Roger Ebert and the Age of Influencers

Last week marked the beginning of the 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Award-winning film critic, Roger Ebert once called TIFF “the most important film festival in North America.” It’s fitting that before the opening film, the late journalist, and screenwriter was celebrated for the key roles he played in the film community, and how his influence expanded the significance Toronto holds in the cinematic world.

Ebert was the film critic that had as much or more celebrity than those he reviewed thanks to his global platform, credibility, and his passion for film. He was the definition of an influencer in the cinema industry.

After his death on April 4, 2013 the question of who would assume the position of the most trusted film critic emerged. If there were a critic as trusted and celebrated as Roger Ebert today, would we look for the thumb up or thumb down from them to make a decision?

Everyday, there is a new way social media is reshaping the landscape of how people in developed and emerging markets react to the world around them. Now, more than ever we see it putting an end to the visibility of elitist opinion leaders.

If you’re looking for an opinion on a recent film release, it becomes a show of hands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers to decide if you will be heading to the movies, forcing the educated journalist to become a blurb on the back of a DVD case.

Less and less, influencers are made up of big-ticket celebrities that endorse a product or a call to action, and more often, influencers are now those that are close to your own social networks; family members, friends, people who look like you, talk like you and those that you feel you have a personal connection with, in real life or not-so-real life.

In the slow destruction social media has caused to celebrity influencers as we know them, it has also created platforms of strong, underground communities built for specific areas of interest, like cinema. The diplomacy of online writing allows for more focused discussion, and perhaps a greater comfort zone for niche writers.

In charge of finding influencers for a brand, I might look to somewhat established bloggers. They are the ones who have built an audience from doing what they enjoy. However, there may be a risk of mid-level bloggers gaining a celebrity status that causes them to lose charm, and authenticity. If the next Roger Ebert is among them, a blogger that gains celebrity from a skill-set, doing what they love instead of being flashy for the sake of it, is an opinion leader that might be worth listening to, but that’s just my opinion.

For more on TIFF visit

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Like Gang(nam) Busters!

This past Saturday the song “Gangnam Style”, recorded by Korean pop star PSY, has become the most watched video on YouTube, overtaking Justin Bieber’s “Baby” which has long held the title.

The Viral Math

Baby by Justin Bieber 

  • Released in 2010
  • Has 805 million views and 1.4 million likes on YouTube

Gangnam Style by PSY

  • Released in July 2012
  • Has 816 million views and 5.4 million likes on YouTube

Gangnam Style is truly a phenomenon. There is no explaining why it is so incredibly popular. There are a few variables we can deconstruct; one of them is good PR.

Music is the universal language, it doesn’t matter what PSY is singing as long as it has a hook. That, it certainly has. The rhythm of the song may be instinctively K-POP but the visuals of the music video are as American as apple pie: explosions, parody and flashy fashion. Aside from wind tunnels and car explosions everything about this video is easy to copy even the dance moves, which I believe is crucial to its success.

So where does good PR come in? The web 2.0 monsters of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook that still has organizations scratching heads is something the PR world had to adapt to quickly. Getting a Korean pop star, hitting his 6th album to become a sensation in the western world overnight could only happen one way. Reaching an audience on the other side of the world has to be done online. The ease of copying this video and the dance moves make it perfect to put online where others can show their own version making the growth of the original video gain mythical status.

Who is the winner in all of this? It’s Scooter Braun. The manager of both Justin Bieber and PSY.

To see the official Gangnam Style video click here.

And Scooter Braun

Don’t Tickle Me Elmo

What happens on Sesame Street doesn’t always stay on Sesame Street. Earlier in the week Sesame Street voice actor and puppeteer Kevin Clash, who has been the man behind the monster for 27 years voicing Elmo, was granted a leave of absence from the popular children’s program amid sexual allegations with an underage male.

This has promoted Kevin Clash to make public that he is a gay man. Clash admits to having a consensual relationship with a man, who is now accusing Clash of rape.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why this situation is messier than Oscar the Grouch’s basement.

  • Sesame Street is a children’s program that has been running for over 40 years.
  • Sesame Street is operated by a family-oriented broadcaster in PBS.
  • Kevin Clash is one of the most visible puppeteers, making public appearances and most recently starring in the documentary, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. The Special Jury Prize winter at Sundance 2011.

Kevin Clash and Elmo on the set of Sesame Street

It was known within the first 24 hours of this story breaking that the accuser reached out to Andreozzi and Associates as legal counsel. The same law firm that represented one of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky child rape case.

