Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

14 September 2007

Addressing One versus Many

For the cinematic adaptation of his novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote balked at the notion of Audrey playing Holly. He wanted Marilyn Monroe.

Paramount clearly had something else in mind.

Side-by-side, it's only fair to say the film is, at best, only loosely based on the Capote book. Capote's Golightly is completely different from the one we encounter on the big screen - similarly frothy, granted, but by no means was she planning to forsake her own ideas to go running into Paul's arms in the rain.

In the book, she doesn't even go back for the cat she deserted.

Nonetheless, the book and the movie gleaned acclaim in their own circles, and even drew audiences to one another - the book to the film, the film to the book.

Capote was a writer appealing to the individual. He knew what he was doing. An individual has opinions. For him or her, Holly is less a woman than an allegory. On print, her betrayals make sense.

Paramount baked visual and auditory hits for hundreds at a time. They knew what they were doing. In a theatre, individual opinion is largely dependent on the sentiment of others. And Holly isn't just an empty vessel open to interpretation - she's living, breathing skin, a woman with a fashion sense and a personality that reminds people of themselves or their aunts or their mothers.

Decades after Audrey Hepburn's star hit its peak, women are still fashioning themselves after the charmed Holly Golightly. The "little black dress" is standard issue for any self-respecting New York female.

It would be unreasonable, I think, to call one more or less authentic than the other.

With Breakfast at Tiffany's in mind, consider a marketer's attempt to shove a TV ad campaign onto YouTube or some kind of microsite.

These efforts largely fail. Unless an ad is particularly conversation-worthy, what in hell makes you think people are trawling YouTube for it? They're too busy spoofing Miss South Carolina and gawking at the miracle that is Sonic Speed Run. (Seriously, how does he do that? I could never get past Chemical Plant Zone 2.)

You cannot separate the medium from the message. A person is not a passive receptor for any piece of data we choose to spoon-feed it. When I watch television, I have completely different expectations, and a completely different mindset, from when I am sitting in front of my computer.

Paramount understood there's a difference between the individual experience and the group encounter. Paramount also knew it had a limited amount of time to turn a flighty hooker into a social icon. The individual can be forgiving; the group, less so.

These are things that architects of the individual experience alone don't always understand. That's why Capote was so good at addressing the one, while Paramount turned addressing the crowd into a multi-million-dollar business.

The challenge lies in that, these days, a marketer must try to accomplish both: addressing one, touching many.

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