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A Muppet Treasure

In the advertising world, where impression is everything both the one you make and how often you make it Jim Henson Productions would certainly be viewed as having scored big on both counts for the promotional program it has knit together...
February 1, 1996

In the advertising world, where impression is everything both the one you make and how often you make it Jim Henson Productions would certainly be viewed as having scored big on both counts for the promotional program it has knit together for its latest feature film Muppet Treasure Island.

Consider, for starters, that somewhere between 200 million and 300 million banana clusters (that’s about 1 billion individual bananas) found in the produce aisles of grocery stores across the United States will be carrying images from the movie. A sticker, showing either Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy or a character or image related to the film, will appear on each cluster.

And, to get the most efficiency out of those numbers, Henson and two of its promotional partners, Dole, the banana people, and General Mills, have cooked up a cross-promotion that links the bananas with General Mill’s Cheerios cereal right in each store.

A display in the produce area will tout the fact that if you pick up a box of Cheerios (conveniently located in the produce section) you can get some of the bananas for free. Cheerios, in addition, is running its own in-store signage and a sweepstakes in-pack tattoo and a side-panel offer for T-shirts.

Dole has also included its pre-packaged salads in the promotion through a game card that consumers can use to try to win a free Kermit doll or a free salad.

The dove-tailing of these promotional executions and their fit with the movie, which is adapted from the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Treasure Island and therefore takes place in tropical locations represents the kinds of natural partnerships that the company was looking for, says Robyn Kerner, director of marketing for consumer products with Jim Henson Productions.

‘We looked at what our target audience was going to be (families) and tried to find the kinds of partners who would fit in easily,’ says Kerner.

The family skew made the promotion particularly attractive to two of the other key partners McDonald’s Restaurants and Hershey.

McDonald’s will lend its considerable marketing muscle to the program with a month-long Muppet Treasure Island Happy Meal promotion featuring some 50 million Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Fozzie Bear bath tub toys. The program is being supported by 15- and 30-second TV spots aimed at both kids and adults.

In addition, the multi-media company Activision has created a CD-ROM game based on the movie and has tied in to Happy Meals with a $5-off coupon.

Hershey is bringing its Amazin’ Fruit brand into the fray with packages that contain special molded candy pieces representing characters from the movie. Hershey’s promotional tie-in will be advertised through an FSI that is being distributed to some 50 million households.

Hershey is also going directly to the source of the promotion by offering two bags sizes of Muppet Treasure Island-themed candy at movie theatre concession stands across the U.S.

Kerner says Henson was very deliberate about the number, and the types, of promotional partners it brought on board.

‘We didn’t want to have so many partners that they’d get lost in the clutter,’ says Kerner.

‘We also wanted to work with companies that are well-respected and are careful about who they promote with. Companies that appeal to kids in the same way as we do ­ with strong family recognition.’

As with other recent kid-movie releases, Muppet Treasure Island placed special emphasis on its music score, created by composer Hans Zimmer (The Lion King) and song writers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (An American Tail). Angel Records is running an extensive marketing campaign to promote its related music products.

Walt Disney Pictures is handling the release of Muppet Treasure Island. The film, which is scheduled to open mid-February, will also have its own Web site. The first promotional tie-ins kick off the first week of February.

The film was directed by Brian Henson, president and chief executive officer of Jim Henson Productions.

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