Three days after the allegations were made the charges were dropped. This happening so quickly will help Sesame Street and PBS back Clash when he insisted he did no wrong, that this was a consensual relationship separate from work.

“If it were any other type of product, keeping Clash is fine but they’re not selling Tide or Tylenol.” Cherie Kerr

However it might not be that easy. I would think Elmo might need to take a vacation from the busy street but Elmo is Sesame Street’s greatest asset.  Some say Elmo needs a new voice, “If they keep Clash’s voice every time someone hears that voice they will associate Elmo with those allegations,” said Cherie Kerr a PR expert. “If it were any other type of product, keeping Clash is fine but they’re not selling Tide or Tylenol.”

I think holding off on any new releases of Elmo products is where they need to start. Maybe the saving grace for Clash’s career is that the children who watch this program look up to Elmo and not the voice behind him. This will be an extremely interesting case to follow because it is not over yet… PURE Weekly will look in to Kevin Clash paying the accuser $125,000 for the recanted statement. More to follow.

For more on Sesame Street click here.

Skyhigh Box Office

Skyfall opened this weekend to a near $90 million dollar box office take; the highest opening for a Bond movie in the franchises 50 years.

Skyfall is the third Bond installment with actor Daniel Craig as the man with a license to kill. His first outing reinvigorated a double-O fan base with Golden Eye director Martin Campbell, but the next picture Quantum of Solace, while strong at the box office ultimately disappointed. James Bond fever was cooling rapidly.

So how does Skyfall have such a strong showing? It relies on an old-school cool factor with references to old bonds films and a theme song by Adele that harkens back to the songs of the 1960s. Visions of girls, guns and martinis.

The biggest change however, might be in first-time Bond director Sam Mendes (2000 Academy Awards Best Director for American Beauty) he is a veteran of stage directing and infuses his motion pictures with character development and storyline that is required for the stage. This juxtaposed with intelligent action scenes may be what sparked a frenzy at the box office.

I think popcorn movies that let you shut off any thought process will never go away and are necessary, but the highbrow action films like The Dark Knight Rises are proving you get a little further when you realize the audience is an intelligent crowd and look for a premium product when paying that premium price to get inside the cineplex.

For more on Skyfall click here

Fashion Backward

Attack of The “Manne-thins”

Public Relations is what it says it is; A relationship with the public, In most cases, an organization’s relationship with the public. A lot of what an organization stands for and how they want to be perceived is part of it’s communications department responsibilities.

So why is H&M, the major clothing store, sending an image to costumers that has been long fought against?

Take a look at the new mannequins for H&M storefronts. They seem like they have gone a few days (weeks) without a good meal.

H&M Mannequin

Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks

In this new millennium, it’s becoming more socially accepted to be… who you are; something a lot of people have spent decades fighting for. We might not all be models, but healthy living is a major trend.

I honestly can’t believe H&M would showcase ultra-thin mannequins as their welcoming committee, when in store their sizes reflect every body type on the spectrum.

Is the next trend going to go backwards or is this a case of mistaken identity in high fashion? In today’s world when most red carpet photographers and praise land on women like Christina Hendricks of AMC’s Mad Men, you would think we’ve seen the last of the “Manne-thins” to sell a product.

H&M Canada


Silly Symphony

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presented their annual general report last Monday and it showed the previous season operations leaves the TSO short to the tune of $1 million dollars. This deficit is largely due to a star-studded birthday celebration for the symphony’s 90th anniversary.

60% of ticket sales are from subscribers while most of the empty seats are being bought 24 hours prior to an event. Andrew Shaw, president and CEO of the TSO told the Toronto Star,

“We see change going on here when people are purchasing their tickets. This is the internet generation. They tweet, text and make up their minds 24 hours before the concert.”

One million seems like pocket change to raise in the metropolis of Toronto. In wartimes the film industry did well; No matter how bad things got, people wanted to spend on an escape. Has that mentality changed? Is the economy bad enough to make the value of art as escape go down? As far as ticket sales, maybe the TSO should find a way to attract more subscribers or be more vocal online to make those last-minute buyers eager to purchase tickets early. It could be a case of overspending and it’s time to reduce operating costs.

It almost seems too easy to find seven figures for the band. It will be interesting to see how they play this deficit score.

For more on the TSO or to donate click here.

You Never Know What You’re Going To Get

Actor Tom Hanks appeared recently on Good Morning America in support of his new film Cloud Atlas written and directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski adapted from the novel by David Mitchell.

In an early morning interview with ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas, Tom Hanks drops the F-bomb after being prompted to speak in an accent he uses for one of the many characters he plays in the film. A majority of the lines from that particular character include expletives.

