In news that threatens to call into question the legitimacy of online endorsements of upcoming entertainment, Warner Bros. has been accused of planting “suspicious postings” on Reddit about Getaway, the new thrill-ride of the summer starring Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez. Yesterday Reddit moderators supplied this report titled “Don’t try to cheat reddit,” reminding all of its users that it takes very seriously any attempt at “gaming” of the site’s system by companies trying to draw undue attention to themselves—the same sort of undue attention that Ethan Hawke’s desperate hero hopes to avoid as he races against time and the law in a bad-ass muscle car, in the new, action-packed movie Getaway. And, much like Hawke must always keep an eye out for police as he’s forced to do the dangerous bidding of the mysterious man holding his wife hostage, Reddit’s moderators kept an eye out for certain postings and comments it felt were actually not-so-subtle marketing for Getaway, opening this Friday.
While those comments have mostly been lost—not unlike the innocence of Selena Gomez’s banking heiress, as she embarks on the heart-pounding ride of her life—you can still find some of them preserved on the site. They include links to trailers and behind-the-scenes featurettes, and strangely defensive comments about how Getaway is “actually an original script, which is rare now-a-days” and “also all real stunts and no CGI,” all of which is so true. That is rare nowadays. And yet, Reddit’s ever-wary users quickly targeted and crushed them anyway, much like the many other cars that Hawke and Gomez slam into in real stunts that are not CGI, in the original movie Getaway.
For what it’s worth, Warner Bros. has denied any connection to the Reddit postings, saying, “We are looking into this allegation as we take it very seriously”—seemingly as shocked as anyone that it’s apparently being framed here, just like Ethan Hawke is by that unseen mystery man. (Who is he? Find out tomorrow.) Until that investigation is complete, right now it’s unclear whether it was the work, as Reddit manager Erik Martin suggested, of “just a few employees” of the studio, or a couple of people who are perhaps associated with Getaway but not necessarily with Warner Bros. Or maybe it was just some users who were genuinely excited by Getaway’s non-stop racing action. Or maybe even a young, sexy hacker who can break into any system, like Selena Gomez’s character in Getaway.
Whatever the real explanation, it’s safe to say Warner Bros.—and all movie marketers—are learning a lesson today about using the Internet for “stealth” promotion, and learning it very quickly. Indeed, as quickly as Ethan Hawke driving a kick-ass car in Getaway, tickets available now.