Tumblr and “The Bling Ring” Möbius Strip

Marketing’s a bit two-faced. When executed well it all but disappears, providing the right product or experience to the right person at the right time. When executed poorly, it’s a four-letter word.

Sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference. See The Bling Ring‘s Tumblr campaign Nicki Moore Forever, “written” by a character from the Sofia Coppola film.

Well, kind of. Let’s rewind. The film is based on a 2010 Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales about a real-life group of Los Angeles teenagers who stole over $3M of luxury goods from the homes of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. If you haven’t seen it yet, just watch the trailer:

I haven’t seen the film adaptation yet, which from the reviews appears to maintain the middle distance with its characters that Coppola’s made her trademark. (A.O. Scott: “‘The Bling Ring’ occupies a vertiginous middle ground between banality and transcendence, and its refusal to commit to one or the other is both a mark of integrity and a source of frustration.”)

Sounds like Coppola tactfully sidesteps the Möbius Strip nature of the entire enterprise. After all, the suspects robbed the celebrities’ homes as a shortcut to the very high life popularized by their victims–especially the savviest of shortcut-takers, Ms. Hilton herself. The robberies are the first half of the equation, of course; the ensuing news coverage, reality TV showsVanity Fair article, and Sofia Coppola film have cemented the criminals’ own celebrity status.

Okay. Let’s get back to that Tumblr. It’s written in “Nicki’s” voice and is damn-near pitch perfect for a pop culture-obsessed teenager:

Screen Shot 2013-06-28 at 11.32.23 AM

Notice how the wallpaper is a screengrab of whatever image came up when “Nicki” googled “zebra pattern”? The marketers could have paid the licensing fee to remove the tacky Shutterstock logo, but that wouldn’t have been authentic. Slow clap to whoever’s idea that was.

On the one hand, this makes complete sense: if Nicki were a real person, she’d be on Tumblr writing posts exactly like these. On the other hand, “Nicki” is a real person named Alexis Neiers, and her real blog’s just as terrible. (She misspells Sofia Coppola’s name, if we’re splitting hairs.)

Adding to this confusion is the nature of Tumblr itself. The posts cohere when viewed externally–i.e. all at once–but fail completely when viewed in one’s dashboard, divorced of context. With Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast the audience was rapt by news of an impending alien invasion. Here, they just scroll past another faux-inspirational quote about life and karma. (For an example of how movie marketing can excel on Tumblr, see The Hunger Games.)

Which brings us back to the question: does the Tumblr succeed as a marketing tool? The fact that I’ve felt compelled to blog about it would appear to provide an answer. But a part of me thinks it’s a much better in theory than in practice, and I have sympathy for whichever intern’s tasked with creating posts. Unless it really is Emma Watson blogging in Nicki’s voice, in which case bravo x1000.


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