Saturday, September 22

Making The Grade: Veronica Mars


Jericho fan John Rodriguez, who publishes the Jericho-dedicated video-driven ThunderHawk blog on Yahoo! 360 beta, knows that the “greatest challenge is keeping people motivated. It takes a lot of time invested into
promoting something. It takes good communication, and fresh up to date information, on what is going on.”

“You must fan the flames of your project, and keep it hot,” says the Internet veteran who used to run three early BBS networks. “There is a small handful I have seen excel above and beyond. The work I have seen is much better than current CBS promotions.”

Jericho fans continue to do their best, largely on their own, while waiting for CBS to officially reveal the start date of Jericho Season 2 (which is likely to be a mid-season break). Similarly, but for very different reasons, the power of consumer marketing is also being played out by another fan base. Unlike Jericho, they have nothing but rumors and faith that something, anything, might happen.

These are the fans of Veronica Mars, the critically acclaimed teen drama/mystery neo-noir series starring Kristen Bell. They could not save their show from being cancelled (the only reason perhaps, in my opinion, was the late start of the consumer campaign), but have, amazingly enough, continued to build on their momentum.

“The main problem with putting together a campaign of any kind is ensuring that there are not multiple campaigns working against each other,” says Shannon Miller, Web master of the Veronica Mars Movie Web site. “The best way to keep up morale is to work in phases … to have multiple steps to the larger plan, and continue to encourage smaller campaigns along the way.”

Like Jericho, there are several groups of fans with different goals, ranging from fast-tracking syndication to focusing on the full-length feature film (and some who still hold out for a complete reinstatement, which seems unlikely). Where Veronica Mars fans are winning is in their success in establishing a centralized forum called Neptune Rising. The goal of Neptune Rising is to consolidate fans with different goals under one campaign banner in order to benefit each other and support a larger campaign, whether that means promoting syndication or the movie.

“We occasionally have a hiccup, but we work them out,” says Mark Thompson, who was introduced to Veronica Mars as late as season 3 because of previous fan efforts. He works on Save Veronica Mars. ”Morale is something that has to be considered and it varies with each person [so we have to keep it high]. Right now, we’re concentrating on building our membership numbers because the more members we have, the better our chance of success.”

Thompson, like everyone we had contact with, stressed that they respect the privacy of the creators, crew, and cast (even saying they are excited that Bell will be appearing in Heroes), and prefer to keep their focus narrow: finding existing fans, creating new fans, requesting syndication, and keeping the dream of a movie alive. By doing so, their work has gotten noticed. Rob Thomas, Veronica Mars creator, recently responded to a letter sent in by a former Web master.

“I'm afraid I don't have a definitive answer other than to say I want to do it. Unfortunately right now, I need to pay the bills, and I'd have to write the movie on spec.,” said Thomas. “It's difficult to consult on a show, develop new pilots and knock out comic books and/or a feature script. I'm grateful that there are fans anxious for it, and I remain motivated.”

Thomas is not the only one. Rachel Gerke, who was instrumental in providing backgrounders and assisting us with collecting interviews (better than some public relations professionals, I might add) for this post, notes that Bell’s answers in interviews have changed.

“I think that Kristen Bell is listening. Her interviews went from thinking that a movie was not going to happen to talk between her and Rob Thomas that it could happen,” said Gerke. “I think the challenge is getting enough active people in each of our smaller groups. As long as we have someone overseeing each of them, which we do, it will work out well.”

Courtney Harris is one of the primary organizers. She created the majority of the sites, including the forum and MySpace page. She also made many of the petitions and movie posters.

“I’m not big on coming up with ideas, but I’m really good at getting things done,” says Harris. “A lot of dedicated fans seem to be listening and willing to take on the challenge, and fans in general seem to be interested in what we’re doing. Just getting a group of fans together to create a campaign is a huge success in my opinion. As long we stay on track, I’m hoping it will all go up from there.”

If there any is indication that their collective plans are working, perhaps Sara Pillitu is the perfect example. She is an Italian fan who followed the “Bars for Mars” cancellation protest campaign but suddenly found herself very involved in the effort.

