Studio Turns High School Graduation Into Marketing Stunt, Nobody Cares

The Wall Street Journal looks at how an unfortunately named marketing agency called the Intelligence Group tried to promote recent bomb “I Love You, Beth Cooper” with a viral video on YouTube. (Can we just once and for all ban anyone who works in advertising from accessing YouTube?) They paid the valedictorian of a Los Angeles high school $1,800 to “spontaneously” blurt out a secret crush during her speech, and they hired someone to film the speech in a faux-homemade style to post online.

The clip never caught on, though, with only about 2,000 hits, and the movie crashed and burned. The officials at the high school had no idea there was a business transaction involved in the ceremony, and they weren’t too happy to learn of it from the WSJ:

The stunt did succeed in outraging officials at Hamilton High and the Los Angeles Unified School District, who were horrified when informed by a reporter that a movie company had essentially planted a paid advertisement in the midst of a graduation ceremony.

Hamilton High Assistant Principal Roberta Mailman says neither she nor anyone from the school was contacted for permission — either for the stunt itself or for filming it. Before learning of the payment, she says, “I thought it was a great speech.”

School District spokeswoman Gayle Pollard-Terry says she is unsure whether the episode violated any policy, but adds that Ms. Mejia’s diploma is safe. In a statement, Local District Superintendent Michelle King wrote: “Obviously, this is not condoned by the District. It’s unfortunate.”

Hey, $1800 isn’t too bad for a college freshman starting her first year at MIT, so we don’t begrudge the student her money. But what’s next, o Intelligence Group? How about you wire a baby to deliver an E-Trade pitch at his baptism? Or maybe bribe some pallbearers to “drop” a casket during a funeral! We think you were on the right track with hijacking a big life event ceremony to sell crap; we just don’t think you were aiming low enough.

“Fellow Graduates, Before We Greet The Future, a Word From My Sponsor “ [Wall Street Journal]