'Carpool Guy' to Use QVC-Type Distribution Model

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LOS ANGELES -- A new direct-to-DVD movie called Carpool Guy, aimed at dedicated daytime-TV lovers, weaves in the unlikeliest brand integration partner yet involved in the space -- the Oreck vacuum cleaner company.

Ad agency

Carpool Guy, an ensemble "dramedy" filled with soap-opera actors, takes place partly in a fictitious advertising agency where the main character is trying to win the Oreck account.
Vacuum cleaner maker Oreck plays a key role in the DVD movie 'Carpool Guy.'

The brand is integrated throughout the movie and will participate in marketing and promotions around its Oct. 18 direct-to-DVD release.

Other marketers with product placement within the film include Audi -- the main character drives an A6 sedan -- Bonny Doon Vineyard and Giantto watches.

Through a marketing partnership with Regal Cinemas, there will be Hollywood-style premieres for the movie in a dozen major markets, which will offer additional exposure for the brands involved. Fans will be able to win tickets, which won't be sold, through various soap-opera Web sites and enthusiast publications.

Carpool Guy will use a QVC-type distribution model, selling online on such sites as Amazon.com, and through direct response. Executives at the DVD's distributor, L.A. Ideas, are in discussions with big-box retailers, though no deal is yet set.

Canon cameras

The movie was shot with Canon cameras, and the marketer, a relative novice in branded entertainment, donated some lenses for filming. The company, which introduces new products in the key fourth-quarter holiday period, is supplying video cameras for a Carpool Guy sweepstakes and will send brand representatives to the Regal premieres to photograph fans with the movie's stars.

The New Orleans-based Oreck Corp., which manufactures vacuum cleaners and small appliances, has been one of the few companies to reopen quickly after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Executives have brought in trailers for workers who lost their homes, where they're living rent free near the marketer's factory in Long Beach, Miss.

Oreck executives weren't available for comment, but they are expected to continue their co-marketing plans for Carpool Guy.

The movie was directed by L.A. Law and Major League star Corbin Bernsen, who has formed his own production company called Public Media Works. A soap veteran himself, Mr. Bernsen cast actors from the most popular daytime dramas, like The Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital and Days of Our Lives, in Carpool Guy.

Ad exec and homeless man

The movie centers on a workaholic ad executive who hires a homeless man to sit in his passenger seat so he can take the carpool lane in traffic-snarled Los Angeles. The two form a bond along the way.

The goal of producing the movie is to get in front of a largely female, 18-49-year-old consumer who's underserved with traditional entertainment, said Kyle Borg, CEO of L.A. Ideas.

Mr. Borg and his business partner Mark Shoolery have spent a number of years creating the artwork for marketing campaigns for major studio films. They decided they wanted to market and distribute Mr. Bernsen's film as a way to tap into consumers who are pre-sold on certain stars and concepts.

Because the entertainment is aimed at a well-defined audience, Mr. Borg said the marketing will be focused and cost-efficient. There will be ads on the Walt Disney Co.'s SoapNet and its Web site, other soap sites and dedicated magazines, and the partners' Web sites. There will also be Webcasts of the premieres at Regal theaters.

Soap opera fans

L.A. Ideas executives are tapping into the databases of soap fan sites to send e-mail alerts about the DVD, the premieres and surrounding sweepstakes.

"You don't want to take the pepper spray approach to find your community," Mr. Borg said.

While the movie was in production, Mr. Bernsen set up a dedicated Web site and, with little advertising, pulled in 68,000 unique visitors a month to view behind-the-scenes materials and marketing ideas in their formative stages, Mr. Borg said.

The movie's production budget was about $500,000, which Mr. Bernsen raised from private sources. The marketing budget will also hover around the $500,000 mark.

There's talk of Mr. Bernsen showing up in Oreck infomercials, which would feature clips of the movie. Oreck is expected to tag its TV media.

Executives at L.A. Ideas said they plan to release other low-budget movies tailored to specific niche audiences. They're aiming for two or three movies a year, with budgets of about $1 million. The genres could range from horror to musical comedy, written by emerging screenwriters.

Mr. Borg said he can envision a time when marketers help foot the cost of the project because they'll be involved in the earliest stages of the script.
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