“We’re very lucky to be happy to be ‘shiny, happy people’ and we work constantly to keep morale up with jokes and discussions about the show,” says Pillitu. “We do a lot of recruitment and we always look for new ideas to get the people involved in our campaign to save Veronica Mars. Unfortunately, Veronica Mars is not so popular in Europe, so right now I'm trying to spread the buzz on the show and create a partnership between us and the European fan sites.”

Collectively, while the outcome is anybody’s guess, Veronica Mars fans have a lot working in their favor. Here is a hot list of things they are doing right:

• They have established a centralized group that remains largely positive.
• They have designated smaller groups, each focusing on slightly different promotional efforts or social networks with informal leaders to provide direction.
• They welcome new Web masters and encourage them to promote specific goals.
• They have established clearly defined primary goals: engage existing fans (some who have become active supporters) and find new fans (loaning personal DVD sets when they have to) with the focus on supporting a movie.
• They have established secondary goals such as encouraging Warner Brothers to put the show into syndication and promoting DVD sales.
• They have a consistent message. Each participant responded separately, but they all had very similar answers. Their message sticks.
• They have remained courteous and supportive of the cast and crew, even going so far as to promote other ventures.
• They have remained courteous and supportive of each other and have fun.

All of this seems to demonstrate marked progress since we first mentioned Veronica Mars fan efforts in June. Currently, the fans are also looking for ways to raise funds to support promotional efforts as well as encouraging other sites to pick up on their efforts. (Hey Stephen King ... maybe you could plug fan base movements in one of your Entertainment Weekly columns.)

For some other insights into the fan base that will never say Neptune sets, visit the VMCW MySpace page where they still comment today. Consumer marketing. You have to love it!

Digg!

22 comments:

Jericho Saved on 9/22/07, 12:28 PM said...

Great article Rich. I still believe cross-promoting could help not only Jericho but other fan bases as well. I never watched VM but I am impressed by fan efforts. They seem to have a solid foundation and are spreading the word. I especially like the idea of the small groups with their own focus. I'll be adding VM links to my blog tomorrow. I have a special place in my heart for fans of canceled shows.

Ichthus said...

As a Jericho fan who help save our show from cancellation, I find the Veronica Mars fans approach interesting. They know it will be a long, hard fight and they are gearing up for it. I think Jericho fans could learn a few things from them. I hope they do succeed.

Rich on 9/22/07, 2:15 PM said...

Thanks Jane and Ichthus! I appreciate the comments.

There are several ideas that both fan bases have in place that could benefit each other, imo. I see each group as having unique challenges, VM fans because the future seems uncertain (but promising) and Jericho fans, who seem to be caught in the eye of the storm.

Jane, that is especially nice of you to add their links to your blogs. You are becoming a true show revival x-pert! :)

It makes sense though. Great series can become movies and movies can be made into series (or books, comics, etc.). It's often the creative spark, the stories, that fascinate me. While not every story translates well into other mediums, there are many have, will, and do.

My hat is off to both fan groups.

All my best,
Rich

Social Media Consultant on 9/22/07, 6:42 PM said...

Hi Rich ..

Jericho as a brand has done a bit of good job by cross promotion so its thumbs up from here. I am thinkin to add the VM links tooo..

:)

Rich on 9/22/07, 6:53 PM said...

Hey Giovanni,

Good point. Jericho has become a solid brand. Even people I met who have not watched it know it. You cannot say that about every show with a single season under it's belt. :)

Veronica Mars has some staying power too. I've read hundreds of comments over the last few days from fans who are not part of the fan base asking if a movie could really happen. I think that can be attributed to some mighty fine fan marketing.

Thanks so much for the comment.

Best,
Rich

kilverstone on 9/22/07, 9:50 PM said...

Rich,

Thank you for writing such a nice article. I think you represented the cause very well and the many different perspectives we all have on the campaign. It has actually been a great experience working with the individuals on Neptune Rising and various other fan groups. I think we can definitely make things continue to happen with more positive buzz such as your article. Thank you for all of your efforts on our behalf.

