Bruce Willis in conversation

Die Hard 4, the latest film in the Die Hard series of Bruce Willis action movies – known as ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ in the US – premieres in the US on June 27 (opens in the UK on July 4), and the movie studio mass communication machine is well on the road.

In addition to traditional movie marketing, social media will play a role. For instance, Dan Light at PPC is behind the virtual Die Hard 4 expo and launch event in Second Life which takes place this Friday June 1. (Dan and I collaborated on the 300 virtual press conference in Second Life in March.)

And of course, there’s the obligatory MySpace page.

What if amongst all the structured outreach and by-the-book marketing one of the cast just dived in by himself and talked with movie fans? Joined the conversation, so to speak?

That’s exactly what Bruce Willis has done:

I am Walter B
by Walter B May 7th, 2007
07:12:42 AM
i am John Mafuckin’Clane. What if I came to you all, just as as guy who in the last weeks of post, facing a 5 week, World-Wide press tour, an crazed at the prospect of it, just wanted to take a simpler approach to talking to this enormous group of people, who depsite pre-judgements from many, praise from a smaller minority, and some just waiting to see “what shakes out”, merely wished to have an outlet to chat with people I seldom get to chat with, and what if I just listened? And then thought about what I was going to say, and wrote back honestly. I had a website up for a while, I shut it down for an indefinite period, but now, getting ready to launch the longest shot of my careeer, I feel a strong personal pull to hear from an audience I do not know, sans Bullshit,(And that means I tell the Truth), sans gossip, just the straight, tight shit. I would personally hope it might be more about my work, good and bad, just us. Harry can chime in if he likes, but frankly it’s not cumpolsory……..HOW WOULD THAT BE? in veritas Beedub

Willis started commenting in a now-lengthy discussion thread at Ain’t It Cool News, one of the most influential movie fan sites on the net. It didn’t take long for someone to figure out who ‘Walter B’ was, especially with the many clues in Willis’ early postings.

Then came the one I’ve included here verbatim.

You absolutely will not find any of the opinions and comments Willis makes in this informal conversation anywhere else. And conversation is the right word – just set aside 20 minutes or so and review the whole thread.

Willis hasn’t added any more opinions since May 9 (and he concluded his last post with the word ‘later’). I guess he’s not had time if he’s on a press tour to promote the movie.

But don’t stop now, Bruce! You’ve opened a floodgate of connections.

I reckon if he continues the conversation, it will do more for building connections and community with a die hard (pun not really intended) fan base than any amount of big-budget marketing.

Yipee-ki-yay, mother… well, if you’re a fan, you’ll know the rest of the phrase!

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Alex M

    Hi Neville,

    I was watching this unfold on AICN a couple of weeks ago and it was extraordinary. The first talkback grew slowly but when people figured it out news quickly spread around the web. What was more incredible, was that Willis actually verified it was him via an iChat video call with one of the talkbackers.

    Eventually of course, Willis couldn’t answer anything like all the questions thrown at him in the talkback, although he did an amazing job up to the overload point, so the AICN admins took to sending him a distilled list of questions which he then answered s time permitted, on his Blackberry. Remarkable stuff. Sylvester Stallone actually did something similar on AICN a few months back before the release of Rocky 6 but Willis was definitely a lot more popular.

    There’s no question this has had a quite epic effect on the new film, which was facing serious problems because of a fan-revolt about its PG-13 rating.

    Subsequently Neville, I have a question for you;

    1. If a person such as Bruce Willis (a-list hollywood, worth millions, never needs to work again etc) can communicate with the masses and prove it works, is this is a worthy example of the power of communication in general that could be transposed to business, or does the difference between pop-culture and business make it completely irrelevant to the latter?

    Alex

  2. neville

    That’s a very good question, Alex.

    I think it illustrates how direct and unfiltered communication can create real connections between people that have the potential to build long-term value. It needs to be sustained, though, not purely a parachute-drop type of interaction which is what Bruce Willis has done so far.

    Look at the example of Bob Lutz, the vice-chairman of GM, and GM’s FastLane Blog.

    There are risks, though, as illustrated by a bit of a mini-kerfuffle over some of Willis’ comments as well as those by some of the other commenters in the discussion. Still, that’s what plain speaking gets you.

    I’m going to pose your question to FIR listeners, see what others may think.

  3. Alex M

    I think we will hear more from Bruce this time, the site suggests they have a few Q&As planned as and when Willis can answer them (not too easy given the mass of publicity he’s probably got to do at the moment). However, I’d doubt this would become a regular thing, but who’s to say given its success so far. It may become an ingrained Hollywood publicity tactic!

    Agreed on Lutz being similar. He answers all sorts of difficult questions on the Fast Lane blog and from everything that’s been written about him it appears he has done so since the blog’s inception.

    Will be interesting to hear what FIR listeners think on this.

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