It's always entertaining to make fun of the Dilbertesque corporate hijinx of Big Two comics publishers, but sometimes, no parody we can come up with compares to reality. Marvel sent out a press release yesterday patting themselves on the back for their promotion of All-New Marvel NOW!, which as far as we can tell consists mainly of sending poorly photoshopped one-word teasers to websites, giving
payola advertising dollars to major comic book websites, and flaunting their latest minority character for maximum attention. The release is headlined, "Marvel Reveals Unprecedented Marketing and Promotion for ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW!" and begins with an awesome quote from Axel Alonso:
“It’s important that our fans and retailers know that this a brand-new project worth getting excited about. This isn’t some extension or continuation. All-New Marvel Now! is a thrilling new entity that’s bringing unmatched energy and focus to our already-robust line of titles.”—Axel Alonso, Marvel Entertainment Editor-in-Chief
Haha, what?! An extension or continuation is exactly what it is. They pretty much just canceled a bunch of their titles and relaunched them as new #1 issues (less than two years after the last time they did that), and for some titles, they didn't even do that - they just stuck a .NOW at the end of the current issue number and called it a day.
The release continues:
New York, NY—December 6th, 2013— All-New Marvel NOW! ushers in 2014 with exciting new ongoing series and must-read .NOW entry issues and today, Marvel is proud to announce the company-wide initiative will reach unprecedented levels of marketing and promotion, exceeding that of the original Marvel NOW! and any other promotional campaign in Marvel’s comic book history.
And yet, there will still be less total readers in the entire industry than the population of Spokane, Washington.
Once again leading the way in how comics reach larger audiences – Marvel plans to embark on its most ambitious and exciting marketing campaign yet in 2014. Exceeding the investment of the original Marvel NOW! initiative, the massive media blitz for All-New Marvel NOW! is estimated to reach 100 million prospective readers – both new and existing!
“We’re extremely proud of each and every one of these accessible new series,” said David Gabriel, SVP of Sales, Print & Digital Publishing. “So we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure hundreds of millions of people, the world over know, that All-New Marvel NOW! is the best place to jump in to the best comics on the market.”
“Whether you’ve never read a Marvel comic before, or you read them all,” Gabriel continued. “These bold new titles provide something exciting for everyone.”
Okay, fair enough. My question is, why are you just doing this now? In 2013, you just figured out that comics should be accessible to new readers? No, publishers have been beating that drum forever. This is pure hype.
Already featured everywhere from USA Today, CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times, LA Times, Huffington Post, The Nerdist, and Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report and more, All-New Marvel NOW! is set to reach entirely new audiences in 2014 with everything from vast social media outreach, new levels of targeted web and video advertising, and massive television, streaming and radio campaigns estimated to touch over 100 million consumers.
Alright, but it's not like this stuff is on the front page of the New York Times. For the most part, it's on the genre blog section of these outlets' websites. The LA Times story, for instance, is not in the LA Times. It's on Hero Complex, the LA Times' version of Newsarama. It would be like a girl scout troop claiming their cookies are featured at Walmart, when in fact they're just selling them from their own table outside. I'm not saying coverage in USA Today is worthless, but it's also not quite as spectacular its being presented. And the stories that actually do go mainstream all have to do with the new Muslim Ms. Marvel, so, congrats on crassly exploiting diversity, I guess.
On the other hand, at least they're not making national headlines for featuring one of their characters in a naked suicide contest, so they're ahead of their competitors in that regard.
Joe Taraborrelli, Marvel’s Senior Communications Manager, emphasizes, “2014 is the year where Marvel is going to be at the forefront of pop-culture. From promotional initiatives spanning movies, television, radio, digital, streaming and print, Marvel is once again going to be changing the game about how the comic book genre is seen and absorbed.”
Taraborrelli continues, “Marvel is producing some of the most eclectic and entertaining stories the world has ever seen and we are ready to bring the Marvel Universe to audiences, new and old, through all new captivating channels.”
Uh oh, two paragraphs without a bold font All New Marvel NOW!. Somebody's getting fired!