Warm Regards,
Shannon Miller

Rich on 9/22/07, 11:36 PM said...

Thanks Shannon. The credit really belongs to you and everyone who participated.

I am very hopeful you will find new fans. One of my clients will be checking out your sites. She is big fan.

Stay the course and I know you will find a movie in the making. Positive persistence is instrumental.

All my best,
Rich

Sara Pillitu on 9/23/07, 2:08 AM said...

Hi Rich!
I wanna really thank you for writing this great article.
I'm happy to see all these comments from Jericho fans... They inspired me in so many ways when I was in the Bars for Mars campaign.
I'd be honoured to join forces with them. Thank you guys for helping us spreading the buzz!

Sara

Rich on 9/23/07, 11:56 AM said...

Thanks so much Sara.

It was great to get an Italian perspective. I think you're right ... there is ample potential for camaraderie between various program fans.

All my best,
Rich

Myles on 9/24/07, 3:20 PM said...

This is a great article, Rich, and I'm wondering if you might be able to elaborate on one element of it for me.

The Jericho campaign was certainly more successful, thanks to its quick start, but is its long-term stability threatened by a lack of planning upfront and its early victory?

The Veronica Mars campaign had time to analyze its situation, and although that kept them from "saving" their awesome, awesome show initially it has led to a well-organized and focused movement that is still fighting for victory.

Whereas the Jericho campaign lost much of its impact when the battle was "won" with seven episodes, and everything happened so quickly that establishing a long-term strategy was nigh impossible.

I guess my question is whether Jericho's quick victory and accelerated campaign might have turned into a double-edged sword. Regardless, of course, both campaigns continue to prove that fan support is as high as ever, and hopefully networks realize this soon enough.

Jericho Saved on 9/24/07, 5:50 PM said...

Sorry Rich. I'm not answering for you. Myles, I think long-term stability is more threatened by what's happening now. There are those who insist we should all stay on the CBS board. What sense does that make? We're already fans. This weekend, after many suspicious deleted posts, people started attacking others. Frankly, I don't encourage anybody to use that board. There are people who attack others because, I believe, there is no longer a common enemy and because egos are involved. Once the fire starts it quickly gets out of control.

Rich on 9/24/07, 6:09 PM said...

Myles,

Pretty close. I don't think Jericho fans were prepared for an early victory. However, if the long-term stability is threatened is only because of fragmentation, an unwillingness to speak to prospects as opposed to CBS (which is what you are doing if you spend all your time on the CBS site), and CBS' apparent unwillingness to capitalize what was the greatest consumer marketing mass ever. But they seem to be getting better.

The Veronica Mars campaign started too late to save their show because they were not 100 percent certain is was going to be cancelled and then did not believe that they could save it (until Jericho won, but then it was too late).

They have since regrouped and created a very dynamic fan base with new goals. They have growing exposure from multiple blogs and mySpace pages and now a central meeting place where a fraction of those can quickly take action and mobilize their team.

In some ways, Veronica Mars fans are acting in an manner that I advocated for Jericho fans on the front end of their victory. I doubt they will ever see a reinstatement, but they certainly could move Warner Bros. to move the show into syndication and prompt someone to put Rob Thomas in a position were he would not have to write it on spec.

As Rachel pointed out to me, Kristen Bell's appearance on Heroes is the day before the the DVD release. That could be a boon for the sales.

To answer your specific question, it was not the action of a quick victory that was a double-edged sword. It was reaction to the victory and subsequent fragmentation that CBS could stopped (but they did not).

However, let me underscore this part: it is the action or lack of action on the part of CBS that causes the greatest risk. Since jericho fans won, CBS took away any reason to fight for it. And, at the same time, placed the burden to promote the show on the shoulders of the fans BUT without a tangible product — they cannot promote a show without a start date. They cannot promote a DVD without ample ammo (and even that was pushed back into Oct.).

All of this is observation Myles. From what I am told Jericho spiked on Sat. according to Hey!Nielsen because of a single post. That doesn't happen if the isn't a fan base. So please don't count them out. Most of them are not participating like the most vocal fans. They are waiting to see their show return.

