‘Indiana Jones’ Sees Highs and Lows of Facebook Effort

Paramount Pictures is expected to have a monster hit this Memorial Day Weekend with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Regardless of how the film does in theaters, the studio has scored big on Facebook.

Not with the movie, necessarily, but with a virtual Fedora. Starting Wednesday morning, Paramount offered Facebook users a chance to send their friends a small digital version of Indy’s iconic brown hat as a “virtual gift.” While some gifts require a $1 fee, the Fedora was offered as a free sponsored gift from the studio.

The Fedoras became available at 4:30am on Wednesday morning, the day before the movie hit theaters. By 3pm, all 250,000 had sold out.

Matt Hicks, a spokesman with Facebook, said that the company couldn’t confirm whether it was the fastest a virtual gift had gone, but said it was “definitely among the fastest we’ve ever seen,” especially considering that “people weren’t really awake for the first few hours it was available.”

Hicks said it was standard practice for advertisers to set an inventory limit on virtual gifts in order to drive demand.

The Fedora was only one part of a larger marketing campaign on the social network, however. Each gift provided a link to the movie’s Facebook page, where fans could find local showings, read other users’ reviews, post messages, download widgets and other applications, and view stills from the film’s production.

The page also included a space for users to upload videos and photos of their own, including an instructional video on “How to Crack a Whip Like Indy” and the infamous Annie Leibovitz Vanity Fair photos of Miley Cryus with a brown Fedora superimposed on her head.

Paramount also ran a series of display ads on Facebook pointing users to the page. As of Thursday afternoon, the page had more than 62,000 fans.

The movie itself, however, seemed to have fewer fans than the page. Paramount established a dedicated section of the page for reviews of the movie, which opened on Thursday, the majority of which were less then flattering. One user called it a “flipping mess,” while another called it an “atrocity.”

“That’s the price you pay for being open,” said Ian Schafer, CEO of marketing firm Deep Focus, who has run a number of ad campaigns on Facebook. “That’s what you have to do when you advertise in this sort of community.” If Paramount had not given users a place to review the movie, Facebook members “would be lambasting them for that,” said Schafer. “You’re kind of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

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