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PerfectMatch.com Written Into Script as Major Plot Element

By Published on .

LOS ANGELES –- PerfectMatch.com and Warner Bros. are teaming for the upcoming romantic comedy Must Love Dogs in a deal that marries a movie theme with a rarely-seen level of product placement and carries the relationship into multi-layered cross-promotions.
'I don't know that it'll ever get better than this,' said PerfectMatch.com's president-CEO, Duane Dahl, about the 'Must Love Dogs' product placement.

The script, originally written with a generic online dating service, now includes numerous mentions and placements for PerfectMatch.com. The service has screen time as extensive as AOL did in 1998’s You’ve Got Mail. PerfectMatch.com has three placements in the movie trailer alone.

Must Love Dogs, which opens July 29 and stars Diane Lane and John Cusack, revolves around two over-30-somethings who fall in love after meeting on PerfectMatch.com. Ms. Lane’s character’s close-knit family has spiffed up her profile to attract more potential mates.

Deal maker

Entertainment Media Ventures, a Los Angeles consultancy founded by former studio executive and Creative Artists Agency agent Sandy Climan, helped barter the deal. The firm also linked PerfectMatch.com with the syndicated Dr. Phil show for a Valentine’s Day promotion that quickly pulled in 200,000 new members.

As in the deal for the Dr. Phil show, there was no product placement fee for Must Love Dogs. PerfectMatch.com supplied its technical services to the film’s production and coordinated co-promotions with the studio and other marketers. The service will co-market the film through its own media buys; the overall ad and promotional value of the deal is estimated to be $7 million.

PerfectMatch.com executives have made entertainment product placements and tie-ins a top priority. “We’ve tried to identify opportunities in entertainment that will allow us to build the brand and extend our reach,” said Duane Dahl, PerfectMatch.com’s president-CEO. “It’s a way for us to stand above the clutter.”

The connection with PerfectMatch.com, owned by Kirkland, Wash.-based MarketRange, originated more than 18 months ago while the movie was in script stage.

'Rarely have such an organic placement'

“We rarely have such an organic placement to offer a partner,” said Louise Soper, Warner Bros.’ vice president of domestic national promotions. “PerfectMatch is about finding relationships, not just dating, so it fits with the theme of the movie. It lends credibility to the message of the film.”

Mr. Dahl said he heard about Must Love Dogs while it was in development and wanted to involve his brand, which competes directly with other online dating services like eHarmony.com. PerfectMatch has more than 1.5 million members who pay $50 a month for the matchmaking service, Mr. Dahl said.

Mr. Climan said he recommended the movie to his client because of its star, Ms. Lane, and the creative team behind it, including writer/director Gary David Goldberg. He described it as a cross between Sleepless in Seattle and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with a bulls-eye on PerfectMatch.com’s adult female target.

'Thrilled' with final product

Throughout filming, Mr. Dahl said he was excited but cautiously optimistic about how the brand might fit into the final product. When he saw the movie, he was thrilled, he said. He also admitted that Must Love Dogs is the kind of marketing lightning that strikes only once in a very great while.

“Other studios have said to us, ‘You’ll never get that much exposure again,’” he said. “I agree. I don’t know that it’ll ever get better than this.”

As part of the deal, the marketer is bringing in some of its partners like Loews Hotels, Lifetime Television, Chrysler, Drugstore.com and 1800Flowers to help promote the film. Among the programs planned are “Mutt Mingles” at Loews in 10 markets where people are invited to bring their dogs to singles meet-and-greet events, an “Unleash Your Heart” sweepstakes, speed-dating, pre-release screenings and guerrilla marketing.

Sponsor premiere and after party

As another part of its arrangement, PerfectMatch.com will sponsor the premiere and after party, and its resident “relationship expert,” Dr. Pepper Schwartz, is appearing on the movie’s publicity circuit and Web site. One sweepstakes gives away a Chrysler Sebring convertible, and another sends winners to the premiere. Additionally, the online service is hyping the movie through national TV, print and online ads.

Lifetime, a longtime PerfectMatch.com partner, will air snippets of the movie and behind-the-scenes material and, with 1800Flowers, will hype film-related contests. Other sponsors like MSNBC, iVillage and Drugstore.com will promote the movie and tie-in sweepstakes.

Scouting for additional female-skewing partnerships for the chick flick, Warner Bros. also has gathered Max Factor and Health magazine for retail promotions and girls’ night out-type screenings.

Max Factor

Max Factor has launched a national program in 5,500 stores, pegged to its summer “mascara mania” promotion and backed by print ads in women’s magazines. Health magazine adds a five-market screening program, with on-site pampering and product sampling, to the Must Love Dogs marketing arsenal.

Warner Bros. executives hope the various partnerships will help draw in crowds for the romantic comedy, which was scheduled in summer as counter-programming to the special-effects-driven popcorn movies that typically dominate the season.
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