Did you know that Eddie Murphy’s Meet Dave is a sci-fi movie? If not, then Fox’s marketing department has pleased the head of the studio. The head of the studio also would like for people to pay to see this movie. They’re not, the
Even though they’re madly envious about Fox’s ability to turn lemons into lemonade, rival marketers say Fox made a rare but fundamental misstep with “Meet Dave” by running away from the film’s concept. The idea may be dumb — Eddie Murphy is actually a spaceship from a distant planet visiting Earth, taking the form of, well, Eddie Murphy — but at least it’s a viable comedy premise, offering Murphy the chance to be a comical fish out of water, doing stranger in a strange land bits of business.
But people who saw the ads had virtually no idea what the movie was about. Whenever I quizzed various potential moviegoers about the film, I got a lot of puzzled shrugs. Even people who’d seen the trailer or the TV spots couldn’t grasp the premise. Fox had ignored a primal marketing law: If you have a concept, market to the concept, not away from it.
But Fox seemed uncomfortable marketing the idea of a sci-fi-based comedy. In fact, the studio ditched the film’s original title, “Starship Dave,” for that very reason, even though the title made it far more clear than “Meet Dave” what the movie was about. Fox’s reluctance to promote the film’s sci-fi nature is actually in keeping with studio Co-Chairman Tom Rothman’s long-held belief that sci-fi films and films set in the future are box-office poison.