Robert's right. It hasn't been marketed particularly well and if the media boys perpetuate any confusion over it's place, content and scale then there could be trouble ahead.
How absurd would it be if what should have been an exciting event ends up as a disappointment. Not because of what it actually is but because of the expectation of it being anything more.
Perhaps the PR boys just got a little too excited and got ahead of themselves. It's easily done with something of this magnitude. Universal have done well to complete this project in such a good time scale and they deserve all the plaudits for that. Don't spoil the ship for an Ha'peth of tar. Promote it sensibly and WWOHP will be an unmitigated success.
The only thing that would hamper this project from a PR standpoint would be if it had opening delays -- a la RR&R. But I suspect Universal has learned its lesson and is confident that it will be ready to go.
Can you imagine someone who has never been to Universal stumbling on to Spider-Man for the very first time? Wow...I wish every time could be like the first time! Uh, when riding theme park attractions, I mean. ;)
I'll concede that a story on Universal in Florida is a minor blip on the radar compared to all the other news around the world and that maybe it doesn't merit the extra 5 minutes to a large media outlet. I'm just saying that if you are going to report it, please be as completely informative and factual as you can.
edit: I agree with TH that I don't think it will have a huge impact on visit planning and all that stuff. People trip planning to Universal will likely get info about Harry Potter and Universal from their website or a site like this one. Something like this is just a small example of a problem with the media. Half and 3/4 truths are becoming commonplace within our news.
Think about Star Wars weekends. They are among the best attended weekends at DHS. What's special about them? Star Tours is open. Ah, but it's open all the time. There's walkaround characters. And a few extra trivia shows and behind the scenes previews. And the stars. The people behind the masks if you will. All in all, not that much of a change to the park's overall makeup. But why do people attend? They love the world of Star Wars and want to be a part of it. They want the stormtroopers wandering around as if they live there. They want to wear their Jedi robes and look normal. They love the Ewok trying to steal their stroller. Sure, they love to meet the celebrities too. But I wager a bet the main reason they go is to be part of the all-inclusive Star Wars galaxy that DHS turns into several weekends a year.
THAT is why Harry Potter will be a success at IOA. Not because the ride is spectacular (I have it on the best authority it will be) or there's a great roller coaster (DD is a great coaster and will continue to be). And not because a future attraction or show is state of the art either. People will come to BE a student at Hogwarts. Even for just a couple of hours.
The issue is that I do not think the press in some outlets were not clear on what exactly was going on. Sorry to all you press people out there, but sometimes they get it wrong or misunderstand a quote and turn a story in a way that is not completly true.
Then again, Robert has a point. Many people do not really research what they are getting into when going to the Orlando Area. Many assume that Dora, Sesame Street, Shrek, and Madagascar are in Disney World so a new park would not be far fetched for them. Also, we gotta rememebr for the people who are not of this site, most do not even know what Universal Orlando or Disney World actually physically look like. It would be close to impossible for Universal to open another Gate at this point.
So yeah, people just read headlines sometimes and there will be people no matter what you tell them will think its a whole new park, but Universal can clarify it quickly. Though I wonder, if the headlines were Universal's exact words? (Conspiracy Theory anyone??)
I'm writing about the millions of other visitors - the schlubs who arrive at the park at 11am, without having bought tickets. Who think that Epcot is part of the Magic Kingdom. Or that Universal is part of Disney World. The people who ask "What time is the three o'clock parade?" The folks who get a FastPass with a return time three hours from now... and dutifully avoid riding any other rides until then. In short, the clueless masses forming the crowds that we who go online do the research to avoid.
Those people, whose money nevertheless makes the theme parks we love possible.
All they know about WWOHP is what they've seen in the headlines from USA Today and EW. I don't doubt that many, if not most, of them will be very pleased once they get to IOA.
But a few thousand - heck, even a few hundred - visitors in those first weeks feeling that they've been short-changed by not getting an entire theme park could be enough to create a PR backlash against the project. (And, trust me, there will be some Disney loyalists online egging them on, hyping the complaints in the misguided belief that anything anti-Universal must somehow help Disney.)
Why take this risk? Why continue to use misleading verbiage to describe this exciting project? Why not get in front of the public message with an aggressive ad campaign that promotes the IOA brand?
Here's another suggested pitch: "Why wait for three years for a new Fantasyland when you can see Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure this summer?"
Get aggressive, Universal. Don't let uniformed copy editors at places like USA Today and EW define this project for you.
I can easily imagine this will be a recurring issue for Customer Service, but nothing they can't handle with years of practice dealing with that FAQ.
And Rob is right too. The place is going to be swarmed and suck the money out of families, but then again, thats the point I would see! Its like the outlandish lines for Fantasmic, still after all these years. Though, I wouldn't mind a wand myself :)
That being said, Universal does have a PR problem, and that's Rockit. Any announced opening date for WWHP is going to be deemed a lie based on the problems with getting Rockit opened this year. WWHP is right on track for a spring opening like they say, but convincing the masses, and especially convincing the bloggers and press, is going to be very difficult. If I were UO, I would be pushing the marketing department to really stress that the dates are in fact legitimate. I would be constantly doing interviews and belaying fears. I would set a grand opening date in stone (and make it an achievable one) and put so much stock in having to meet that goal that naysayers can't argue that it's false. That's the real PR hurdle; not worrying about whether the average guest thinks a "park within a park" means a whole separate entity or just a totally emmersive interactive experience.
They didn't say 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter' will be a new theme park, but that it will be a new theme park area.
But you do raise some interesting questions. I'm eager to see how Universal handles this.
Universal would absolutely LOVE to have that particular problem! ;)
We often write for a tiny audience in reality, even though so many people supposedly read us.
I used to work in Washington DC at the US Capitol Building and I can't count the number of times I was asked by people ,that were from America and would come right up to me in front of the Capitol Building, where the Capitol Building was. I was sometimes even asked which room the President lived in.
However, I think this could actually help Universal, assuming tourists are smart, which can be a stretch ;) because people will see the headline "Harry Potter Theme Park" and be more apt to read the article then if it read "New Harry Potter Land within IOA" and once they read the article, if they plan to vacation there, they will do the research and realize it is just a land in IOA before showing up bewildered at the gates.
And even if it were just a ride, I still think Harry Potter faithful would flock to Universal for it...I know if they were to build a new ride based on Indiana Jones or the Pirates movies, I would be on a plane to that park ASAP