Friday, August 1, 2008

Cherchez la Femme at the Ritz

Short films and streaming media are increasingly being incorporated into an integrated communications strategy. The promise of the Internet as an effective tool for many uses including business communications, marketing and branding, sales, training, and customer support is now being rapidly fulfilled. Larry Bouthillier and Tim Napoleon have a great article on the technology behind it, streaming media. (see VitalStream)

I looked at how Ritz-Carlton Hotels has integrated short films into its Experience More marketing messages. The Heads or Tails movie can be viewed at Heads_or_Tails. This movie quickly got to the point, two men struggling for the attention of a women, and stayed with it without deviation to the end. I was caught off guard by the tempo. The two men are quickly drawn into Pushkin's doomed duel, and one even says to the other with bravado, "Let's do this thing", the modern venacular for "Let's begin, if you are willing" of Pushkin's Russia.

The plot was simple. A man and a woman meet another man and the competition between the men starts. The Herculean labors of mental one-upsmanship in the middle of the film end with a physical contest and a surprise finish. It is a short film noir. It even uses the lighting and music of classic film noir greats such as the Maltese Falcon, ChinaTown and The Great Gatsby.

I believe the film effectively and subtlety communicates the message of elegant experiences at the Ritz. The Experience More Campaign by Ritz is based on a marketing analysis of their customer public, according to a Hotel Motel Management article. Heather Gunther (see Hotel_Motel_Mgmt ) quotes Jerry Landeck who has developed seven Ritz properties, “Our clients are demanding more experiential elements in the resort.”

They have designed signature restaurants and bars with the able assistance of artisans such as Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsey and Laurent Tourondel. The main action of Heads or Tails takes place in a restaurant bar. The bus boy wears a Baume & Mercier watch. The barkeep is a sommelier. The marketing short film integrates smoothly with the Experience More grand strategy that also guides construction.

Regarding the ethics of short films in marketing communications, Packard (see Hidden_Persuaders) asked the essential question that is still relevant today

"What is the morality of playing upon hidden weaknesses and frailties -- such as our anxieties, aggressive feelings, dread of nonconformity, and infantile hang-overs -- to sell products? Specifically, what are the ethics of businesses that shape campaigns designed to thrive on these weaknesses they have diagnosed?"
Packard quotes a Madison Avenue Industrial Complex insider, Nicholas Samstag with the industry reply:

"It may be said that to take advantage of a man's credulity, to exploit his misapprehensions, to capitalize on his ignorance is morally reprehensible -- and this may well be the case. . . . I do not quite know."

It would be blind denial of plain fact to say that Heads or Tails was not engineered to exploit the apeing frailty of those with airs above their station. Yet the customers are asking for the fantasy, and to some extent that is what a vacation is all about anyway. Unlike, Samstag I am going to say it is not unethical, at least in the case of Ritz Carlton. It is an unspoken intent of the resort vacationers Ritz serves to assume the stale pretense of "acquired taste" and "rich appointments."

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