Atlas Shrugged The Movie – John Galt Goes Spartacus

The target audience for the new Atlas Shrugged movie, doing their own advertising for it. (Photographed in Santa Ana, California, April 15, 2010.)

Here’s a challenge for marketers: How do you promote a low-budget independent movie without any stars? A film based on a verbose 1,000-plus-page novel about a philosophy called “Objectivism.” Got a campaign yet?

(Hint: social media, of course!)

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1” arrives in theaters on April 15 —“tax day” in the U.S., the traditional deadline for filing income tax returns. Coincidence? (Sure, just like the sudden omnipresence of Highway Patrol issuing a lot of piddly traffic tickets in a futile effort to bail California out of debt. But that’s another story.)

Before we get to the marketing of the movie, a little background about the book.

Communism vs. Capitalism

Published in 1957, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s magnum opus. The author lived through the communist revolution in Russia and came to America because its capitalist free-market system represented her ideal of a free society. As the book jacket summarizes, Atlas is the story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world—and did. But that doesn’t quite explain the story’s relevance today.

For those who haven’t read it, Atlas Shrugged is a dystopian tale about why the country’s “producers”—the captains of industry—go on strike against the “looters” of the political class by dropping out of society. In our present day circumstances, the growth of government regulation and spending helps explain the book’s resurgent sales and popularity, selling 500,000 copies last year alone.

Now you dont have to actually read Atlas Shrugged, you can just watch the movie.

The Audience is Doing the Advertising

Numerous attendees at Tea Party rallies have been seen carrying homemade signs (check the spelling!) that echo the novel’s opening sentence, “Who is John Galt?” as well as other pithy homages, such as “Atlas Is Shrugging”.

Now that the novel is finally being made into a film, the marketers behind the movie are trying to tap into this grassroots audience primarily through Facebook and YouTube. The Hollywood Reporter calls it the first movie to target the Tea Party audience. “By Hollywood standards, the marketing budget is tiny, so word-of-mouth from Tea Partiers sympathetic to the film’s message is crucial to its success.” (The movie was made for less than $10 million—smaller than the marketing budgets for most blockbuster films.)

An Ayn Rand reader spells it out at a Santa Ana Tea Party protest, April 15, 2009.

Are You John Galt?

In an effort to create a buzz, the filmmakers have been encouraging fans of the book to make a brief film of their own simply reciting the line “I am John Galt”. (Watching a few of these homemade videos is reminiscent of the end of Spartacus.) The enticement? The chance to be a part of “movie history” by having your clip included in the DVD of the film. (Deadline is April 15 to be included in the DVD!)

Have you read the book and/or do you plan to see the film? AMC’s Mad Men offers a testimonial of sorts:

Will the real John Galt please leave a comment!

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