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November 1996, Week 3


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Chris Worsnop <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 19 Nov 1996 14:40:34 -0500
text/plain (129 lines)
Naomi Klein has given permission for this column from The Toronto Star,
November 18, 1996 to be posted to the list for educational use.
What's up, doc? Just ask the marketers
``Take me to Space Jam. Take me to Space Jam. . .''      [By Naomi Klein]
That was the chant sweeping the planet on the weekend as millions of kids
entered a trance-like state, experiencing a gravitational pull to a movie
starring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan.
On the surface, Space Jammania is simply the result of a $70 million
marketing blitz: months of teaser billboards, McDonalds' Space Jam Happy
Meals, and Space Jam Jell-O.
But Space Jam is more than that. It is the first of the synergy babies born
of the latest wave of media mega mergers: ABC and Disney; Viacom, Paramount
and Blockbuster; Westinghouse and CBS; Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting.
When the big guys hop in to bed together, their pillow talk is all about
cross-over or synergy (a.k.a. raking it in from all ends). So ABC sitcom
stars make Disney movies, Paramount films recoup their losses at
Blockbuster, and Time Warner-Turner dreams up Space Jam.
Fittingly, it all started with an ad. Nike has been running spots in the
States featuring Jordan and Bugs Bunny. Since Bugs is a Looney Tunes
character and Looney Tunes is part of Warner Bros., the concept made an
easy sell as a feature film. For parent company Time Warner-Turner, Space
Jam - with its link to the big money markets of kids' cartoons and
professional sports - provided the perfect opportunity to flex its new
synergy muscles and blow the Disney-ABC merger out of the water.
So Space Jam is being promoted though every orifice of the Time
Warner-Turner empire. Connect the dots between Time Warner and Turner's
assets and you have the Synergy Jam phenomenon.
There are behind-the-scenes television specials on the Turner-owned Cartoon
Network and when NBA games play on Turner Network Television, they are
interrupted with ads for Space Jam.
Warner Bros. has used the movie to launch a new toy division and to open a
Warner Bros. store in New York filled with Space Jam promo paraphernalia.
When Michael Jordan cut the ribbon at the store's opening, it was broadcast
on the Atlantic Records web site - a division of Warner Music, a division
of Time Warner.
The current issue of Entertainment Weekly - owned of course, by Time Inc. -
plugs the Space Jam website and the Warner Music Space Jam soundtrack. An
interview with R. Kelly, who performs on the album, asks such hard-hitting
questions as: ``So what does R. Kelly have in common with Bugs Bunny?''
The fawning review declares that the soundtrack ``is more than just another
all-star Jam session - it's a play-by-play of contemporary R&B.'' It's a
bold musical claim, considering that the disc contains a song by one Bugs
Bunny, making his debut as a gangsta rapper.
The cartoon character's single ``Buggin'' turns out to be an opportunity
for Warner to take shots at the competition. ``What kind of Mickey Mouse
organization goes to Disneyland?'' Bugs raps.
Seal, another of the Space Jam crooners, represents synergy within synergy
for Warner Music, who not only produced the Space Jam soundtrack but also
distribute Seal's other albums.
Just in case you weren't feeling fully embraced by the tentacles of the
Time Inc., Time Warner, Warner Music octopus, Seal's new video is intercut
with scenes from the Warner Bros. movie.
Entertainment Weekly's cross-promotion looks positively understated
compared with the latest issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids.
The magazine has published a ``special collector's edition'' with all 64
pages devoted to Space Jam.
Why the special treatment? According to the editorial, ``We don't usually
devote an entire issue to one subject, but then, we don't usually see
movies like Space Jam.''
Good explanation, and certainly more palatable than explaining to the
little tikes that Sports Illustrated For Kids is wholly owned by Time Inc.,
a division of Time Warner, the people who own Warner Bros. and produced
Space Jam.
The mergers have bred a monster race of slick and safe entertainment
caricatures. Through carefully timed releases of movies, magazines, video
games, CDs and CD-ROMs, they can now hijack our culture on every front and
feed all the profits into the same pockets.
In this era of so-called information choice, synergy has emerged as a means
of controlling consumption so thoroughly that choice is practically taken
out of the equation.
Space Jam is the first. Watch for the next.
Naomi Klein's column appears on Mondays. Her E-mail address is
[log in to unmask]
If you use this, please keep Naomi Klein's by-line attached and acknowlege
the Toroto Star.
Chris M. Worsnop
Consultant, speaker, workshop leader
Assessment, writing, media education
2400 Dundas Street West
Unit 6, Suite 107
Ontario, Canada
L5K 2R8
Email:  <[log in to unmask]>
Phone:  (905) 823-0875
"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."
H.G. Wells
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