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Tie-Ins Hit Target Audience

23 Sep, 2002 By: Joan Villa

Now that DVD has captured consumers' hearts, it's winning over corporations, too.

Companies as diverse as Kia, Loews Cineplex, The Limited Too and the Hawaii Visitors Bureau are lining up for promotional tie-ins with DVD. To them, the popular little disc has big marketing clout, and that means the ability to bolster a brand image and reach a targeted demographic. But for the studios, who have always boosted VHS sales by co-marketing inside supermarkets and mass merchants, DVD has opened even more doors to shoppers.

Now, movie theaters such as Loews and DVD-related products like Gateway computers and Chrysler minivans extend the format's reach to where people shop, work and play. The tie-ins form millions of impressions that complement -- and to some extent replace -- sales driven by expensive advertising campaigns.

“Our strategy has been to reach the consumer within all their daily lifestyle, not just on TV and in magazines,” explained Ken Graffeo, EVP of marketing for Universal Studios Home Video. “Where do they go? What are they wanting to buy? We don't sell DVD there, but that's where our target audience for this film is going to be shopping. That, to us, is a tremendous value.”

Unlike VHS, with DVD “everything is for sale,” Graffeo said, and it's driven by consumer purchases of even obscure titles that tempt potential partners with finely honed tie-in opportunities.

Take Universal's Big Fat Liar, featuring “tween” stars Frankie Muniz and Amanda Bynes. One tie-in is The Limited Too, a mall-based clothing store aimed at young teenagers, which is promoting the Sept. 24 release with a line of clothes, an in-store coupon to own the film and a sweepstakes. It's an opportunity that springs from the film's cast and target audience, but speaks to the popularity and prestige of DVD, Graffeo noted.

Co-Branding DVD Products
Studio executives agree that more promotional partners are looking to DVD because the disc offers “a great direct line to actual product that is broader than what was available with the VCR,” said New Line Home Entertainment marketing SVP Matt Lasorsa. That might include computers, minivans or SUVs that have built-in DVD players, or product lines needing the image lift of a cutting-edge technology.

“With something like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, there's no product placement, so there's not an organic connection between, say, the movie and wearing Reebok, but without taking too strange a ride you can connect to a demographic,” Lasorsa explained.

For example, the outdoor ruggedness of Fellowship appealed to tie-in partner Reebok but also to Kia, which has both a sport utility vehicle and a need to hike awareness that it is the nation's fastest-growing car company, he said. “The deal is structured with a test-drive incentive, not a sales incentive, [so] their goal is to continue to build their image, not necessarily to sell the car immediately,” noted Lance Still, New Line's executive director of promotions. “Being associated with a top film helps with the prestige of their brand.”

DVD's versatility and value-added features are drawing first-time partnerships that weren't possible on VHS, according to Gordon Ho, Buena Vista Home Entertainment's VP of brand marketing. Chrysler's Dodge Caravan partnered with a film for the first time on Monsters, Inc. because on-board DVD players appeal to families looking to entertain the kids on trips, “leveraging the Caravan, DVD and families,” Ho noted.

Disney also found an unconventional partner for the Dec. 3 Lilo & Stitch, which is set in Hawaii. The DVD contains a featurette exploring the island's history and culture that attracted the Hawaii Visitors Bureau, Hawaiian Airlines and Hilton Hotels for a tie-in contest awarding 25 vacation packages. Although “the content of the DVD is driven by what consumers would like to see,” the tie-in seemed a natural, he said. “The best promotions are organic,” he added.

Indies Getting Into the Act
Marketing partnerships aren't just for big-budget films, but are a natural way to promote independent movies and DVD special editions. Los Angeles-based Alternative Marketing Solutions was formed for just that purpose: to market DVD with the same prestige and visibility as campaigns designed for theatrical features.

“In some ways we're educating a lot of these cross-promotional partners that this is a $19 billion industry compared to theatrical's $8 billion,” explained co-president Rita Boyadjian. “Then it starts to make sense to tie in their product.”

Rather than tie-ins that emblazon the name of a DVD on a cereal box or on consumer packaging that involve long lead times, AMS builds ongoing relationships with partners that can get the word out quickly on a niche product. For Miramax's Chocolat, for example, foreign-language education company Berlitz tied in with counter cards at its centers and a contest awarding free French lessons and a trip to France. “They partnered and produced all the POP,”noted AMS co-president Tod Abrams. “Our Chocolat brand was in a location where you wouldn't necessarily think the film would be.”

“Where our studio clients can't afford to spend a quarter of a million dollars on radio and television, we are able to actually barter radio promotion time,” he added. “We supply them with 10 or 20 DVDs and give them copy points, and stations will give us 10-, 15-, 20-, 30- or 60-second mentions in exchange for the product. Stations love DVD because their listeners are really into it.”

Timing and Planning
On the flip side, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment works with partners as far as 18 months in advance, evolving the relationship from theatrical through home video, said Suzanne White, VP of domestic marketing. With Spider-Man anticipated as the top Halloween costume this year, a pre-awareness cross-promotion kicks off in October with fast-food partner Hardee's in the East and Carl's Jr. in the West offering themed kids' meals and adult collectible cups to herald the home video debut. “It's great for us to have all those eyeballs building anticipation for the street date,” White added.

Pre-awareness is also the cornerstone for the Nov. 26 release of Men in Black II, which ties in with theater chain Loews Cineplex. For the entire month, moviegoers will be greeted by lobby posters, see a 45-second “sneak peek” of DVD bonus bloopers and enter a contest for prizes. “Five years ago, a theater chain would never have tied in with us,” noted marketing VP Tracey Garvin. “Now they're looking for something unique to bring to their customers. What they're bringing to us is to get in front of movie lovers.”

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