Cristal beer has taken on zapping and won—a media Grand Prix at the recent Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
In addition to buying commercial time during a movie on broadcast TV, Chilean brewer Compania Cervecerias Unidas, or CCU, amplified its messaging by weaving its Cristal beer into the action of "Star Wars." The classic pic aired on second-ranked broadcaster Universidad Catolica Television (UCTV-Canal 13) in December 2003.
In one scene, Luke Skywalker reaches for his light-saber but instead pulls out a can of Cristal. The brand's dark-green-and-yellow logo appears and the action cuts immediately and seamlessly to a spot for the country's leading beer. CCU dominates the beer market with an 89% share of sales, led by Cristal with 50%.
The product integration – repeated several times during the telecast to show characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi sampling Cristal – aimed to be a fresh and creative method to "reach consumers that are becoming increasingly aloof," said Felipe Wielandt, the brand manager that spearheaded the project.
Instead of switching channels at the commercial break, 100% of the viewers kept watching as the action morphed into the commercial. Typically, when a commercial comes on, the broadcaster retains 84-92% of the viewers that were watching the program.
The technique helped "refresh the brand and surprise consumers" and spurred conversation about the campaign and the beer, said Jorge Maldonado, general manager of Omnicom Group's OMD
The media-buying and -planning agency engineered the campaign with production outfit Efex! and Canal 13. Cristian Macho and Carlos Muller, executives of Efex!, came up with the idea for Cristal.
The results were so positive that CCU decided to insert Cristal into the telecasts of "American Beauty," "Gladiator," "Notting Hill" and other movies on Canal 13 back in February and March of this year.
While product placement in newly created programming is becoming popular in Chile, this was the first time a brand was integrated into a movie that had been previously produced.
Maldonado expects more marketers to try such techniques to make their brands stand out in an increasingly cluttered and fragmented media marketplace. He also expects media to work closer with advertisers on new marketing methods, even developing campaigns that wouldn't be generally accepted by U.S. networks and other places because of the lack of distinction between content and advertising.
Following the success of the "Star Wars" insertion, the method "has become a new form of selling [ad time] for all broadcasters," said Maldonado. "Without a doubt, [the campaign] is more effective than traditional spots because it averts zapping and creates surprise for consumers."