Meredith's Ladies' Home Journal will make its first foray into movie production with "Soccer Mom: The Movie," a film it co-produced with Bogner Entertainment and the first in a series of "Mom" adventure movies. And because no soccer mom is complete without her trusty minivan, Dodge Caravan is also on board as the integrated automotive sponsor.
Some known talent
The movie is slated to premiere on DVD Sept. 30, likely to be accompanied by a limited theatrical run and cable premiere run through distributor Anchor Bay Entertainment, which owns the Starz series of channels. It even has sizeable Hollywood stars. Emily Osment, aka "Hannah Montana"'s BFF Lilly Truscott, headlines, and playing the titular mother is Missi Pyle, otherwise known as Mrs. Beauregard in Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and Fran, the unibrow-ed athlete in "Dodgeball."
So why did the 125-year-old LHJ, one of the oldest magazines both in longevity and readership, decide to get into the movie biz now? Simple, really: Branded entertainment is a perfect way for magazines to create ancillary revenues. Julie Pinkwater, VP-publisher of Ladies' Home Journal, said her first gig as a movie producer was quite the learning experience.
"I did not realize every time you see a product in a movie, there's permissions for that, whether it's a soda can or a lipstick in someone's bag," she said. She cited Reese's Pieces legendary paid integration in Steven Spielberg's "E.T." as the perfect example of the product-placement model. "We wanted our own Reeses Piece's, 'E.T.' kinda thing. The screenwriter got the fact it could've looked like an infomercial or something crummy, so when we wrote products into the script it was extremely natural."
A natural fit
Take the Dodge Caravan, a natural fit for a movie about soccer moms. "You can't get more connected than that," Ms. Pinkwater said. "It was easy to write it in and use the vehicle consistently at every moment in the film, without it being forced."
"Soccer Mom" marks Dodge's second foray into branded entertainment this year, following the branded micro-series "Lucky Chance" currently airing on TNT. Mike Accavitti, director of Dodge brand marketing, said the Chrysler brand has to be careful and audience-oriented when selecting its branded-entertainment projects, as integration deals tend to run anywhere from the high-five figures to the low-eight figures.
"Sometimes when you get placement in movies, it's like placement in a commercial. Some of the people are actually in the market, but most aren't. Just like some people buy an action movie for the action, but they don't necessarily buy it for the car action," he said. "Soccer Movie" appealed to the marketer because of the potential to reach a greater portion of people actually in the market for a minivan. "We feel we're speaking to a lot more focused audience than we would in a different kind of genre."
The projected audience for "Soccer Mom" will be measured across a variety of platforms, including LHJ's monthly readership of 13 million and especially home video, where DVDs will be available in every major retailer. Ms. Pinkwater described the movie's sweet spot as "baby boomers with kids of all ages. Women today at 40 can be sending her first child off to college. It's going to appeal to a family with kids aged 6 to 13, at whatever age that woman can be. She could be 35 or she could be 50."
Next project planned
Bogner Entertainment hopes to sell upward of 500,000 copies of "Soccer Mom," and already has another film with LHJ in development, called "Meet the Murphys." Patricia Gillum, exec producer-Bogner Entertainment, described the project as, "mom-driven, high comedy, high celebrity and based on Murphy's law, or Murphy's curse in this case. Anything that can go wrong, does go wrong."
But Fritz Weiss, Bogner's director of marketing and promotions, is confident "Soccer Mom" will avoid such a fate. "You don't need to have a $150 million marketing budget to have a successful film. The family-film genre is one of the most successful genres in Hollywood. And what's the best way to reach that family audience? We quickly keyed in that moms are the common denominator."