GM's 'Transformers' Tie-In Extends Beyond Big Screen

Automaker Uses Its Role in Flick as Basis for Multiplatform Ad Blitz

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- General Motors Corp. is pulling out all the stops to promote four of its cars that are heavily integrated in Paramount Picture's upcoming summer tent-pole action flick "Transformers."

The new Chevrolet Camaro plays Bumblebee.


"We are the stars of this movie," said Dino Bernacchi, manager of branding and entertainment for GM in North America. "This put us right at the forefront and lets us showcase the leading designs we have out there now."

GM partnered with Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures, the producers of the $100 million-plus-budgeted live-action adaptation of the popular Hasbro toy franchise, to have its lineup of vehicles portray the film's lead characters.

Gun-toting talking robots
Chevrolet, Pontiac, Hummer and GMC brands are prominently featured as ordinary vehicles that transform into giant two-legged, gun-toting talking robots. Of course, they play the heroes.

The Chevrolet Camaro plays Bumblebee, a main character in "Transformers," which arrives in theaters July 3. The Camaro starts as a retro '70s muscle car but morphs into the new model. (The Camaro returns to Chevrolet's lineup next year.) Other GM lines with starring roles are the Pontiac Solstice, starring as the "autobot" Jazz; the GMC Topkick pickup as Ironhide; and the Hummer H2 as Ratchet.

The automaker has also tied a sale, through July 9, of select 2007 and 2006 models to the movie, calling the promotion the "Transform Your Ride Sale," and the ads are loaded with visuals from the movie. The sale is backed by 30- and 60-second versions of an umbrella spot that broke last night from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, Birmingham, Mich. The film's director, Michael Bay, also helmed the TV commercials for GM. The blitz for the sale includes radio, print, gaming, online ads and gaming.

With such a big role in the movie, Chevrolet, GM's largest vehicle division by unit sales, is taking the lead on co-promotions.

Create your own autobot
The brand is offering an online video game on Chevrolet.com that lets visitors create an autobot from several of its other models and then battle other visitors. Chevrolet is heavily promoting the effort with "transforming" banner ads on gaming and science-fiction sites, where the brand doesn't traditionally advertise, Phil Caruso, Chevrolet's promotions manager, said. "This gets us engaged with an audience who normally wouldn't engage with us."

Chevy is also backing the online game in 40 markets with an in-theater spot. The game will continue "through and beyond the movie," Mr. Bernacchi said.

Pontiac based much of its "Transformers" tie-in with Maxim magazine. Maxim.com is now showing toymaker Hasbro's first generation and current Transformers from the movie. Hasbro toy designer Aaron Archer explains on the site why the first-generation Jazz character got changed: "The G1 version of Jazz transformed into a Porsche race car, complete with number and sponsor decals. For the flick, we kept him sporty, but went with a Pontiac Solstice."

Pontiac and the menn's magazine have also teamed for an online promotion at Pontiac.com, offering entrants the chance to go to the movie premier in Los Angeles and meet cast member Megan Fox.

Spending not disclosed
Neither Mr. Bernacchi nor Mr. Caruso would discuss GM's spending for the tie-in. But Mr. Bernacchi said GM didn't pay for the product integration, but the automaker did provide Mr. Bay with a pair of one-of-a-kind Camaros for the movie, as the new production Camaro won't be built for about a year.

These kinds of prototypes can easily cost more than $200,000.

Mr. Bernacchi called the movie "a once in a lifetime opportunity ... until we get to the sequel."
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