Mel Gibson’s drunk-driving arrest and subsequent anti-Semitic tirade provided ample fodder for comedians, bloggers and entertainment-news junkies.
It also kicked off a back-and-forth among Hollywood insiders expressing their opinions in paid advertisements in the Los Angeles Times and the entertainment trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.
It’s a longtime tradition to talk through the trades, said Variety editor Peter Bart, noting that “personal message ads” date back to the 1920s.
“Something like the Mel Gibson attack is the sort of situation that prompts an outbreak of ads,” Bart told The Associated Press. “It’s a reminder that people like to editorialize personally, whether or not they know how to write.”
TV producer Merv Adelson used an Aug. 2 ad in the Los Angeles Times to urge the industry to “make ourselves proud and NOT support this JERK in any way.”
On Aug. 3, comedian Rob Schneider, describing himself as “a 1/2 Jew,” placed a full-page “open letter to the Hollywood community” in Daily Variety, vowing never to work with Gibson, whom he characterized as an “actor-director-producer-and anti-Semite.”
Then came a two-page advertisement from violence expert Gavin de Becker, which appeared in the Aug. 4 edition of the Hollywood Reporter. De Becker wrote a letter beginning “Dear Ari,” referring to Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, who posted his own anti-Gibson rant on a blog a few days earlier.
De Becker, who called for forgiveness, said he chose the trade paper as a venue because of Hollywood’s impact on people’s attitudes.
“The movie business has allowed people all over the world to see into the lives and hearts of other people in a way they never could otherwise,” de Becker wrote in an e-mail to the AP. “When I heard a call for revenge against Mel Gibson, asking movie people to refuse to work with him because of assumptions about his beliefs, the trades seemed the best place to offer another view.”
As for the cost of these paid missives, it can vary based on specials being offered. But Variety’s general rate for a one-page black and white ad run once is $9,980. Hollywood Reporter charges $3,500 per page (de Becker’s ad ran two pages).
Airing ideas through advertising in trade papers makes sense, said Jonah Bloom, editor of Advertising Age magazine.
“You know that very important people read those trades and you know that you are talking to your peer group, the people you want to influence,” Bloom said. “This is a way to get your feelings out there and get some attention for yourself as well.”
Advertising is an important part of the “project-driven” entertainment industry, said Tony Uphoff, publisher of the Hollywood Reporter.
Congratulatory ads and those offering stars, shows and movies “for your consideration” during awards season are the most common. But the “open letter” advertisement is nothing new, Uphoff said.
“It’s a direct appeal to all the decision-makers who would have a point of view on this,” he said. “The concept is very direct marketing and it’s as old as the industry itself.”
Media-savvy entertainment professionals know that with a paid advertisement they can “shape their message very clearly,” said Dave Stewart, chairman of the marketing department at the University of Southern California.
“Left to a press release, you never know what a reporter will do with it,” he said. “With an op-ed piece, you never know whether it’s going to be picked up and run. This is a way of assuring that you get your point of view out there.”
An Aug. 1 ad in Daily Variety for “South Park” seemed to comment on the Gibson matter, but Comedy Central officials insist it was a push for the show’s Emmy-nominated episode.
“C’mon Jews,” it read, “show them who really runs Hollywood.” The ad showed the four “South Park” kids standing in front of the Scientology Celebrity Center.