Enticing the audience: Marketers drive demand for moviegoing


In our Cinema Advertising sections over the past two years, we presented interactive ways of “Engaging the Audience” during the preshow as well as innovative programs that are rewarding moviegoers with goods and goodies. In our latest edition, Film Journal International reports about several recent promotions and activities that studios, filmmakers, exhibitors and marketers are cooking up to whet audiences’ appetites for more. Their ways of enticing moviegoers across all demographics cover categories such as food and beverage, consumer products and automotive. The activities not only include the usual blockbuster suspects but also marketing for deserving films with a message—in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man and Earth Hour, both descriptions apply.

One cause campaign that deserves to be singled out is “Follow Your Food.” For Pantelion Films’ release of Cesar Chavez, the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) and co-producer Participant Media asked moviegoers and others to support a certification program aimed at “keeping food safe and families healthy, starting in the fields where the food is grown” by certifying that the produce is “responsibly grown and farmworker-assured."

“Participant has repeatedly demonstrated a capacity to mobilize moviegoers to act on the issues that move them on the screen,” EFI’s project director, Peter O’Driscoll, observed. “We look forward to helping the audience of Cesar Chavez follow their food and support the farmworkers, growers and food companies who are working together to make our produce better for all of us.”

Our next example is another recipe for success, quite literally. Online meal-planning service eMeals, which helps subscribers in saving “an average of $1,000 per year on the family grocery bill,” has created a series of recipes inspired by the characters in Moms’ Night Out. With over 50 different meal categories as part of the weekly planning service, Moms’ movie meals include Shrimp and Grits, Cream Cheese-Stuffed French Toast and Bacon-Cornmeal Pancakes. To top them off even more deliciously, eMeals is also offering an all-expenses-paid trip for two to attend the film premiere and after-party at TCL Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood.

While Sony Pictures’ TriStar timed this family-comedy release to Mother’s Day, North India-based SRS Cinemas lined up with beverage giant Pepsi “to celebrate the spirit of womanhood” with free movies on Woman’s Day (March 8). “Stepping beyond pure business and building a real relationship with customers is what the SRS Group believes in,” the circuit noted. SRS Group president Tinku Singh also declared, “The entire contest is very nicely packaged and essays out a nice, feel-good factor. Patrons of SRS Cinemas are appreciating the mere act of planning something like this. They have appreciated us for our thought, more than the prizes.” Even though the latter were aptly built around the showings of Gulaab Gang and Queen. SRS Group is currently in expansion mode, adding by year’s end another two to its portfolio of 17 “extremely successful” multiplexes, as well as planning “more special initiatives…to celebrate special moments with its patrons.”

In North America, Regal Entertainment Group takes equal pride in “offering memorable, unique experiences inside the theatre.” Dave Doyle, the company’s chief information officer, provided a recent example. “The RoboCop sweepstakes creates an opportunity for our guests to take the experience of the film home with them.” With the purchase of each ticket, members in the Regal Gold Crown loyalty program received chances to win their very own drone aircraft, though smaller than those featured in the futuristic film. The three-foot-wide, wing-spanned high-tech toy came with a camera, batteries and a Sony tablet for setting up flight plans and remote navigation.

Whether driving instructions were included as part of the campaigns launched with car manufactures to support launching anyone from winter soldiers and black widows to mutants and moppets into box-office orbit is not immediately clear. Quite obvious is the role that General Motors has played in promoting Captain America: The Winter Soldier—its biggest part since entering the Transformers franchise. (Because of the subsequent bailout, GM bailed out of co-marketing subsequent films, but some of its vehicles have remained in the movies, including Age of Extinction. GM was not involved with the first Captain America, nor with Marvel’s The Avengers.) Captain America’s directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, even directed a commercial for the Chevy Traverse that has kids re-enacting parts of the theatrical trailer.

went so far as to call the product placement not so subtle: “But they might as well call it Scarlett Johansson Drives a Corvette Stingray because moviegoers will witness a flood of product placements from GM.” “In the movie’s best chase sequence,” the trade paper proceeded to point out, “Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury drives a practically indestructible, armored Chevrolet Tahoe through enemy bullets, explosions and car crashes. In a nice cinematic touch, Mr. Jackson’s Tahoe plows over a pickup from rival Dodge like it’s a kid’s Tonka toy. The filmmakers suggested using Chevy’s big SUV brand in the scene. GM didn’t object.”

They also didn’t object to continuing the hero’s association with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. After all, Captain America has been riding Harleys since his introduction in 1941. This time around, he revs up a new Harley-Davidson Street 750, which the manufacturer had Chris Evans and other celebrity attendees autograph during the Hollywood premiere and then donated the auction proceeds to a charity of the actor’s choice.