All my best,
Rich

Rich on 9/24/07, 7:39 PM said...

Hi Jane,

Your assessment is spot on. I was writing a much longer winded version when your posted yours. :)

And of course you can answer. No one has to wait for me to post a comment. In some ways, we've developed a little community of sorts. It's fun to think that people know some of the other people commenting.

Best,
Rich

Myles on 9/25/07, 8:40 AM said...

Jane and Rich,

I absolutely agree with the observations regarding the current situation, and certainly Hey! Nielsen is proving that Jericho fans are out there and willing to take part in initiatives.

We can all hope that the tension subsides and there can be a united front put forward in the future.

MM

kystorms on 9/27/07, 5:00 AM said...

Just want to say thanks for giving the heads up on a new blog that I had not seen before Rich, :-)
We are growing so fast now it is hard to keep up!
As for cross promoting, I myself do not have the time to actually spend in yet one more shows forums and such, but wish them the best of luck.

DPGX said...

Awesome post, Its great that shows have fans dedicated enough to follow up like this. I really cant believe VM got cancelled when basically none of their new shows are bringing in equivalent viewers while VM had an established fan base. Im glad Jericho's fans were successful and can only hope for the same for VM fans!

Rachel on 9/27/07, 5:45 PM said...

Rich,
I love the article and thanks for the kind words. I'm hoping our work does push Warner Bros. to put VM into syndication and prompt them to have RT write a script.

October 2 we are starting Veronica Mars Day, which is every Tuesday. Those will be designated days to work on mailing movie posters and tickets, emailing, etc.

I think we are headed in the right direction. Any suggestions off the top of your head?

Thanks again,
Rachel

Rich on 9/28/07, 10:01 PM said...

Hi Rachel,

Not off the top of my head because you are moving in the right direction. But I will give it some thought. I don't want to muck up what it working (sometimes it's best to stay out the kitchen unless you're ready to praise the chef or ask for a reheat).

VD Day Every Tues. is very smart. I will be writing about something tomorrow and will try to work it in.

I'm glad you liked the article. Thanks again for all your hard work. It would not have happened without you.

Best,
Rich

Gil on 10/14/07, 12:23 PM said...

As the former webmaster who corresponded with, and received the response you mentioned, from Rob Thomas, I want to say a hearty thank you for a wonderful, well-written article. I know from firsthand experience that when fan campaigners try to get publicity for their cause, this is the type of in-depth article, complete with multiple links that they dream about someone writing on their behalf! So for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Mark, Courtney, and Shannon have done an amazing job of keeping the fires burning, by continuing to reach out to bloggers like you, Rich, and Rachel has always been one of our most ardent and active supporters. I used to get email from her daily when I ran the site.

Rich on 10/20/07, 10:55 AM said...

Thanks for dropping by Gil. I appreciate it.

It's great to see your early efforts are being honored by so many passionate fans. I was happy to write about them, enough so I've put them in my open living case study links.

Come back anytime.

All my best,
Rich

Ciro (alias UnderGravity - "AfterLife") said...

Hi to all.... I launch this strong appeal... we save Veronica Mars... because he cannot end so one of the most beautiful telefilms of the world... he has taught me a lot of things that in the life I had never understood or that perhaps I would never have understood if it were for "Veronica Mars." Kristen Ann Bell is a great actress, formidable in the interpretation, especially in the saddest moments of the telefilm. I belong to a called world movement "it Passes The Favor" .... to me they have apssato the favor and that is that to feed more always the feelings of the life, trying to always look in the depth without never falling in front of the appearances.... and this is what me taught ah "Veronica Mars" .... boys "you Pass The Favor" I wish me and I wish gladly you that continuous Veronica Mars with other series TV... and I wish you a happy life, because nobody deserves to suffer... we maintain tall the dignity of this telefilm "Veronica Mars"... I count on you Fans and not Fans of Veronica Mars... I beg me we absolutely have to win... you remember the world movement "it Passes The Favor" aloft our hearts...W VERONICA MARS FOREVER

frenzy on 10/14/08, 1:39 PM said...

Nice
-------------
rewrite articles

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