« World's most expensive island | Home | Giant Tweezers — Episode 3: Mine's bigger than yours »

July 28, 2007

Bizarro World Marketing — Simpsons do it backward (why are we not surprised?)


Peter Sanders, in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, illuminated an unusual approach to marketing being undertaken by "The Simpsons Movie," which opened yesterday.

Long story short: "Instead of having real products from 7-Eleven and other companies strategically dropped into the movie, the 'Simpsons' team is putting its fictional brands — from Krusty Burgers and KrustyO's cereal [top] to Buzz Cola — to work in the real world."

I like this a lot: It's much easier to buy something from a Kwik-E-Mart (7-Eleven, MorphWorld-style) than in Second Life.

Here's the article.

    D'Oh! Simpsons Campaign Uses a Backward Approach

    At a busy 7-Eleven store a few miles from the beach, more than a dozen fans of "The Simpsons" lined up in the parking lot Tuesday afternoon to shop at a real-life version of the animated show's "Kwik-E-Mart." Inside, another line formed for "Squishees" — the fictional frozen beverage similar to 7-Eleven's Slurpees — served by workers wearing bright-green uniforms like that of the show's convenience-store proprietor, Apu.

    Ahead of Friday's opening of "The Simpsons Movie," the Kwik-E-Mart promotion here and at 10 other 7-Elevens nationwide is the most visible example of how the long-running television show's alternate universe of brands has been spun into a kind of reverse product-placement campaign to tout the film.

    Instead of having real products from 7-Eleven and other companies strategically dropped into the movie, the "Simpsons" team is putting its fictional brands — from Krusty Burgers and KrustyO's cereal to Buzz Cola — to work in the real world, as marketing partners like 7-Eleven, Burger King Holdings Inc., Jet Blue Airways Corp. and shoe maker Vans Inc. promote "The Simpsons Movie."

    The ploy stems from a decision by creators of "The Simpsons" not to portray actual products or brands when the show debuted 18 years ago, according to Denise Sirkot, a producer on the television show and the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Gracie Films, which produced the movie. "We never do placements for creative reasons," she says. "The creative is always driven by the story and that's a standard we established from the beginning, and our promotional partners respect that."

    In fact, they've shown their willingness to navigate their real products around the fictional brands of the Simpsons' hometown of Springfield. That's why 7-Eleven stores around the country, for instance, are selling not only Squishees, but also the cola, comic books and cereal brands of the Simpsons' world.

    "If we worked to place a product in the movie, a consumer sees it for a few seconds," says Doug Foster, vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer at 7-Eleven Inc., a unit of Japan's Seven & I Holdings Co. "But if we turn it around, a store within the movie comes to life. And then people are making a choice to come to 7-Eleven."

    The Simpsons film is being distributed — and heavily marketed across all forms of media — by News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox. Indeed, much of the Fox marketing campaign for the $70-million movie has served to energize moviegoers about a brand that's been in the popular culture for nearly two decades.

    "We had to come up with something different for this movie because everyone is used to the standard promotions," says Pam Levine, co-president, domestic theatrical marketing for Twentieth Century Fox.

    Ms. Levine says there was no shortage of promotional partners who "came out of the woodwork" hoping to team up with the studio. "We chose partners who we felt really fit with The Simpsons and 7-Eleven is a great example."

    Unlike 7-Eleven, Burger King, which has previously done promotions with "The Simpsons," hasn't added any fictional products to its menu, but it does allow its Whopper to be compared to the Krusty Burger of the animated show in new television commercials for Burger King. The Simpsons' Krusty the Clown character plugs his fictional burger, going as far as punching the Burger King mascot while telling viewers "Don't buy the Whopper." In a separate commercial, Homer Simpson, the patriarch of the dysfunctional cartoon family, raves about the Double Whopper but makes no reference to the Krusty Burger.

    Miami-based Burger King also has a Web site that allows users to turn photographs of themselves into animated "Simpsonized" images. Amid widespread complaints about difficulties with the Web site, a company official says problems are related to overwhelming demand and that the company is working to reduce the wait time.

    "Homer is obviously someone who appreciates indulging in food and a great-tasting burger and fries," says Brian Gies, vice president of marketing impact at Burger King. "We didn't do this deal to secure a few seconds of product placement...we did do it to access the Simpsons characters to create proprietary content that we could control to optimize what those characters could do for Burger King."

    JetBlue, another sponsor, last week turned over Chairman David Neeleman's blog to Homer's sour boss, C. Montgomery Burns, who had purportedly hacked his way in to offer advice on how to run the airline. "If I were you, I'd make customers beg for their chocolate chip cookies and Terra Blue Chips," Mr. Burns writes. On its Web site, JetBlue also became the "official airline of Springfield."

    Meantime, Microsoft Corp. has joined with Fox to give away 100 limited-edition Xbox videogame consoles with Homer's picture on the side. Fox officials said more than 100,000 viewers registered in the first week of the online contest that started last Tuesday.

    The deepest integration of the Simpsons brands has been at 7-Eleven, which through this month features Simpsons-branded products produced by outside manufacturers like Malt-O-Meal Co., which made KrustyO's cereal, and Cott Corp., which produced Buzz Cola. (Duff Beer is not available, as the movie is rated PG-13). While the products are available in 7-Elevens across the country, fans have particularly flocked to the mocked-up Kwik-E-Mart's like the one in L.A., which sells more than 4,000 pink-frosted Sprinklicious donuts (a Homer favorite) each day, according to Mr. Foster.

July 28, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bizarro World Marketing — Simpsons do it backward (why are we not surprised?):


The comments to this entry are closed.