Elizabeth Vargas quickly apologizes to viewers at home while Tom Hanks does the same in a lighter tone.

The next day Tom Hanks appeared on Saturday Night Live.

I think it’s safe to say that expletives have no place in day time television but criticism might be misplaced. Are children are watching morning national news? Most of them are already waiting for recess by the time this interview airs.

A poll by the Toronto Sun shows 56% of people thinking swearing is no big deal on live TV.

For Tom Hanks, being one of the more likable celebrities in Hollywood, I don’t see this being a “BIG” problem.

Cloud Atlas opens everywhere October 26, 2012.

To see a clip from this interview including the F-Bomb click here. Viewer discretion is advised. 

Faces Change, The Name Remains The Same

For the first time in almost 30 years Wendy’s is getting a new look.

Wendy looks refreshed, inviting and suited for today’s fast-food atmosphere. The hamburgers will stay squared-off but the logo is no longer boxed in. They have dropped the old west font type and subscribed to the idea that less is more.

Wendy’s has always sold their old fashioned-hamburgers as the fresh, never frozen burger so it’s about time the overall identity of Wendy’s freshens up, but is it too little too late? Fast food chains like McDonald’s have been slowly trying to find a new look since 2004 and ending up with McCafe’s across North America and not unlike so many other competitors, are offering a place to slow-down while taking a bite of fast food with fireplaces and free wifi. Many fast-food service restaurants are also creating a wide range of choices when it comes to the food they offer, catering to a more health-conscious society. Proof it takes more than a logo to reignite long-term interest.

Wendy’s will renovate 6,00 locations across North America in time to use the new logo in March 2013. Those of you who are looking for a little nostalgia with your fries are not to fear, Wendy’s will build a nostalgic test site across the street from it’s Dublin, Ohio headquarters that will house the company’s memorabilia. (The Columbus Dispatch, “Wendy’s to open nostalgic test site”)

Click here to find a a Wendy’s near you.

Does Bad Press Exist? Not in This Kitchen

It could be planned, it could be a mistake or it could be a case of human stupidity but increasingly, employees of major brands are voicing their opinions to the world by using the official company twitter and not their personal account.

The most recent crisis deals with KitchenAid, a major home appliance company and a man that goes by POTUS (That’s President of the United States.)

President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney took part in the first Presidential debate on October 3, 2012. Obama told a personal story about his grandmother, admitted she passed away three days before he took office. A KitchenAid employee (who is obviously not a Obama supporter) tweeted this…

“Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president”

It is safe to assume common sense should allow us to believe the statement by the employee is not the opinion of the company. However, this has not been met without backlash; former supports of the company’s products are calling for a boycott.

KitchenAid responded eight minutes later with a personal apology.

They continue today (October 3) to push the apology.

 The speedy response by KitchenAid might be what saves the company from a massive fallout, but has this all been bad news for the brand? From September 7, 2012 to October 2, 2012 @kitchenaidusa gained 1,179 followers and from October 3, 2012 (the day of the debate and offensive tweet) to today, October 6, 2012 they have gained 1,967 more followers.

2,000 followers in three days vs. 1,000 followers in three weeks?  What’s so bad about bad press?

You can follow KitchenAid here @kitchenaidusa

Apple Consumers Get Lost In New Update

Apple’s popularity was reaching a fever pitch with the upcoming release of iPhone 5 and new operating system, iOS 6. Even its legal battles with Samsung wasn’t cooling it down.

The Apple iPhone 5 is one of the biggest changes to a previously released Apple product. Almost everything internally and externally on the iPhone 5 is redesigned making the phone Apple’s in-demand “it” product. This is evident in its sales record of five million units sold in the first three days (Reuters: Apple says iPhone 5 sales top 5 million).

While millions of customers were ready to unleash brand new updates from Apple, one update had users taking a wrong turn. Apple removed the preload Google Maps application in favour of their very own Mapping system. However, Apple Maps far from lived up to the standards costumers are prepared for. Parks are placed in airport runways and some cities appear in the ocean.

An outcry from loyal Apple users and some shots taken at the company by tech bloggers forced Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue an apology.

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

In his open letter CEO Tim Cook looks for immediately solutions prompting customers to download readily available Map applications from the iTunes Store.

I feel that Apple is in a classic position of “too big to fail” but this is one of the first mobile devices released since the passing of former CEO Steve Jobs and it comes with a public apology. Can the public forgive the mistake after they release a fixed update? What overlooked feature will be the straw that breaks the camels back?

To see the entire open letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook, click here.