In January Trainspotting 2 was released in UK cinemas a full two decades after the original shot its way into cinemas. The cultural impact of Trainspotting is still being felt across the UK with the sequel, T2, selling out screenings around the country.
From the brilliant soundtrack to the famous “choose life” speech Trainspotting is a rare classic film which seeped in to the national consciousness.
Even twenty years on everyone who saw the film remembers (how could they forget) the infamous toilet scene, Begbie hurling pint glasses and Spud introducing himself to the in-laws in the worst possible way.
The original Trainspotting made a highly respectable $16.5 million at the worldwide box office, the majority in the UK. But its cultural impact has spread much further than the money it brought in could measure.
Compare this to 2009’s Avatar. This film made $2.8 billion at the global box office and is the most successful film ever released. It raked in a full $600 million more than the next highest grossing film, Titanic.
The filmmakers have recently announced three sequels to Avatar, to little fanfare. For all of its financial success can anyway say that Avatar has made the cultural impact Trainspotting has?
Or to put it another way can you name a famous scene or line from Avatar, without Googling it?
Trainspotting’s enduring success is measured through its impact on a wider audience than actually saw the film on its original release. By creating a unique story director Danny Boyle created something with more enduring appeal than anything the mega-budget Avatar could muster.
There is a key lesson here for PR. All too often we want to achieve big numbers, reach as many people as possible, go viral. This is not a practical or desirable aim for a campaign.
The real measure of a campaign’s success is how much people take it on board. Trainspotting was seen by a fraction of the audience Avatar had, yet its cultural impact still makes it relevant today.
Half of the planet saw Avatar yet only six years later the announcement of three sequels was met with a universal shrug.
Comparisons can be made in advertising. Chanel No5 famously spent $33 million to create their 2004 advert featuring Nicole Kidman. Remember anything about it?
In contrast Peter Kay’s “av’ it” John Smith’s advert involved a football and a muddy field yet has reached the target audience in a much more effective way than the glamour of Chanel’s expensive campaign.
For PR campaigns focusing on a high quality campaign targeted at the right people will have an undeniably greater impact than a catch all campaign which everyone sees and nobody remembers.
If you can make this happen you will have a PR campaign as good as Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland in 1978.