A Ford Branded Revolution

Automaker's long-term deal with Joe Roth

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% Ford Motor Co. will cozy up with some Hollywood creatives in a recently inked deal with Revolution Studios that puts the carmaker in touch with writers, directors and producers as they're developing films. The product-placement deal will likely expand to encompass ad campaigns and full-scale cross-promotions.

It's about casting the car as hero, but also capturing the sensibility of a project. "You put a cop in a Crown Vic, and it does nothing," said Sandy Climan, partner in Entertainment Media Ventures, Los Angeles, who helped barter the deal. "You put the right character into a 2005 Mustang, and you get a bullet association."

The agreement, which doesn't have a specified duration, comes as many marketers are considering closer, more long-term relationships with the studios. Coors and Miramax signed a deal last year that gives the beer brand exclusivity in the studio's releases and at its premiere parties. That pact kicked up some recent controversy when "Scary Movie 3" pulled a PG-13 rating instead of an R, as the two earlier movies were tagged. A watchdog group accused the marketer and studio of promoting underage drinking. The ubiquitous Coors Twins, appeared in the movie and related promotions.

Ford has been particularly aggressive in getting its brands embedded into television shows such as Fox's "American Idol" and MGM's Bond flick, "Die Another Day." Those product placements served as linchpins to an array of consumer promotions.

"We are getting involved with all our brands; that's where the power of our portfolio is…We have been trying to see how to be smart in [the product-placement] arena and get the greatest bang for our buck," said Jan Valentic, VP, global marketing at Ford Motor Co.

Revolution, founded by former Disney studio chief Joe Roth, will have access to Ford's research, development and design divisions, making way for customized cars and film-specific vehicles. The deal takes in Ford and its sibling brands Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo. While it isn't exclusive, executives familiar with the deal said the automaker would get first look for inclusion in film projects.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Tom Sherak, a partner in Revolution, said the studio oversees each phase of production, opening up opportunities for "the most seamless integration of brands."

The deal kicks off with a road trip comedy, "Are We There Yet?" starring Ice Cube and a customized Lincoln Navigator. Ice Cube's character drives his girlfriend's kids from Portland to Vancouver as wackiness ensues along the way. The car is as omnipresent as any of the actors. The movie starts filming this month and releases early next year.

Automakers have had success before with the studio. In the summer of 2002, the Vin Diesel hit "XXX" featured General Motors Corp.'s vintage Pontiac GTO, which the company was bringing back to the marketplace.

Entertainment Media Ventures and the Brand Entertainment Group of J. Walter Thompson in Detroit, along with James Costos, Revolution's head of corporate partnerships and promotions, bartered the deal.

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