Look, I watch a lot of TV, I see a lot of movies, I listen to radio, and I read stuff. I have never seen an advertisement for a comic book anywhere other than on websites catering to comic book fans and in other comic books. I'm not saying they don't exist, just that I've never seen them. If we're going to see this in 2014, that's great, but I will remain skeptical until I see it.
In the meantime, how about sticking a ten second ad at the end of one of your billion dollar movies that lets people know that you actually still make comics. "Hi, I'm Joe Quesada, and comic books are still a thing. No, really, they are. Go to ComicsAreReal.com to find a local store you can buy them from." You could do that for free, and it would probably more effective than all this other crap put together.
Or, I guess you could just put out a bunch of meaningless Iron Man miniseries around the time the next movie is coming out under the presumption that millions of people who have been ignoring comics for the past twenty years will all suddenly decide to locate a comic shop, visit it, and purchase as many Iron Man comics as they can find on the shelves. Bush league, Marvel.
But that’s not all – In addition to new marketing strategies, Marvel is proud to announce exciting programs to aid comic shops and retailers in promoting All-New Marvel NOW!. Marvel will be providing participating retailers with marketing collateral, in-store trailers, FREE All-New Marvel NOW! Previews samplers, and more.
That's cool and all, but don't companies (including Marvel) always do stuff like that? Does that really deserve a press release?
Plus, every FIRST ISSUE bearing the All New Marvel NOW! branding includes a code for a free digital copy of that same comic on the Marvel Comics app for iOS and Android devices. But that’s not all! Select .NOW! titles will also come with a digital code for the entire first collection of that series ABSOLUTELY FREE!
In addition to the Marvel Comic app, Marvel Unlimited is our member subscription service that gives members unlimited access to over 15,000 issues of Marvel's classic and newer titles, delivered digitally through your desktop web browser and the Marvel Unlimited mobile app. More classic and newer issues are added every week — as soon as 6 months after they hit stores!
That's nice for the readers, but again, this is marketing to the people who already buy your comics. I think it's questionable whether marketing to current fanboys has any effect at all other than to shift the Diamond market share numbers a half a percentage point while pushing consumers toward a closed, non-ownership model for digital comics. It's why we have all these crossovers and event comics and special gimmick months and variant covers - to bilk more money from the current fans, not to expand the readership. Talk to me when you follow Image's lead in offering DRM free comics that consumers can own and use in any way on any device of their choosing.
Once again, the biggest creators bring you the biggest characters in the biggest stories…and it’s happening NOW!
For more on All-New Marvel NOW!, please visit www.marvel.com and join the conversation on Twitter with #MarvelNOW.
So, what was the point of this press release again? These releases are sent out with the hope that they'll be spammed by a bunch of blogs competing for Marvel's favor and "exclusive" access to even more promotional materials, turning these sites into de facto extensions of Marvel's own marketing department. But at least the shilling is usually of interest to the readers of those sites. Why do the readers care about this? This is the kind of crap middle managers put on a power point presentation for their bosses to bring to a board meeting and use to prove how much cross-branded marketing synergy they created over the year, thus proving they deserve a big bonus. Did this get sent out to the press list by mistake?
I just don't understand why the fans should care about this.
After that, there's some boilerplate junk at the bottom about the company, and then an example of the full-screen webskin background ads you're going to see on CBR and Newsarama soon, accompanied by a bunch of five star reviews for all the books. So here's a preview of that (we added context):
Wow. You know, that seems like an awfully specific layout for a webskin ad, what with those two banners in the middle. It's almost as if it's exactly tailored for a specific site's template. Where have we seen that before? Oh yeah...
Look, a lot of the All-New Marvel NOW! series look pretty cool, and Marvel has some incredible talent producing these books. The crossovers and gimmickry are annoying, but, for the most part, Marvel is experiencing something of a creative renaissance right now.
Don't cheapen it with corporate nonsense. Just make good comics, and for fuck's sake, put a goddamn vanity card at the end of your movies and TV shows letting people know that COMICS EXIST! It's essentially free, and the people seeing those movies might actually be interested in reading some.