Written by Mateus Andrade
Consider the following scenario, a new product by a household name brand is slowly revealed to the public drip by drip. The hype is gradually built, as previews are released to the right outlets and carefully placed teasers for the general public. Naturally, one might expect a good deal of guesswork, from the avid fans, will arise in social media and specialized sites as time goes by and anxiety sets in.
Traditionally an announcement regarding a soon to be released project is unveiled months in advance – at least, if not years if it’s a big budget production or product. But the price may be bittersweet, especially when the announcement is met by a legion of fans ready to quench their curiosity. Speculations will arise on social media and specialized media, and that is a good thing for visibility. But what happens if, by any chance, the information is scarce or, as most cases, it is nothing more than a tease.
The question is, how long is too long? How long until more information meets the general public? The risk of misleading information or worse, harmful rumors rise up.
In the age of social media, it is known how well fans can keep up with their favorite acts via Instagram and Twitter, to name a few. Throughout the daily mischiefs of their favorites, many even guess upcoming projects even before an official statement from anyone. That’s the case of global and elusive singer Rihanna. What came to be released as ANTI was famously referred to as R8, a placeholder to an album the fanbase adopted as a symbol of the musical release that happened to break the yearly release spell – as it was the case for the singer’s previous outings. And so, after roughly 4 years, the much anticipated album was released. The consequence of mixed signals throughout the unveiling campaign was met by the fanbase as muddled, and even though the age of streaming has redefined how an album impacts the public—it was far from the ideal unveiling PR wise.
Naturally, the singer had every right to take as long as she wanted to release whichever body of work, after all, it is music and not an yearly report. There’s no denying the delay kept most fans in tow, and the album release was considered a success both commercially and critically. But one wonders, how the dynamics and expectations would have been if it would be announced an explicit adjournment of album releases from the artist, or better yet, simple radio silence regarding intentions.
A fair comparison it is not when a launch strategy for a single and album release by a western artist is compared to the Hallyu-led world of Korean Pop Music. The dynamics are entirely different, for instance, every time an artist releases a new title track it is labeled as a ‘comeback’ – even if the previous release were months or years prior. There is a twist though; the artists keep their cards close to heart regarding their plans, and when the time is right they release all the possible info to the public in no more than a month’s time window. Everything is broadcast with the utmost transparency: the producers, the release date and the ‘concept’ behind the album/video (in a nutshell, the persona or the general aesthetic the artist is going to adopt for this round of promotions, from the musical direction to the visual fashion).
The key factor becomes instant gratification, and most of all, the window between the public announcement and the actual release is relatively brief. Unsurprisingly, the reactions from fans and articles impact immediately the right venues, from forums to specialized sites, and, most importantly, social media. The timing for hype is condensed to a month and the benefit is clear, reaping goodwill from fans and the PR efforts boils down to a steady flow of fresh info thrown left and right to the media. In K-Pop’s case the strategy is laid out through several stages of teasers and constant information, again the glaring difference is the timeframe of weeks; and not months, as is the case for the Western pop artists. That’s not to say there aren’t consequences to this business model, as the output schedule is extremely aggressive and practically weekly based, therefore a song may be swiftly forgotten with ease if not met by considerable sales. The consequences to an unpopular artist might be costly in the long run.
Cinema releases undergo interesting dynamics as well, as studios not only announce the production of a movie with hefty advance, but counts on the slow build up to guarantee a strong opening weekend at the box office. With that in mind, the release of 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very interesting case study on the surprising effects of playing it cool. The sequel’s first public appearance was via a charismatic trailer with a glaring difference. It was no longer a handheld cam movie and the preview depicted a close quarter’s scenario with three characters. The change in tone and pace was so alien, pun intended, that it could easily be mistaken for a stand-alone feature. However the title brought it right back to the Cloverfield universe. The impact of an unannounced sequel took audiences by surprise; it justified the silence, as the surprise announcement became an integral part of the film’s intended impact. Fans of the film were informed in one fell swoop the events of the first movie did not limit itself to New York, making for an enticing reveal though the form of a trailer and not a press release or note in a website.
Culture is merely one of the many industries to suffer from 'announcement anxiety' if you will. From games announced in a time frame of more than 5 years in advance, products from Kickstarter campaigns missing deadlines on the daily, among others. As social media brings enthusiasts, and the general public, closer to the production line—it is imperative to take great care of what is promised and how the first glance is unveiled.
One should consider the prerogative to control the narrative and timing as much as possible, not to imply this is a new concept mind you, but simply as a path to purposely choose to withhold information in the age of oversharing. Consider the under wrap production cycle an antidote.