You could have been a Southwest Airlines screenwriter, if you got up early enough

by David Spark on March 20, 2009

Southwest Airlines TwitterJoining the world of great or pointless new media collaboration projects, Southwest Airlines announced a contest this morning to write the first Southwest Airlines film (do they even show movies on Southwest flights?). Ever have a good line for a movie, but not the whole movie? Then you’re the one they wanted to participate. Because this entire film was written by an audience of Twitterers one tweet at a time.

Problem is if you wanted to participate, it’s too late. The contest and writing project is already over. It went down from 10am-11am CST and they announced it on their blog at 7:26am.

In the blog post, Southwest gives its potential screenwriters the characters and the opening scene of the movie. The audience of Tweeters would then tweet out the script between exactly 10am-11am CST today. Afterwards, some enthusiastic Southwest employees who were never cast in their high school play will then act out the tweet-by-tweet script. Southwest will record the performance on video, and then post it online for everyone to see. They expect it to be up by 5pm today.

To entice people to participate, they also made it a contest to win a trip to the Nashville Film Festival. All people who supplied a line of dialogue to the film would automatically be entered into the contest. The winner will be randomly selected and announced at the end of the video.

I am eager to see this video, but I have one thing to say to Southwest: Get your shit together.

There were SO MANY mistakes on this public relations stunt. Let’s review all of them.

  • First, you announced this contest at 7:26am CST and then had the contest at 10:00am CST that day. Give the Internet more than 2.5 hours to get the word out.
  • You’re called SouthWEST Airlines. Most of your customers are still asleep when your contest begins (8:00am PST) let alone be awake to hear about it first. Not only that, but most screenwriters live in California as well.
  • They don’t make it clear that the contest is TODAY. Doesn’t say that anywhere in the blog post. You have to scroll down to the bottom where the PDF of the rules are. In there, you see the contest is happening today. Why didn’t they just put that in the blog post?
  • The name of the PDF is entitled BNA Film Festival Conest Rules.pdf (sic)
  • When you have a contest, your legal department is supposed to go over it rigorously. Obviously, that didn’t happen here.
  • They said it’s for all of the people who are following us on Twitter. And then they don’t provide their Twitter ID. In fact, it’s nowhere to be found on the Southwest Airlines blog. It’s @SouthwestAir, btw.
  • To participate in the contest, all you have to do is write a line of dialogue and include the hashtag, #SWAMovie. Smart idea. But take it one step further and actually provide a link to that hashtag (like this) so people can follow along and actually contribute.
  • Why the hell did they choose the improv game of “Let’s have a bunch of people tell a story one line at a time?” Has anyone in the history of watching improv ever seen that actually be funny or interesting?

I do applaud one effort here. Like the 24 hour film festival concept, Southwest Airlines was looking to create a contest in the morning, run it in the middle of the day, produce the outcome, and then post it online for everyone to see.

In the end though, Southwest Airlines will be successful. They were the first to try out this promotional stunt. It will be a silly connected series of unrelated or loosely related lines of dialogue. You’ll get as much a laugh out of it as you did with MadLibs. A MadLib was only a minute long. How long will you sit through a tweet-by-tweet screenplay?

This news item is for the Spark Minute week of 3/23/09 which can be heard daily on Green 960 and 910 KNEW in San Francisco, CA.

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