As Facebook users brace for the advent of a “dislike” button, Hollywood studios and stars face new risks and challenges in measuring their marketability, numerous industry insiders told TheWrap.
Creative content and the personalities that make it will become vulnerable to a wide range of feedback, multiple individuals said. Mark Zuckerberg has announced that the platform will offer alternatives to the sole “like” option for the popular newsfeed.
“When you’re paying for a Facebook campaign on a huge movie that’s not being received well, and you give the public the option to dislike it two weeks out from release? This should make everyone nervous,” one top digital consultant to studios and TV networks told TheWrap.
Brand consultant and CEO of TruthCo Linda Ong said “programmers are funny about this kind of feedback. The question becomes, what do they do with the data? If they’re purely reactive, it could be very dangerous.”
Any marketing and publicity rollout for a film or TV series would conceivably be at the mercy of a “dislike,” something the digital consultant called “the same as word of mouth, if not more effective.”
“If you’re seeing 250 likes for something, and 50,000 dislikes, you’re thinking, ‘People just like me hate this.’ It’s going to give you pause,” the consultant said.
One top studio executive is unfazed by the pending change, saying most of what hits Facebook is transparent by nature.
“There are already comment streams, where people can respond, and that can be moderated,” the executive said. “Also, it’s not [“dislike”] is an icon that isn’t already represented in our social media profiles, it’s a big part of YouTube.”
Justin Bieber‘s 2010 music video for “Baby” is the most disliked video in YouTube’s history — though the single itself is the highest-ever RIAA certified single, ranking at 12-times platinum.
“My initial gut would say it’s something we’ll watch — but because this mechanism already exists, we’re not running from it,” said the executive.
Other aren’t so optimistic.
“I shudder to think what would happen — imagine if ‘Fantastic Four’ was marketed purely on Facebook with dislike?” said Matt Atchity, editor-in-chief of Rotten Tomatoes, no stranger to aggregating sentiment. “It was a movie that both audiences and the critics didn’t like. Facebook would totally amplify that.”
This could be problematic for projects that arrive to the marketplace already battling lowered expectations: like Adam Sandler and his controversial Netflix comedy “The Ridiculous Six,” or a star vehicle for actors with likability issues in the vein of Anne Hathaway.
There are also consequences for Zuckerberg’s site. If there’s a possibility that Facebook could sink the financial or cultural success of a project, who would give up their ad dollars?
“Having only a ‘like’ option has lulled a lot of people into a false sense of security,” the top digital consultant also told TheWrap. “If they’re opening themselves up to different options, who is going to risk spending any money with them?”
The insider speculated that Facebook might roll out a premium option to remove the “like” or “dislike” buttons all together, an inventive play that would keep stakes relatively low for content-makers and protect the site’s revenue.
And, since it’s Hollywood, there’s always spin.
“There are ways to embrace a dislike,” one Los Angeles-based PR executive said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Take a show like ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ If you’re watching it and McDreamy dies, ‘disliking’ that could be seen as a big show of support for the actor and the story arc.”
It could come to hurt established individual brands like the aforementioned Hathaway. If a fashion or beauty label came calling for an endorsement deal and a star is among the most “disliked” on Facebook, it could hit the purse strings.
“Even if they know discourse is out there, your job as a brand is to sell. You can’t let existing venom on a platform like Facebook work against you,” the consultant said.
Another complication would be talent nowhere near Oscar-winner-Hathaway’s visibility. Upstarts could be affected by a “dislike” factor, but not necessarily in the negative.
As TheWrap has previously reported, social media followings have become as important as screen tests in landing a job. For a polarizing comic or offbeat actor, having a volume “dislikes” could put you in Hathaway country as an unknown. But it can also prove the ability to resonate with audiences.
“If someone cant start a conversation, lead it and continue it , that can be a very good thing, no matter what the sentiment is,” the insider said.
The industry is “real-time time focus testing on social media,” according to Ong. “I hope media companies use this as a data point, but try not to overemphasize it.”