Boycott Watch
May 16, 2006
Da Vinci Boycott or Publicity Stunt?
Summary: All the hoopla and boycott calls regarding the soon to be released Da Vinci Code movie may be rooted in a publicity stunt, and it is not the first time.
    During the early filming of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in 2003, there were many emails circulating with boycott calls and others leveling charges of anti-Semitism upon producer Mel Gibson and his father based on concerns of the films content having a possible anti-Semitic tone. The emails circulating smelled like a hoax to us for several reasons so we looked into those charges and spoke to a friend of Boycott Watch who just happens to be a bona fide co-religionist and close friend of Mel Gibson. We asked for his thoughts and were told there is not an anti-Semitic blood cell in Gibson, and that he is misunderstood in a see of media reports and Internet hysteria. After our detailed discussion, we were convinced of this, and we were offered a direct contact to Mr. Gibson's staff and possibly even Mr. Gibson himself to clear up the claims.

   On March 13, 2003 Boycott Watch contacted Mr. Gibson's agent via the phone number as supplied to us by Gibson's friend. When we asked about the film, the agent suddenly became very irate and refused to comment claiming she could not speak for Mr. Gibson. Boycott Watch did not believe that comment since an agent's job is to speak for the client, especially in financial negotiations. When we asked who can comment, suggesting perhaps Mr. Gibson's publicist, Mr. Gibson's agent at the International Creative Management agency in Los Angeles started yelling at us, further refusing to comment. It is important to note that we asked our questions with respect and in return was treated poorly at best.

   Boycott Watch then asked what they wanted us to report. In response, the agent screamed at the top of her lungs on the phone: "We don't want you to report anything." We were also asked to fax a letter to ICM for further questions, but the agent hung up the phone on us before giving us a fax number. Boycott Watch attempted to find a fax number for ICM on their web sites, and, but both sites are marked as "Under Construction" at the time. We were unable, therefore, to fax a letter and out contact with ICM ended.

   Boycott Watch regularly speaks directly with PR departments and corporate presidents to clear up possible rumors and to allow consumers to read both sides of the story regarding boycott calls. In this case, the refusal to cooperate and the level of emotional reaction lead Boycott Watch to believe, at the time, that Mr. Gibson may have had something to hide, or at the very lest that is the impression they wanted us to have. This was very odd, especially considering that we used an inside contact.

   One would think that a publicist would want to clear up false information. Based upon the response we received, or lack thereof, including the refusal to allow Boycott Watch, which has a reputation of clearing up possible misinformation, Boycott Watch could have just easily said the emails must therefore be true because there was no attempt to deny the reports. Instead, we held off our reports because the reactions we received just did not make sense, especially when we could have cleared up a rumor about very serious charges - something was wrong.

   Why would the ICM agent want to get us angry? Why would the ICM agent just scream at us? Why did they not want to refute the charges? Did they want bad PR? With those questions in the air, we sensed that that Gibson wanted bad PR but we did not want to play his game.

   A few weeks after the closely held movie was released, it became apparent that the charges were false and that what we saw was a publicity stunt to get free advertising and to generate movie buzz, something every movie producer wants because it saves them money in advertising. Let's face it. Controversy sells.

   We are happy we did not jump on the then conventional bandwagon of negative reporting. We also realized that we did not pick up on the publicity stunt at the time, but it was done so well that everyone else missed it too. The publicity stunt gave "The Passion" unbelievable amounts of buzz, making it a box office smash while saving Gibson millions of dollars in advertising.

   Today, as another religious-based movie, the "Da Vinci Code" is about to be released, we are also seeing boycott calls and religious hate claims, just as we did with "The Passion". The producers are saying the "Da Vinci Code" movie is fiction, yet the controversy not only still lingers, but it is attracting people to study Christianity. In fact, the more the producers say it is fiction; the harder religious groups press to present their version and the more people are listening. The History Channel climbed on board with a week of specials related to the story line, explaining the Christian standpoint of the movie content. Even though it is a movie many Christians hate, it is sparking interest in Christianity and by people who want to learn the basics and details of their religion and religious history, thus Christianity as a whole is benefiting from the movie that some claim is anti-Christian. As for boycott calls, nobody really knows what to boycott thus the boycott calls are not working.

   Boycott Watch believes we are seeing boycott calls being used in another publicity stunt, just like we saw with "The Passion." While a Da Vinci Code publicity stunt could not possibly be operating on the scale of Gibson's, there is a definite benefit being derived by the current buzz. We won't know for sure until a few weeks after the movie is released, but as it stands today, just days before the movie opens, Boycott Watch believes that we are seeing is another publicity stunt, and the public is buying the movie buzz but not the boycotts.

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