I read an interesting piece in the NY times today about a new site being launched by Sony Pictures around the upcoming release of a screen version of Dan Brown’s bestseller, The Da Vinci Code. The book has fired up many traditional Christians and the Catholic church with it’s premise that Jesus was not resurrected, was married and mortal, and that for thousands of years the Church has covered this up. Whether or not you believe this to be true, the studio had a big PR challenge on their hands … and one that could not be solved by changing perceptions. This was dealing with religion and people’s world view. Either they believed it, or they didn’t. But how do you work both sides of the game. Do you change the film to satisfy the detractors? Do you remain faithful to the premise and rely on the controversy to drive more people to see the film?
Sony decided to launch www.thedavincichallenge.com – a site that features 45 essays about the fact or fiction behind the film, including multiple viewpoints and even a link to Hollywood Jesus (wonder if they have a Hollywood Hindu too?). What’s the solution when you have two sides that disagree about the truth and you have to pick one with your release? Come out and openly support the debate. In a brilliant piece of PR (and online) strategy ahead of the May 19th release date – the site offers an in depth exploration of all points of view and demonstrates an openness from the Studio to be a part of the debate. And it might just buy them enough goodwill to release the movie true to the book … and keep the controversy as a supporting element – and not a furor that ultimately overshadows the film. If the challenge is to control the message … studios, politicians, and marketers alike could all learn from Sony’s example.