The choice to have a sleek secret agent drive the latest Corvette was an easy one. In the words of Steve Tihanyi, GM’s general director of branded entertainment, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is “technologically very savvy—and a beautiful-looking character. That all exemplifies what a Corvette is about. High-tech. Innovative. And performance-driven in a beautiful package.”

While we all remember the “package” that Ron Burgundy was hawking in his Anchorman 2 commercials for the Dodge Durango (and the Paramount-AMC Theatres SuperTicket, we might add), Walter Mitty would not have been so adventurous without his Jeep. In one of their key 2013 cinema campaigns, National CineMedia brought Jeep and 20th Century Fox together “to create a unique co-branded cinema campaign for the new Jeep Cherokee and the Ben Stiller movie that involves the big screen, in-lobby, online, mobile and social media.” Their 60-second cinema spot directed audiences to The Stunts of Mitty on Jeep’s YouTube channel. “To also reach moviegoers before and after the moviegoing experience,” NCM said, “the fully integrated cinema campaign” took advantage of NCM Digital’s Online and Mobile Networks, “the largest online and mobile entertainment network in the marketplace.” At the same time, Jeep’s social-media team promoted the exclusive movie content on Twitter, Facebook and its blog.

Turning 50 this year, the Ford Mustang has been featured in movies long before blogs were used to drive excitement. And before videogames too, for that matter. “Fitted with a 420-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 powertrain,” the 2015 Ford Mustang GT got another starring role, this time in Need for Speed. The DreamWorks racing movie was inspired by the videogame series from Electronic Arts and featured a series of Supercars, including the Saleen S7. Specialty car manufacturer Saleen also provided the high-speed camera car for photographers to use in filming and assisted in the development and build of all high-performance Supercars (not heroes) used in the production.

Currently in pre-production, game publisher Little Orbit is working for a June release of How to Train Your Dragon 2 to coincide with the DreamWorks Animation film. “The game will feature all of the high-flying, fire-breathing action and epic adventure that comes along with becoming the ultimate dragon hero,” the designers promise. If the trailer is any indication, we can expect many high-flying tie-ins too!

While marketing movies in the children’s space, we should be chirping about all the flying that 20th Century Fox has done for Rio 2, including Vita Coco Kids six-packs with redemption codes for the price of a child’s ticket, valued at up to $8. (For more details see the “Campaign Spotlight” in The New York Times.)

Before we ruffle anyone’s feathers, fur or pig skin, we should not forget about Muppets Most Wanted. And how could we? Given the fact that the mania commenced with the Super Bowl when Toyota debuted its 60-second spot with Kermit & Co. riding along Terry Crews and exclaiming, “There’s ‘No Room for Boring’ in the all-new Toyota Highlander.” Since its “roomy interior has enough space to seat up to eight people, or over a dozen Muppets,” it also served as the Muppets’ vehicle of choice as they arrived at the film premiere. A few days earlier, they had already taken over home-shopping channel QVC (with 300 million homes, a “global multimedia retailer,” in their own words), bringing together the Swedish Chef with his cooking counterparts and Miss Piggy trading style tips with Joan Rivers. “When it comes to shopping, no one has more experience than moi,” Miss Piggy was quoted by QVC as saying. “And QVC keeps my shopping skills at the peak of performance. I am really looking forward to connecting with the QVC woman. We have so much in common. We’re fabulous. We’re fashionable! And we always get what we want!’

And that includes Go-GURT yogurt, of course. In addition to on-pack pictures of all the favorite Muppet characters turning refrigerated supermarket aisles into veritable billboards, Yoplait offered a bunch of “Movie Night Treats” to match. “Families can join in the fun and make recipes inspired by stops along the Muppets’ world tour with six delicious new snack and lunch ideas from Betty Crocker,” which is another one of General Mills’ food brands. Just like Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Nature Valley snacks that you might be selling at the concession stand, thereby adding to General Mills’ fiscal 2013 sales of $17.8 billion worldwide.

Reaching the “Dew Nation” in more than 30 countries and bringing fans around the world closer to Days of Future Past—“with engaging content, money-can’t-buy experiences and exclusive promotions”—is the declared goal behind PepsiCo’s hiring of the X-Men. (You may no longer be pouring Pepsi at the fountain, but this food and beverage leader has net revenues of more than $65 billion.) Building on more than a decade of entertainment partnerships, Mountain Dew is launching its largest-ever international entertainment promotion. The campaign engages consumers across “virtually every imaginable touchpoint,” PepsiCo noted, from in-store and “special commemorative packaging” featuring X-Men characters and exciting prize opportunities, to custom cinema programs, a global television commercial and digital and social platforms sharing exclusive behind-the-scenes content. For Anna Roca, senior VP of international promotions at 20th Century Fox, “the adventurous, energetic attitude of [the Mountain Dew] fan base mirrors the franchise’s own—and their international reach helps bring our beloved mutants to more corners of the world than ever before.”

