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Feature producers put bigger bucks into building a back-end boom

As the laws of brand development continue to evolve, one new rule of thumb that is gaining weight in the entertainment industry at large is that the more money spent on promoting back-end releases, the longer a hit property's momentum can be sustained. This shift in thinking is giving rise to 'biggest-ever' and 'unprecedented' DVD/video marketing campaigns that rival those of the initial theatrical release in both market scope and partner depth.
September 1, 2002

As the laws of brand development continue to evolve, one new rule of thumb that is gaining weight in the entertainment industry at large is that the more money spent on promoting back-end releases, the longer a hit property’s momentum can be sustained. This shift in thinking is giving rise to ‘biggest-ever’ and ‘unprecedented’ DVD/video marketing campaigns that rival those of the initial theatrical release in both market scope and partner depth.

Twentieth Century Fox has earmarked US$85 million to tout the November 26 release of Ice Age on DVD and VHS, and director of promotions Anna Dodd has been working on the campaign for nearly a year. Fourteen partners are on board so far, including Dole, Microsoft, Coke and Cold Store Creamery, a national ice cream retailer that has created an exclusive Ice Age flavor. With each video/DVD purchase, consumers will also get a Hockey Bucks coupon from the NHL for US$25 off ticket prices, licensed league merch or concession treats, as well as another coupon for US$3 off a ‘Mammoth Meal’ at Papa John’s pizza chain. Ian’s frozen foods is doing a multi-product on-pack promo; Coke and Chevron will give Foxstore.com shoppers US$5 off the video if they buy a Coke at Chevron; and Microsoft is knocking US$75 off the retail price of four software packages with proof of video or DVD purchase.

Despite the already-impressive partner lineup, Dodd will be exploring additional collaborations until November. Prospective partners must be able to support the property with additional media advertising, provide exposure in realms beyond Fox’s reach (like Cold Store Creamery’s ice cream parlors), and add value to the DVD or video purchase.

A film’s video/DVD incarnation often eclipses its box-office take since the product has a much longer lifespan at retail. This increasingly lucrative revenue stream is the reason, says Dodd, why studios are putting more money into home entertainment marketing these days. ‘If consumers spend double on DVD/video what they do in theaters, then there’s no reason why video/DVD should come second when it comes to promotional support,’ she says.

At the end of the day, Fox expects Ice Age to be one of its best-selling titles to date, suggesting unit sales in the range of 16 million to 20 million. That level of sell-through should significantly boost the ROI on Ice Age, which has racked up a respectable domestic box-office take of US$175 million so far.

But even blow-out theatrical hits don’t seem to be indulging in any laurel-resting these days. Topping the 2002 box-office charts with US$400 million in gross ticket sales to date, Spider-Man will also benefit from a super-powered vid promo spend. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment plans to pump more than US$103 million into the November launch of the movie on video and DVD, and has already enticed theatrical partners Cingular, Dr. Pepper and Carl’s Jr. to come back for another round. Details of their involvement were still under wraps at press time, but the support will encompass TV, print, radio, on-line and direct mail.

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