Sunday, February 15, 2009

Anatomy of a Media Meltdown - "Are you not entertained?"

On the February 11 Late Show with David Letterman Joaquin Phoenix appeared to promote his new film Two Lovers. Who knows if it is a good film or not, but it certainly wasn't what had people buzzing the next day.

The mostly quiet and often incoherent Phoenix appeared to either be on something or simply committing career suicide. Others have speculated that was all part of some elaborate hoax. At any rate, feel free to weigh in.

While an entertaining tidbit to break up my day, I was more interested in how the event was spreading virally. I had not seen the clip the night it aired, but the next day I received an email and an IM from two friends sending me the link to the clip on You Tube. Another friend had posted it on Facebook. I checked into my Twitter feed and saw a tweet from Defamer about it. Later in the week as I perused I saw Anderson Cooper had weighed in and was showing a remixed version of the segment. I finished my week discussing it with my coworkers and we ended up watching it again. They even parodied it on the February 14 Saturday Night Live.

Though there were certainly bigger, more important news stories last week, it amazed me how many times that one interview kept coming up. Which seriously made me doubt the randomness of the event. I haven't heard much about the film that Phoenix was supposedly plugging. I also hadn't seen the actor's newly disheveled appearance, though I had heard he was retiring from acting to pursue his "music." Whether a calculated move or unplanned meltdown, the generated buzz was astounding. Celebrities have always been under the microscope, but now that everyone is so plugged in the scrutiny is overwhelming. Marketers and celebrity "brands" alike need to be aware that they can harness this kind of attention or have their image carried away by it.