“You take the fruit of 40 years—hard lessons, mistakes—and you call it wisdom.” Wag the Dog
Hollywood is filled with stories about the corporate world. Those stories are usually dramatized for the sake of metaphoric storytelling and leave significant (impressions) on the viewer on how they should approach corporate life. This blog post, however, isn’t interested in listing the Best X Movies Set in Y Industry. This blog post is more interested in the various kinds of technology software that could very have well been utilized by the filmic characters or that could have made their professional lives a bit more effective.
Disclaimer: The three movies featured in this post — “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “Wag the Dog” and “Up in the Air” — were released in 2003, 1997 and 2009, which means that the characters wouldn’t have had access to the plethora of business software available today. The author of this blog post is very aware of that.
Benjamin Barry, Advertising Executive
Benjamin Barry is half of the alliterative couple in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” (2003). He is an advertising executive for Warren Advertising, who normally works with alcoholic beverage and athletic equipment companies. However, he’s itching to land an advantageous contract with a diamond company, to prove that he has the ability to work with any and all kinds of accounts. His team of three aggressively competes with the two Judys, a female power duo who works for the same firm, for that sizeable account.
Software Benjamin would use:
The two Judys’ major frustration with Benjamin wanting to take on the diamond account is that he doesn’t truly understand what women want. Their pitch to Warren, the founder whose namesake the company bares, consists of them utilizing their existence and experience as powerful women who clearly understand the appeal and significance of diamonds. Had Barry invested in market intelligence software, even with his gaps in understanding the female psyche, the software would help refine his targeted marketing strategy. Companies turn to market intelligence software to understand the lay of the land, so to speak. At its core, market intelligence software provides companies with the tools to discover news and information about the competition that is relevant to the company’s market. The software would allows Benjamin to take a very measured, methodical approach to understanding the opposite gender’s wants and needs and then apply that insight to his marketing strategy.
One memorable scene in the film is when Warren yells out the conference room window with female protagonist Andie Anderson’s inadvertent tagline for the diamond account: “Ladies, frost yourselves!” The only real-time feedback Warren received was a snarky “Frost yourself!” Now, if Warren had implemented marketing analytics software, the agency would have been able to discover more in-depth statistics and useful insight about their customer base. Marketing analytics software gives an organization the tools and processes to manage, measure and analyze the performance of its marketing efforts. Marketing analytics software parses through all the channels and audiences that a specific campaign runs through, equipping the organization insight into customer reactions and preferences.
Benjamin and Andie’s confrontation scene occurs at the Warren Advertising gala. They simultaneously discover each other’s deceptions because the other’s co-workers unthinkingly spill the beans. If either Benjamin or Andie had access to event management software, then they could have seen the guest list for the gala and, at the very least, formulated a plan to keep the other away from potential loose cannons. Event management software streamlines the organization of professional events, conferences and gatherings. Tools within the software manage the entire process, starting from venue selection to payment processing and all the way to attendee registration.
Conrad Brean, Spin Doctor
For Conrad Brean, spin doctor and protagonist of “Wag the Dog” (1997), cleaning up PR disasters and brainstorming fictional crises is as instinctive as breathing. At the outset of the film, he has been hired by the White House staff to do damage control around the President’s sex scandal with a “Firefly Girl” eleven days before Election Day. Brean contacts Stanley Motss, a Hollywood film producer, to create so-called real footage of a nonexistent Albanian war to divert the American people from the scandal.
Software that would have made Brean’s job easier:
Early in the film, Brean and the White House staff watch a stolen copy of Senator John Neal’s new campaign commercial, which criticizes the yet-to-be-announced news about the President’s sex abuse scandal. They take the commercial at face value and worry about the impact it will have on the President’s re-election campaign. However, if they had turned to press release (PR) analytics software, they would have been able to assess the actual effectiveness of their competitor’s campaign effort. PR analytics software equips companies with insight into both positive and negative PR activities. That insight informs PR teams about the performance of their currently running campaigns and guides any future PR decisions.
Motss is well-versed in the magic of video editing software, and so Brean is at the mercy of Motss overinflated ego as the crisis spins out of control. Had he himself been able to edit the studio shot of Kirsten Dunst’s character running away from “war”, then he wouldn’t have had to deal with Motss’ ego. Video editing software allows users to digitally edit and modify video files. The software can do everything from digitally correcting color to effects to manipulating audio.
If Wag the Dog had been set in 2017, then Brean and the damage control White House staff could used media monitoring software and social media monitoring software to scrape through various media channels to gauge what the American public thought about the sex scandal. The software would have provided the team with actionable insights as they set forth to distract the millions of people tuning in to the news for further details. PR departments rely on media monitoring software to follow any mentions of a company or organization across a variety of media channels. The software does more than just track mentions: It provides users with alerts, stores links to relevant posts and has reporting functionality that analyzes all mentions and activity. Social media monitoring software is very similar to media monitoring software, but is used specifically by users to gather information on social trends to identify relevant breaking news so that they are better equipped to respond to trending thoughts.
In “Up in the Air” (2009), Lucius Bingham works for a human resources consultancy firm that conducts company layoffs and firings on the behalf of companies. He travels around the country, downsizing in person. However, his company is looking to revolutionize the business with “transitional specialists” by turning to technology like video conferencing software to make terminations more efficient and cost-effective.
Software that Bingham would have used:
The main reason Bingham’s company hired Natalie Kenner was to significantly cut down on the enormous cost of supporting traveling consultants. Natalie’s suggestion for the company to turn to remote termination consulting was a way to keep up with the times, to mitigate the bloated costs of fuel and insurance premiums. One assumes Natalie had a good look at the company’s expense management files and immediately balked at the over-inflated travel budget. For example, Bingham’s ultimate goal, at the beginning of the film, was obtaining American Airlines’ ten million frequent flyer miles milestone. He claims that every single expense incurred on his trips is a conscious effort to bulk up his mileage account and so he regularly goes above and beyond the company’s $40 meal expense allotment. Travel management software is used by companies to centralize and digitize the records of their employees’ travel expenses. Expense management software similarly processes employee expenses for everything else. Expense management products look at the overall company’s expenses, identifies cost-saving opportunities and attempts to control excessive spending. While both of these tools would make his life easier, his job will still end up at the mercy of the next Natalie Keener.
Bingham’s job comes into play after the upper levels of company management decided to eliminate specific individuals or job roles. Indeed, something that Bingham constantly repeats throughout the film is that he has no idea the reasons behind the firing of an employee and that he doesn’t particularly want to find out that reason. Had Bingham been given access to performance management software, and had wanted to, he would have been able to see the entirety of the to-be terminated employee’s file. Performance management tools manage employee progress, job performance, and any discussions or feedback conducted between employee and employer. HR departments rely on performance management solutions to ensure and plan for success and flourishing within departments and the entire company itself.