I was in. Now it’s called “MISO” (military information support operations) – employing the same principle I describe above, because now our adversaries think we’re trying to give them Japanese soup. But that’s a topic for another blog.
Anyway, there’s a film trailer making the rounds on Facebook that employs the heavy-handed approach. Like I said, it obviously works on some people because it managed to run a successful campaign to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter. It starts out wonderfully, pulling you in with some of the most amazing footage of albatrosses – thousands of them, flying gracefully over Midway Island, interacting with their young, close-ups, all of that. Then they start hitting you with dead albatrosses – sunken eyes, flailing, dying birds, decayed bodies of albatross chicks, showing what surely is a terrible problem – the innumerable plastic objects they have ingested, which presumably caused their deaths.
It’s only a four-minute trailer, but given the repetition of images (all right, I get it, I get it!) I wonder what the feature film might possibly contain. Usually a trailer is a teaser – you get a sense of what’s coming and what a movie is about, but it leaves you wanting to see more. In this case, it’s a shame, really – it’s a legitimate and serious concern that the plastics we use every day are causing damage on an island so far from human habitation. But at the end of the trailer, I’m not motivated to donate – I’m more upset because someone I’ve never met has just tried to get in my head to manipulate me.
Maybe I’m just cynical. Are YOU planning to see this film, and how much would you donate?