JOHN TRAVOLTA'S PRODUCT PLACEMENT FEVER

Played Direct Role in 'Be Cool' Marketer Deals

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DETROIT -- Actor John Travolta's direct involvement enabled MGM and General Motors Corp. to put together a major Cadillac product-placement deal for the new film Be Cool in record time, according to participants.
John Travolta took a direct hand in cutting the product-placement deals.




The initial idea for the co-promotion grew out of GM's relationship with Hollywood's William Morris Agency, which also represents Mr. Travolta and the film's director, F. Gary Gray.

Started as 30-second spot

Agents John Mass and Aaron Lenzini initially proposed that GM create a traditional 30-second TV commercial associating Cadillac with Be Cool. But Mr. Gray expanded the idea to make the tie-in seem more organic.

"I can't believe how fast this came together," said Jay Spenchian, marketing director of Cadillac who had his first meeting with Mr. Gray in late November. There were many players involved, including attorneys, agents, the actors and GM. But the plans progressed quickly because Messrs. Gray and Travolta were directly involved in meetings with Cadillac, he said.

Mr. Travolta's heavy involvement in Cadillac's campaign details is unusual because Hollywood's A-list stars often opt not to appear in additional advertising created by a film's sponsors.

In a separate deal, Mr. Travolta will also appear in his Be Cool character in a series of TV, Internet and retail ads created for Heineken in international markets. That ad campaign won't run in the U.S.

Cadillac-loving gangster

In the film, a sequel to Get Shorty that hits theaters March 4, Mr. Travolta reprises his role as Chili Palmer, a Cadillac-loving gangster whose new DeVille DTS sedan is destroyed in the opening scene of the film. Throughout the rest of the story, Chili Palmer wishes he had his Caddy back. Cadillac's XLR roadster also appears in the film.

A key element of the project is an online contest in which entrants must create five-second shorts that will screen on CadillacUnder5.com.

Mr. Travolta, co-stars Cedric the Entertainer and Christina Milian, and Mr. Gray will judge the short films, with a grand-prize winner receiving a 2005 Cadillac CTS V-Series. The winning short film will also be incorporated into a 30-second Cadillac TV commercial.

Cadillac unveiled the Be Cool co-promotion at the Sundance Film Festival in late January. The marketer also promoted the contest by sending packets to the nation's top film schools. The contest officially launched Super Bowl Sunday and runs through Feb. 17.

More than 1,000 entries so far

As of Feb. 15, Cadillac had received more than 1,000 film entries, Mr. Spenchian said. More than a dozen are available for viewing on the Web site. Cadillac also received 5,000 requests on the site for dealership locations.

Mr. Spenchian said the goal of the promotion was to create awareness for the brand's new V-Series that can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds. "We wanted to push performance for Cadillac. We haven't been known for that," he said. The short films will convey to people just how fast five seconds are.

Films submitted to the online contest will be judged in five different categories: comedy, drama, mystery, biography and adventure-action. The top 10 in each segment will be chosen in preliminary judging by Feb. 20, with the top four finalists in each category picked by Feb. 25. Judging for the grand-prize winner plus five first prizes will be completed by the end of the month.

While the top winner receives the car, the five first prize-winners can take a guest to London for a five-night trip revolving around the March 7 premier of the movie there.

'Impress me. You have five seconds'

On the Web site, in TV spots and billboards in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York, Mr. Travolta as Mr. Palmer says, "Impress me. You have five seconds." The line does not appear in the film.

Cadillac advertised the contest's Web site address in TV commercials on ESPN and NBC starring Mr. Travolta on Super Bowl Sunday. Another TV commercial touting the contest and the V-Series and featuring the actor aired for a week through last Sunday's Grammy Awards broadcast.

Additionally, the automaker also spent nearly $2 million for online ads on search engines and entertainment Web sites to promote the contest.

Publicis Groupe's Chemistri, Troy, Mich., is Cadillac's advertising agency and worked with MGM and William Morris to develop the ad campaign.

Cadillac and Heineken aren't the only brands backing Be Cool. Others include memory stick maker Lexar, Love Sack, Klipsch Speakers and Best Buy, as well as Entertainment Weekly magazine, TalentMatch.com and Comedy Central, which will launch additional retail, print, Internet and TV advertising.

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Marc Graser contributed to this report.
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