GM goes Looney for Warner Bros. in $200 mil deal

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Warner Bros. and General Motors Corp. this week will announce a long-term marketing partnership valued at more than $200 million, according to executives close to the marketers.

In the deal that crosses most of the entertainment company's divisions, GM will have a first-look option on all automobile marketing opportunities within Warner Bros.' operations.

It will allow GM to create full-fledged promotions tied to Warner Bros.' movies, music, TV shows, consumer products and Web sites.

For example, a GM car could be placed in a Warner Bros. movie, with a contest built around the car and combined with other consumer incentives, such as price breaks. GM'sWarner, GM media weight would cross-promote all packages.

Neither Warner Bros. nor GM executives would comment.

The first evidence of the agreement will appear this fall, when GM will sell the first special edition Looney Tunes Chevrolet Venture minivan. News of the vehicle, featuring the Looney Tunes logo on the outside of the van as well as other special equipment features, had surfaced earlier.

WORKED TOGETHER BEFORE

GM and the Warner Bros. Consumer Products division have worked with each other before on TV commercials for other marques. The Pontiac Grand Prix incorporated Warner Bros.' animated characters Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner into some TV spots. Chevrolet used the Tasmanian Devil character in ads for its Monte Carlo.

GM first took its new marketing plan to Walt Disney Co., since it had an existing deal with Disney in conjunction with GM's test-track ride at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center. But executives said those talks fell apart due to disagreement over media and marketing costs.

GM also dealt with Disney on individual marketing deals, sponsoring mall tours for Disney animated films "Hercules" and "A Bug's Life."

RESEMBLES DISNEY/MCD'S

The new GM/Warner Bros. deal is similar to that of Disney's $500 million, 10-year marketing deal with McDonald's Corp., inked in May 1996.

That arrangement links McDonald's to at least three to four major Disney theatrical releases a year, a number of home video promotions, as well as marketing tie-ins with other Disney divisions including its theme parks.

Warner Bros. has struck a number of cross-divisional deals with other major consumer marketers over the past few years, such as MCI WorldCom and PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT SWITCH

Separately, GM has consolidated film and TV product-placement work for all its car and truck brands at Norm Marshall & Associates, Los Angeles. Marshall recently placed a Chevrolet Camaro in Paramount Pictures' Richard Gere/Julia Roberts film "Runaway Bride."

In the past, GM provided Warner Bros. with cars for its theatrical releases, including the "Lethal Weapon" series of movies starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Such work previously was handled by the marketer or the brands' agencies.

Copyright August 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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