Time Warner Divisions Team Up for Movie Promo

NEW YORK Online gaming is at the center of an upcoming Time Warner Cable cross-promotional effort to sell its services as well as create buzz around Fred Claus, a major holiday release from sister company Warner Bros. that stars Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti.

The game, Fred Claus Adventure, will feature characters from the movie and encourage players to help Fred—Santa’s older brother, played by Vaughn—”save” Christmas in a virtual North Pole. For example, players will be able to prevent other characters from doing “naughty” things or land an elf’s sleigh.

Consumers will be driven to the game’s Web site (www.fredclausgiveaway.com, still under construction) by traditional ads and a series of weekly video vignettes called “Exclusive Extras” that will be accessible via TWC’s digital service offering, Entertainment on Demand. The seven vignettes will feature scenes from Fred Claus, each introduced by the movie’s Willie the Elf character. And those scenes will match the setting of each new episode of the game.

The campaign, backed by an estimated $12 million to $15 million, will launch Oct. 19 and include promotional products, giveways and electronic cards. The collaboration is not unprecedented: The two divisions co-marketed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the spring, for example. But while previous efforts used more traditional media, the Fred Claus campaign centers around content. As such, it took roughly 10 months to develop and involved a half-dozen agencies, including TWC lead agency Ogilvy & Mather, which helped conceptualize the content and scripted the 3- to 5-minute vignettes.

The cable company “is providing a lot of support and engagement,” said Mimi Slavin, senior vice president of domestic productions at Warner Bros. in Burbank, Calif. “We’re making sure that we are focused on the theatrical message, and it is important to us that their customers love movies. So, it’s a great target.”

Slavin, who worked closely with TWC’s senior director of promotion and merchandise, Happy Marino, added that “in our meetings, we narrowed down ideas to those that are appropriate for both the movie and for them. It is important for us that the promotions be compelling all the way through” and not just to open the movie. (Fred Claus, which depicts Fred’s attempts to atone for his past bad deeds by helping Santa in the “family business,” opens on Nov. 9. The campaign will run through Dec. 31.)

TWC went the content route because it “helps demonstrate the vitality of our platform,” said Alex Dudley, senior director of corporate communications for TWC parent Time Warner here. “[Video on demand] is one of our most popular features. You need content to [demonstrate] that, and original content is just a terrific way to give our customers access that others don’t get.”

Gaming in particular seemed appropriate because it matched the “playfulness” and “comedic nature” of the film, said Doug Scott, executive director of branded content and entertainment at WPP Group’s Ogilvy here. And, to make sure the vignettes matched the look, tone and feel of the movie, Ogilvy worked with Joel Silver Productions, one of the production companies on Fred Claus. TWC chose Fred Claus as its marketing vehicle because it’s opening during the cable company’s peak selling season and it seeks to reach the same core target as TWC: families, said Dudley.