Netflix has hit the marketing mother lode since not one but two petitions of outrage were created by fans of its docuseries Making a Murderer. One is addressed to the White House; the other posted on Change.org. Together they have clocked more than 200K signatures, not accounting for redundancy.
Steven Avery is the subject of the petitions and of the 10-episode documentary series from directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos that questions his arrest and conviction for the 2005 murder of photographer Teresa Halbach. He is serving a life sentence after being convicted by a jury in 2007. (Avery previously had been imprisoned on a different sexual assault conviction; he was exonerated in 2003 and filed a $36 million civil suit against the county.) Petition signers demand Avery’s release, almost all basing their outrage on their viewing of the Netflix series, which some critics have said withheld important information.
The media has fallen in love with the petitions, which constitute a ringing endorsement of Netflix’s marketing of the docuseries: “One man. Two crimes. Wrongfully accused? You decide. Only on Netflix.” The streaming service will not reveal how many people have watched the series since its mid-December release. But that has not stopped TV critics and reporters covering the petition campaigns from calling Making A Murderer a “hit” – another marketing mission-accomplished for Netflix.
One year ago this month, GoDaddy likewise hit the marketing jackpot when online-petition backlash to its planned Super Bowl ad made headlines, after which GoDaddy announced it had decided not to run the ad – already heavily viewed online – during the biggest TV event of the year, and everybody walked away claiming victory. That ad featured a cute “lost” golden retriever puppy named Buddy who fell out of the back of a truck but miraculously made his way home to his owner — only to discover that she was a breeder and was selling him online, using GoDaddy. Like most Super Bowl ads, it was released in advance of the game, prompting dog rescue advocates to launch a Change.org petition, saying: “essentially, Go Daddy is encouraging private breeding/puppy mills while shelter animals wait patiently for their forever homes or worse — to be euthanized.”
Both petitions demanding Avery’s release read like love letters to Netflix.
The White House petition begins:
Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey should be given a full pardon by President Obama for their wrongful conviction in the connection to the murder of Teresa Halbach.
Based on the evidence in the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer”, the justice system embarrassingly failed both men, completely ruining their entire lives.
The U.S. Constitution allows presidential pardons only in the case of federal criminal convictions. Fortunately for Netflix, petition creators and its more than 80K signers did not let this fact get in the way. But that petition still needs more than 19K signatures by January 19 to trigger White House comment of some sort, if only to educate them about this aspect of the Constitution.
The Change.org petition similarly begins with a big wet kiss to Netflix:
There is a documentary series on Netflix called “Making a Murderer.” After viewing it, I am outraged with the injustices which have been allowed to compound and left unchecked in the case of Steven Avery of Manitowoc County in Wisconsin, U.S.A. Avery’s unconstitutional mistreatment at the hands of corrupt local law enforcement is completely unacceptable and is an abomination of due process.