Fast company response killed lead balloon of a stunt before it started

(Aug. 30, 2019) Concerns expressed by Ocean City environmentalists last Thursday about a balloon-themed movie promotion got quick traction with Flagship Premium Cinemas, with the company announcing that same day that plans for an alternative publicity campaign were underway for its chain of theaters.

Ocean City Surf Club environmental chairwoman Effie Willson said she first became aware of the promotion for the soon-to-be-released horror flick, “It 2,” early Thursday morning from an area television newscast.

“They were promoting the movie and they were talking about the balloons [and how] people could find them and bring them in,” she said. “That’s how it started for me.”

Putting aside her morning java, Willson swiftly sought to sound the alarm bell on social media with her own Facebook post along with commenting on the Flagship Cinemas Ocean City page.

“I went to their Facebook page, I went to mine and then started ascending to everybody who were my friends,” she said. “The Adopt Your Beach [Facebook page] and local groups, like Locals Only and OC Then and Now.”

Others joined the fray in short order as a consensus built that the promotion was tone-deaf environmentally, since airborne balloons frequently end up in the water, where they can kill the marine creatures that mistake them for food.

Sea turtles, for instance, are known to be victims of free-floating balloons, as they can mistake them for one of their main courses, jellyfish.

Ocean City Councilman Tony DeLuca, practically in lockstep with Willson, also hopped on his social media soapbox to voice concern last Thursday.

DeLuca said within an hour Flagship Premium Cinemas dropped the concept after fielding a fast-arriving onslaught of negative reaction.

“They listened very loud,” Deluca quipped.

Sandi Smith, development and marketing coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, was also in line with the array of area environmental leaders raising a red flag over red balloons.

“Effie [Willson] was right on top of it, so I can’t take any credit,” she said. “High five and accolades to our local theater as well as the national theater chain … they had a chain reaction.”

Willson said after hearing the worries generated by the promotion, representatives at Flagship Cinemas in West Ocean City directed the matter up the chain of command.

“The person from the theater [in West Ocean City] that responded on Facebook noted it was not an Ocean City specific promotion, it was a national promotion,” she said.

Once the outreach reached executives at Flagship Premium Cinemas, the balloon-based promotion was instantly dropped at its 18 locations in seven states.

“Flagship came back and said our national company has reviewed this too and has decided we are not going to go with this nationally. We’re going to pull it and change the promotion,” she said.

Smith noted the seed concept was likely not germinated by Flagship Premium Cinemas.

“You’ve got to understand it wasn’t the theater that came up with the promotion, it was some promotional marketing person that made a big mistake,” she said. “As soon as people pointed out that’s really a bad idea, like Tony [DeLuca] said, within an hour … they pulled it.”

Willson said among the groups joining last week’s impromptu earth-friendly movement were numerous Adopt Your Beach program members and Chambers of Commerce in Ocean City, Ocean Pines and Berlin.

“We all reached out with concerns and Flagship responded to everybody,” she said. “Thanks for sharing your concerns and making them aware.”

The lightning-fast response from Flagship Premium Cinemas was commendable, Willson said.

“All you hear about [are] negative things and people being polarized in today’s society,” she said. “I think it’s awesome that everybody came together to do something positive and have a national company respond to a grassroots effort.”

Newshound striving to provide accurate and detailed coverage of topics relevant to Ocean City and Worcester County

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