Conde Nast Portfolio
June 6, 2008
Long before its first
sneak preview, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the
Crystal Skull was a monster hit. Not with
Industry insiders suggest that advertisers fought a
major bidding war to tie their products with film. Why
the fuss? Because Indiana Jones is cross-generational
and cross-gender, making it a cross-promoter's dream.
The eventual victors in the tie-in title match—Expedia.com,
Kraft, and Mars among others—have each launched costly
campaigns with interactive appeal.
In case you didn't notice, Indiana Jones is not alone.
Kung Fu Panda, Iron Man, Speed Racer, The Dark Knight,
and even Sex and the City have piled onto the
cross-promotion bandwagon this summer. (For a look at
the six biggest winners, click here.)
It's a big bandwagon indeed: Spending can easily match
or exceed the estimated $3.5 billion that all studios
budget to market movies.
The goal? To start: Produce recordbreaking box office
receipts and heightened brand awareness. But some are
innovating in the field. The business of hype is
growing, even in a down economy, and a new school of
advertisers are trying to redefine this industry within
The allure of Hollywood is its ability to help
advertisers stand out to the jaded, overwhelmed
consumer. "Why do brands go back? Because they want to
break through the clutter, draft off brand awareness and
brand affinity," says Alden Stoner, director of the film
department at Davie Brown Entertainment, a Los Angeles
firm that specializes in brokering cross-promotional
Incremental revenue is rarely the goal, even for
advertisers selling big-ticket products like autos and
electronics. It's the desire to equate their brands with
the "emotional connotation of the movie," says Stoner.
They want to sell the adventure of Indiana Jones, the
mystery of The Dark Knight, and the sex of Sex and the
City in specially marked packages at a store near you.
And ad spending is up—52 percent in 2007 according to an
Accenture study, and 24 percent in the motion media
category alone, which includes movie and TV. A
cross-promotional movie campaign for each product can
cost between $2 million and $20 million, depending on
the film's buzz and whether a bidding war erupts over
the rights to be an exclusive partner in a particular
As the competition for both advertisers and studios
comes to a boil during the summer months, innovation is
"There's a need to research new ways to integrate
message and content," says Entertainment Weekly
publisher Scott Donaton. "These partnerships lead to the
A division is growing between the easy-to-spot tie-in
and the emerging school of brands that don't want you to
know, they just want you to want.
An old-school advertiser sticks to a traditional
formula. McDonald's, General Mills, and Mattel are prime
examples. Their classic tools of the trade include Happy
Meal toys, TV spots, on-pack promotions for Lucky
Charms, Betty Crocker, and Pop Secret, and rolling out
action figures for younger audiences to snap up at
retail outlets worldwide. The old school needs to "fill
the pipeline" says Stoner.
With traditional cross-promoting, a failed film doesn't
translate into a failed partnership. All three of those
brands partnered with Speed Racer, arguably this
summer's biggest flop: The $160 million film grossed
only $40 million in the first four weeks in theatres.
Still, advertisers still drew from the film's buzz.
By contrast, the new school of advertisers aim to give
consumers a deeper movie experience, through interactive
means. "Advertisers are always looking for the cool
factor, and now studios are listening," says Tom Meyer,
President of Davie Browne Entertainment. "They're no
longer looking for just a logo, they want access to
exclusive content, to get closer."
The Indiana Jones microsite, for example, offers a
chance to win trips to exotic locales, behind-the-scenes
footage, an "Indy store," bulletin boards, news, and
When LG and Audi signed on to launch new products with
Marvel's Iron Man, they took the idea to another level.
Techno playboy Tony Stark was a natural fit to drive an
Audi R8 in the film and, of course, be seen yapping on
his 18-karat gold LG Shine, while inventing the greatest
But on-screen product cameos now go beyond the screen.
Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. pulled up to the curb of
the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in his Audi
R8 for the film's Audi-sponsored premiere. It's getting
harder to tell where the advertisement stops and the
movie marketing begins.
Mercedes-Benz called on actress Kim Cattrall, who plays
the blond cougar in the HBO series turned best-opening
R-rated comedy Sex and the City, to attend a Detroit
launch party for their GLK S.U.V., which she also drives
in the film.
"Very passionate people make Mercedes and they're very
smart, and I've always considered both of those things
right down Samantha's alley," Cattrall told reporters at
the event. "It's a cutting-edge car."
Sony may have the most fingers in the pie, with their
launch of Sony movies (and by all means movie previews)
on AT&T Mobile—placing their movie marketing directly
into the consumers cell phones. Text to win movie
premiere tickets? Don't mind if we do.
Microsites, premieres, free video content, and
off-screen product demos by the stars are all part of
where the game is headed. And the coming of 3-D will
open a host of new opportunities. "You'll see things
you've never seen before," predicts Meyer.
Old or new, cross promotion—where Madison and Vine meet
and make money—is a partnership both studios and
advertisers can't afford to let slip.
"Brands need content and content needs brands," says
Shelley Zalis, founder and C.E.O. of OTX Research, which
has consulted with Disney and other studios to update
their marketing strategies.
"It's the perfect synergy," Zalis added, "and it's never
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