As the cost of producing movies continues to rise, home video has become a primary source for studios to recover their investment in expensive blockbusters, as well as smaller titles squeezed out at the multiplex, and to extend franchises by launching direct-to-video sequels. More product and more competition mean studios are ramping up their promotional efforts to make a greater impact at retail. KidScreen conducted a random survey of home video retailers and distributors in North America to get their opinions on the most effective, inventive and creative studio marketing and promotional campaigns over the past year for entertainment geared to kids, teens and general family audiences.
Best overall campaigns
Men in Black (Columbia TriStar)
Agents J and K conquered the box office in the summer and brought that success to home video for the holiday season. Columbia TriStar’s sci-fi comedy adventure combined advertising that blanketed all possible media, clever point-of-purchase displays and unique packaging to turn Men in Black into one of the most successful home videos of 1997. With additional support from a hit soundtrack and the animated series on Kids’ WB!, Columbia TriStar was able to expose the Men in Black home video release across all demographics. A double win for MiB, which was also named winner of ‘Best Overall’ campaign in KidScreen’s November 1997 poll of the best entertainment promotions, for the company’s film and TV series marketing strategy.
The Remastered Star Wars Trilogy (Twentieth Century Fox)
A long time ago, in a retail climate that seems like light years away, Star Wars changed the entire way studios looked at marketing movies. Twenty years later, the reissued, remastered Star Wars proved that the franchise is as strong as ever, if not stronger. A top box-office earner in the first quarter of 1997, Star Wars’ momentum carried over into the limited release of the remastered home video (in two formats) that came with unique packaging, a solid ad campaign and one of the most recognizable titles to all age groups.
Best use of point-of-purchase display
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
(New Line Home Video)
Groovy baby! The POP display for the hit Mike Myers comedy turned heads at retail with a motion-sensor detector that would blurt out one of Austin Powers’ 1960s-ish quips when customers walked passed it. ‘It caused great attention to the point-of-purchase display and increased our rentals just by generating the excitement within our store,’ one judge comments.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Universal)
Daunting 3-D T-Rex standees, with their mouths open appearing as if they were going to devour customers, helped put bite into sell-through.
Best reuseable point-of-purchase display
Disney’s Flex Displayer
A semi-permanent, four-sided unit that could be altered graphically to suit a variety of titles, ranging from Bambi to George of the Jungle. ‘From an impact and functional standpoint, that’s one of the best displays I’ve ever been associated with,’ a judge comments.
Best retailer tie-in overall
From mail-in rebates to discounts on other Disney titles, coupons to save money on products from promotional partners to exclusive products like Disney’s Masterpiece Collection Stamps, Disney made the most effective use of tie-in offers and premium giveaways for classic titles like Sleeping Beauty, to new releases, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, George of the Jungle and 101 Dalmatians. ‘A customer could wind up only paying five bucks for the video if he uses all of the offers,’ a judge says, although he notes that many consumers do not like having to jump through hoops to save money.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Universal partnered with Tropicana for a sweepstakes in which one lucky winner received a trip to Kauai, Hawaii. The sweepstakes was promoted on over 50 million cartons of Tropicana orange juice in over 7,500 retail locations.
Best ad campaigns
Men in Black
It appeared to move seamlessly from theatrical to video, with heavy pre-street date and post-street date advertising that carried through the holiday season. ‘It simply seemed to cross all demographics exceptionally well, young and old alike,’ says one judge. Additional exposure came from the soundtrack and the animated series.
Fox created an ‘event’ and a feeling of urgency by stressing that the reissued, remastered version of the Star Wars trilogy would only be available for a limited time.
Liar Liar (Universal)
It hit in September, ran eight weeks and had nice legs, helping to spark a fourth-quarter surge in sell-through.
Disney switched its TV advertising for upcoming releases from the Sunday before street date to three Sundays before, which built greater excitement for titles like Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, as well as its classic titles and recent releases.
Best overall direct-to-video campaigns
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas
TV and radio advertising, standees, magazine advertising and ads on Disney networks built excitement and interest for the direct-to-video sequel to one of Disney’s most successful animated hits.
Casper, A Spirited Beginning
(Twentieth Century Fox)
Fox treated this summer release as if it were a major theatrical title, with a full-fledged campaign that included packaged-good tie-ins, POP materials and strong retail support.
The Land Before Time (Universal)
Judges rate this series of kid videos from Universal as one of the most consistent, long-running and successful direct-to-video campaigns, and give Universal good marks for tieing it into The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Lenticular design made the Lost World packaging a standout. Depending on how the box was held, the picture on the cover changed from the Jurassic Park logo to a dinosaur.