Not quite a mutant, though definitely beloved, The Amazing Spider-Man is living up to his promotional powers as a Marvel superhero. As he prepares for another record-breaking launch, Baskin-Robbins dedicated “a full web of delicious frozen treats and promotions inspired by the blockbuster film franchise,” including the flavor of the month in April. “Get tangled up in red and blue vanilla-flavored ice cream with a dark chocolate web and popping candies that combine to make a Super Hero of a flavor!” (I got hungry just quoting that. In 2013, more than 13 million ice cream cakes were sold at 7,300 BR retail shops in nearly 50 countries.) Additional menu items are equally colorful. “Be the superhero of the party with this amazing creation that features…illuminated eyes that appear lit up with Electro’s bolts.” Whereas this cake is made from personal favorite ice cream and cake flavor combinations, Electro’s Milkshake uses the The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ice cream: “Shockingly good! It will electrify your taste buds.”

Actual brain freeze may have set in during the Amazing Scoop Fest when Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide kicked off “the summer movie and ice cream seasons” with three days of special pricing and the conclusion of its movie tie-in contest. Participants were asked to take, tag (Twitter link #BRHero) and share a photo of their best Spidey pose. Daily prizes included an Amazing Spider-Man DVD and a poster for the sequel, as well a $25 BR gift card. The grand prize of a year’s worth of ice cream was valued at $360 and further augmented by a signed script and one-sheet of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

At Harbour City in Hong Kong, posing for their hero-shot got visitors a chance to win a Sony A7 Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera as the resident Ocean Centre Sony Store offered AR (Augmented Reality) photo ops and many of the restaurants created “Spider-Man dining themes, bringing on a gastronomically visual treat for all.”

Spidey was, in fact, all over the waterfront place. Beginning with a 16.4-foot poster at the main entrance and leading to a 12-foot Spider-Man coming to the rescue as part of a recreated movie scene, the Ocean Terminal forecourt was transformed into a New York City streetscape. Featuring “thrilling action scenes” in collaboration with the Hong Kong Stuntman Association, the venue added “a mini film studio,” where children and adults can pose flying “with a combination of Spider-Man Skyscrapers and cobwebs littered around the scene.” Conveniently located near Gucci Kids, the “Be a Spider-Man! Workshop” was hosted by the Stuntmen Association as well, teaching children “the skills and Spider-Man’s signature move…while enjoying a chance to get active and encourage their self-confidence.”

Heroic activities do come to mind as well when thinking about delivering everyday services, especially during this past winter on the U.S. East Coast. In their view, however, the United States Postal Service needed “to put some Super Hero Spidey-power into its promotion of Priority Mail.” After all, USPS chief marketing and sales officer Nagisa Manabe compared their respective “speed, agility and reliability” to the Marvel icon’s. “Like Spider-Man, our priority has always been the people we serve. We pride ourselves on our commitment to public service and delivering for our customers,” Manabe added.

Once again, the film’s director, Marc Webb, together with Rich Lee, created a television spot to show the “amazing delivery” of what we can only assume is a hard drive DCP, given the size of the Priority Flat Rate box, to the equally amazing Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan. “We are constantly seeking creative ways to promote our films, and the Postal Service couldn’t have been a better choice,” enthused Dwight Caines, president, theatrical marketing, for Sony Pictures about this “perfect fit for co-branding and cross-promoting” The Amazing Spider-Man 2. “While we always knew about the breadth and reach…it was exciting to learn about the everyday heroism of its employees.”

Another round of real-life heroes was able to engage Spidey in his biggest and most rewarding campaign yet. Together with Earth Hour co-founder and chief executive officer Andy Ridley, none other than Jeff Blake, chairman, worldwide marketing and distribution, of Sony Pictures Entertainment, made the announcement while launching Earth Hour Blue, “a radical new digital crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform…to engage people around the world.” Earth Hour, the global lights-out movement organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature, selected Spider-Man as its first superhero ambassador “with a message to inspire individuals to use their power to become Super Heroes for the planet.”

By the time Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx and Emma Stone along with Marc Webb advocated change and accompanied the global lights-out procession on March 29 and talked about other environmental projects, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had become “the most eco-friendly tentpole production in the history of Columbia Pictures.” These environmental efforts took place as soon as the film went into pre-production, on set and off, and were supported at every level, Sony assured. Personally, Blake was “very proud” that the film is entirely carbon-neutral. “We made a commitment to be as eco-conscious as possible during production itself, when we took a special effort to think green and avoid waste. Now, completing that process with Earth Hour Blue is a wonderful testament to what we can achieve when we all work together.”

Although working together to get people to enjoy more movies pales by comparison, we can all appreciate these efforts of products and marketers.