Movie Marketers Out For More Than ‘Coming Soon’

With the summer crop of blockbusters on the way, the movie industry, the first to paint entire buses and an early convert to Internet marketing, is experimenting with media more feverishly than ever as studios compete to stand out.

Though protests picked off Sony Pictures’ attempted on-field ad play for Spider-Man 2, movie marketers elsewhere are seeking to cover all the bases—from the eyeballs watching the NBA playoffs to the Kleenex consumers use during movie tearjerkers.

“Everyone feels they’ve reached the limit of what a conventional 30- or 60-second spot gets you,” said Jeff Blake, vice chairman of worldwide marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City, Calif. “We’re trying to do something different and impactful.” For instance, Sony took another unusual marketing route for Spider-Man 2’s June 30 debut when it premiered a two-and-a-half-minute trailer during an April episode of The Apprentice, rather than in theaters.

Long-form branded-entertainment pieces marketed in conjunction with sister broadcasters are one of the more popular trends, said Peter Tortorici, head of programming at WPP Group’s MindShare in Los Angeles. Last Wednesday, for example, Fox TV adjusted its program lengths to run a 10-minute promotion of 20th Century Fox’s May 28 release, The Day After Tomorrow, during prime time. (20th Century Fox is a MindShare client.)

Since 2002, studios have spent $1 billion combined each summer on measured media, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Spending “is trending up,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of research firm Exhibitor Relations in Encino, Calif. “They get 40 percent of their box office from this 18-week period,” he said. “They have to spend a lot to distinguish themselves and use innovative marketing to differentiate themselves.”

New Line is using Wal-Mart as “a targeted media vehicle” for its June 25 release, The Notebook, said Gordon Paddison, evp of integrated marketing at New Line. The chain will support the film, a tearjerker based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel, by selling the rejacketed book and soundtrack, and featuring a trailer and Sparks on Wal-Mart’s in-store TV. The retailer also tapped Kleenex for Notebook displays in 2,000 stores, prompting the studio to commission Kleenex for 1,200 custom canisters for its premiere.

Despite Sony’s baseball balk, studios are running with the NBA, said Steven Justman, vp of global media at NBA Entertainment in New York, which is co-marketing films such as Universal’s Van Helsing. Justman said the promos include “customized or co-branded enhancements during the game,” including mixing highlights with film clips during the contest.

Taking advantage of Carl’s Jr.’s typically male-oriented ads from Mendelsohn/Zien, here, Universal tapped the chain for a spot that uses shots of Van Helsing’s sexy vampires almost exclusively—until the tagline (“Whenever you get the chance to bite into something hotter and juicier than the Carl’s Jr. $6 burger, you should take it”). “Our brand attitude was in line with the movie,” said Kim Becker, managing supervisor at the shop.