Men in Black
Its foil packaging looked great, caught eyes and helped entice impulse buyers.
Harriet the Spy (Paramount)
Special decoder pens attached to the packaging were given away with every purchase.
Had two new styles and colors of packaging to differentiate between the pan and scan version and the widescreen version. ‘They created a feeling that this was new and different by making the packaging distinctly different from the original [trilogy] packaging,’ a judge says.
Best trade promotion/retailer incentives
In Warner’s Profit Plus Program, when retailers ordered a certain amount of copies of select Warner Bros. titles, they would receive free copies of movies that stores could use as rentals. The program allowed retailers to lower their overall investment, and display and rent more product. Warner also offered discounts on its catalogue product. The studio backed its retailer incentives with strong consumer promotions. ‘Warner Bros. gets special recognition all year long for coming up with programs and promotions to help drive consumers into the store to rent multiple titles in the program and . . . in return provide popcorn, posters or something for retailers to give away,’ says one judge. Example: Warner’s Heat Wave ’97-customers who rented any two Warner Bros. titles in the program, such as Michael or Vegas Vacation, received a Batman & Robin poster.
For Sleeping Beauty, it offered retailers the opportunity to purchase combo packs of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast and other titles to make it easier to merchandise the entire Disney line.
Best overall brand
The longtime champ remains far ahead of the competition in the kids home video area, although other studios are trying to muscle in. As one judge says, ‘no person comes into a video store and says, ‘I feel like buying a Paramount film.’ The exception to that is Disney.’
Best brand building, non-theatrical
Paramount’s Nickelodeon Line
Paramount took advantage of Nickelodeon’s brand awareness to promote home video releases for Rugrats, Hey Arnold! and Nick Jr. shows with shelf talkers, banners and other materials that presented a look and packaging consistent with the cable channel. Additionally, it released two original Rugrats episodes that bypassed broadcast and were created exclusively for home video.
Most successful home video
Men in Black
For many of the reasons previously mentioned, Men in Black put lots of people in the black.
‘It’s like printing money,’ one judge said.
Liar Liar’s late September release date shook the vid biz out of a slump and created a lot of consumer excitement for the big home video releases that would come in the fourth quarter of 1997.
Best in-store promotions
Annabelle’s Wish (Hallmark Home Entertainment)
Hallmark tied the direct-to-video release into appearances by Santa Claus at about 150 malls throughout the U.S., giving away cookies, movie posters and other items.
Best educational video marketing
Arthur (Sony Wonder)
Sony Wonder provided strong year-round POP and consumer advertising support for the popular PBS series.
Intriguing charitable tie-in promotions
A Simple Wish (Universal)
Charity promotion in which customers who donated food would receive an activity packet including stickers, coloring books and more. Food was donated to local food banks.
Shiloh (Warner Bros.)
Warner Bros. advertised on a free-standing insert that consumers would receive a rebate when they purchased Shiloh, and that the studio would also make a donation to Pet Savers for every unit sold.
Most important trend
Rise of Direct-to-Video
From Universal’s The Land Before Time series to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Fox’s Casper and upcoming Disney sequels to The Lion King and Pocahontas, direct-to-video has proven to be a key growth area in the children’s sell-through business, and that means more studios are increasing more time and energy into marketing and promotional campaigns for them.
Most anticipated development for 1998
The Growth of DVD
DVD is slowly making inroads and 1998 will be an important year to study how much this new format catches on. To date, there is a void of family programming available on DVD, but as DVD becomes included as part of the family entertainment center, the desire for quality family entertainment will need to be filled. An important test will be in March, when Disney releases Mary Poppins on DVD, its first family library title available on the format.
Our poll representatives
John Nucifora, president, Chimney’s, Syracuse, New York
Matt Feinstein, vice president, Marbles Entertainment, Los Angeles, California
Bob Geistman, vice president of business development, Ingram Entertainment, Nashville, Tennessee
Lauren Margulies, vice president of video, Video Warehouse, Los Angeles, California
John Thrasher, vice president of video sales, Tower Records/Video, West Sacramento, California
Victor Seyedin, president, Planet Video, West Allis, Wisconsin
Dave Stevenson, president, The Big Picture Home Video, Syracuse, New York
Marc Oringer, general manager, Champagne Video, New York, New York
Joe Pagano, merchandise manager, movies and music, Best Buy, Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Kirk Kirkpatrick, vice president of marketing, Wax Works, Owensboro, Kentucky
Craig Thomas, director of video marketing, The Musicland Group, Minnetonka, Minnesota
Rogers Video, Vancouver, Canada
Baker & Taylor, Chicago, Illinois