Hitachi goes to 'War' with Spielberg, Cruise

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In a rare coup, Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg will appear in a four-month marketing campaign, valued at close to $100 million, that consumer-electronics giant Hitachi will launch around Paramount Pictures' big-budget summer entry "War of the Worlds." The company's products are integrated into the sci-fi film.

Messrs. Cruise and Spielberg normally do not appear in marketers' promotional spots. The two will not be paid for their participation.

Hitachi's planned promotional effort, to launch May 1 and continue through Aug. 31, is being compared to Samsung's pricey campaign for Warner Bros.' "The Matrix Reloaded" in summer 2003, for which the company spent $100 million worldwide across various forms of media to associate its products with the sci-fi sequel.

Hitachi's "The Ultimate Visual Experience" will feature ads that pay homage to Messrs. Cruise and Spielberg and compare the quality of their work with the quality of Hitachi's brand and products. The company's new DVD camcorders appear in pivotal scenes in the film.

GLOBAL PROMOTION

"The products will not only be seen in the film, but will also be leveraged for a global promotion," said Kazuhiro Tachibana, general manager of Hitachi's consumer-business group. The promotion will have local extensions and consumer offers, executives said. The marketing message will be spread across TV, print, online and in-store in key international markets.

The deal came together in a matter of months, warp speed for an agreement between a feature film and a marketer. Paramount's marketing and promotions executives bartered the deal, along with Norm Marshall, president of NMA Entertainment & Marketing, a Los Angeles firm that has a strategic alliance with Hitachi's ad agency, Dentsu, based in Japan. Mr. Marshall also brokered the deal between Samsung and "The Matrix."

There were a number of challenges in putting the alliance together, with the quick turnaround being a hurdle as well as navigating the Japanese-based conglomerate's corporate culture, said executives close to the deal.

Creative materials were difficult to come by, mainly because Mr. Spielberg did not want to release images of the film's aliens for fear that it would spoil their impact in the movie.

The movie is based on an H.G. Wells novel and a radio broadcast by Orson Welles in 1938 that was so realistic that listeners thought Martians had landed on Earth. The remake, from Paramount and DreamWorks SKG, is set in contemporary New Jersey and co-stars Dakota Fanning.

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