While the PR industry still tries to solve a vexing riddle – how to quantify ROI and metrics of a PR campaign – there certainly is one big PR matter where the numbers do not lie. As of today, “The Social Network” film, the Hollywood send-up of fact and fiction about Facebook’s rise to social network domination, has grossed $73 million within a month of release. That puts it in the top five cumulative box office totals for 2010, a fairly significant number since the year’s about to end.
As the film made waves in the press before and after release, there was significant speculation that CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the Newark school system was meant to distract media attention away from the film. Not surprising, since “The Social Network” doesn’t exactly paint a sympathetic portrait of Facebook’s founders.
Of course, it’s hard to criticize such a large investment in the public school system. Still, if that philanthropy was meant to kill negative headlines stemming from the film, we’d like to think there was a much easier, and more on target, way to do so.
What we’re wondering is, why didn’t Facebook instead launch an official “Facebook Film Festival”? Think about this for a moment. A Facebook-sanctioned film festival could enlist hot young filmmakers to showcase their talents in a trend-setting multimedia format, expanded the social network platform more aggressively, been done at little to no cost to Facebook, would quickly co-opt the “film” media meme away from the movie, generated enthusiasm from Facebook users, and leveraged the multiple film festival fan pages that already exist. The PR theme could have promoted “an honest filmmaking process” as a dig at the apparent falsehoods in “The Social Network” – the perfect antidote for the film’s negative portrayals.
Big PR problems require grand solutions, but simplicity adds elegance to our scenario, and steals the film’s thunder by creating and owning a whole new film-making process. Maybe Facebook will think of this when “The Social Network” hits DVD?