How one Ad/PR agency’s actions is killing three brands: Disney Pictures, AMC Theatres, & MN Parent Magazine

August 10, 2009

Have you seen the excitement that ensues when a child wins a prize?  It can be any prize really, but how about if a child wins tickets to a new movie such as the new 3D Disney Movie, G-Force? You would expect the level of that child’s excitement would be pretty high, and if you’re a parent you’re probably rating the excitement even higher imagining your own child’s reaction.

Now, imagine the crash of disappointment that child experiences when they arrive at the theater to be told that the movie theater is full to capacity (a half an hour before the start time) due to the fact that the Advertising/Public Relations agency (Allied Advertising & Public Relations) purposely overbooked the theater to ensure they had a packed theater. Not overbooked by a few tickets, they overbooked by at least a hundred tickets based on the disappointed families left standing in the lobby of the theater.

Those families were outraged.  There was no second theater opened up to accommodate the families they overbooked. There were no offers of passes to see another children’s movie showing at the theater. There was no evidence of customer service skills demonstrated by the three people from Allied Advertising what-so-ever, and sadly that ended up tarnishing, damaging, and for those parents of disappointed children, killing three brands: MN Parent Magazine, AMC Theaters, and Disney Pictures.

The sad point is that many companies are often in the dark about how their brand is being handled when it is out of their “direct control.”  MN Parent Magazine and Disney Pictures were unaware of Allied Advertising’s practice when contacted.  AMC was worse; their onsite management team was apathetic. They could care less that their patrons were affected by Allied’s actions.  The AMC manager, claiming she was the “highest authority” I could speak to regarding the Edina, MN location, said that the theater was not “responsible” since Allied Advertising had rented the auditorium for the event.

As a parent, who had brought three children to see the movie G-Force (Who is also a PR practitioner) I was appalled by the actions of Allied Advertising and their practice of intentionally overbooking movie premieres.  One would have to wonder if Allied’s practice of this was to boost their numbers for their client, Disney Pictures.  Disney Pictures should be concerned then that they are paying for such surreptitious practices and not getting true results for their money being spent.  If Disney Pictures is testing or hoping to gain market research insight, then every event carried out by Allied is tainted, and cannot be considered valid data.

One of the Allied Advertising reps did finally offer to pay for myself and the three children to go see any other movie playing that night, but only after I identified myself as someone that worked in PR and after they witnessed/overheard me call a local news station to speak with the assignment desk to report on the events happening and see if they wished to send a reporter. At that point the Reps from Allied Advertising were willing to do just about anything to get me to leave. Of the three other brands associated, only MN Parent magazine has reached out to all of the parents that had received “free tickets” through them and promises to have Allied provide free passes to see G-Force in theaters.  AMC and Disney Pictures have yet to respond to complaints submitted via email on their websites.

So who controls your brand once it is out of your hands?  Do you have vendors, resellers, distributors, field reps?  How are they caretaking your brand?  Will they respond with the same level of customer service that you provide to your customers?  What are the repercussions if they don’t?  How will you know if they are carrying through your brand?  Are you set up to monitor your brand once it is out of your control? What is the cost if you don’t?  What do you think?


  1. Firstly, I’m sorry you had such a terrible experience and I agree the agency has no excuses.

    That said, you work in PR and can’t possibly believe that Allied now has “killed” three brands and in this case I don’t think your hyperbole lends your situation any levity.

    From my perspective it’s a detraction and just sort of makes you look bitter, which you have every right to be, but there’s a big difference between making a reasonable case and taking out your frustration via an online grudge.

    Also, “If Disney Pictures is testing or hoping to gain market research insight, then every event carried out by Allied is tainted, and cannot be considered valid data.”

    Once again, the absolute nature of this statement is redonk. I’m pretty certain that the data would still be valid. The people that got in to see the show would still have opinions related to the show, which is mainly what Disney would care about. Right?

    To an outsider ( and also a parent that can’t stand to see disappointed kids) you seem like you’re trying to settle a vendetta of some sort, blog post Fail.

    Your anger is palpable, but you do not persuade.

    My suggestion would be to take a deep breath and take a spoonful of your own brand protection medicine. I hope you own the brand that you do PR work for because if you worked for me and I found out you called a TV station over a movie ticket I’d have concerns about how you were caretaking my brand.

    Anyway, don’t hate me. I’m just offering another perspective and like I said Allied Advertising messed up, but it’s not the end of Disney.

    • Hey David;

      I won’t hate you. I am glad for any other perspectives. The great thing about a forum like this is that people can have a discussion about their experiences, observations, frustrations, opinions, and perspective. I don’t think it is the end of any of the three brands. What saddened me was the fact the the agency was oblivious as to the ramifications of disappointing their target audience. Sure Disney can get great feedback from the people that were able to get in to see the picture. What then is the value of that information knowing that another 100 plus people were affected negatively by the experience? Especially when Disney Pictures was more than likely unaware of those people?

      It’s true that there is a lot of emotion behind this – “frustration”, “anger”, “bitter”ness. I tend to get that way when someone disappoints my children, when the situation could have been avoided. My calling of the TV station was not motivated by a “vendetta”, it was prompted by the frustrations of 30+ parents and their children, that weren’t even offered any tickets to see another movie, and that had taken time out of their lives to do something for their children. The situation was escalating by other parents – one of which was told that she could take her children to the other free movie they were screening, “500 Days of Summer”, which was not “G” rated. The parent in question was completely incredulous by their suggestion that she take her children to see a movie that was inapproporaite for her children. Poor customer service has in fact become a newsworthy story (right or wrong), and media outlets are looking for these situations all of the time.

      As for your concerns how I would take care of your brand, our clients understand that I am as passionate and protective of their brands as I am of my own. I would hope that would be seen as a benefit. I know the clients that engage us think it is.

      Please feel free to offer perspective. I’m not always right, and I love it when I can learn as well!

      Thanks David!

  2. Whenever I receive these types of passes, there is always a disclaimer that states, “Please arrive early. This pass does not guarantee your admission.” Did yours not say this? Since overbooking theaters is common practice for free showings, I would think it’s in the best interest of the sponsor to include this language. If they had included this on your pass, would you have been less angry?

    • We had won the passes from a contest from MN Parent Magazine, and had to go to a third party site to download passes. The passes did contain the language, but MN Parent wasn’t aware of/or communicating that fact to the 25 families that were given 4-paks of the tickets. If that was made crystal clear from the start, it would have easier as a parent to control expectations. I still think that the practice of overbooking a theater for a children’s movie, is completely wrong, and specificly counter-intuitive to promoting goodwill with Parents, Children, & Families.

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