Masterfoods ties M&M's to movies with Oscar effort

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Masterfoods USA is taking its M&M's spokescharacters to the Oscars' red carpet.

The appearance of Red and Yellow (albeit in pre-taped form) is part of a major tie-in to ABC's 77th Annual Academy Awards Feb. 27 that includes a series of "Red's Red Carpet Tips" within Joan and Melissa Rivers' pre-Oscar Red Carpet show on the TV Guide Channel as well integration of the brand into pre-Oscars coverage on E!, Style Network and various print outlets.

Masterfoods is increasingly looking to align its brands-especially M&M's-with similarly iconic consumer events in non-traditional ways, a desire that drove the consolidation of its $300 million media buying and planning account at MediaVest USA last February. The spokescharacters have appeared alongside Dick Clark during 2003's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" and during interstitials on NBC.

Now, Masterfoods is going further with the Academy Awards and a tie with the upcoming "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith." For that event, it will introduce its first dark-chocolate M&M, "M-pire," on April 2 backed by an ad campaign themed, "Dare to go to the Dark Side" and will feature collectible packages of other brands.

key departure

Stuart Shlossman, the former marketing services commercial manager for Masterfoods who spearheaded many of these efforts, recently left to join L.A.-based branded entertainment agency Madison Road as its senior VP-media and client development.

"We took a comprehensive approach to integrating our brand" into the Oscars, said Jackie Hague, M&M's brand manager, a natural connection since Masterfoods says M&Ms are the No. 1 snack consumed at the movies.

Masterfoods will tout its official sponsorship of the Academy Awards beginning with print ads from Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, in Feb. 14 and Feb. 21 issues of Time Inc.'s People and TV Guide Publishing's TV Guide. The ads feature an Oscar party bingo card that consumers can download on to play at their own Oscar party.

Instead of featuring typical who-wins-what-category entries, the Bingo squares include quips like "Walks the wrong way offstage" and "More cleavage than the Grand Canyon." Another ad in the Feb. 21 issue of Entertainment Weekly touts M&M's as "The Best Snack to Eat during every category of the awards."

During TV Guide Channel's pre-Oscars show, Masterfoods will run eight 15-second vignettes featuring Red offering Yellow red-carpet tips such as "inflate your pucker-the bigger your lips, the hotter you are," and "Practice your pose for the Paparaz'." Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, is M&M's agency.

reaching beyond the :30

The whole notion of the story framework of a brand character gets thrown around loosely as marketers reach beyond 30-second commercials and integrate them into entertainment, said David Altschul, president of Portland, Ore.-based brand icon agency Character. But, he said, the authenticity of Red and Yellow as wannabes always looking for attention but knowing the audience would "eat them alive" (a conflict he said represents consumers' own conflict with chocolate) allows them to resonate well with audiences in a variety of situations.

Being able to show the characters on the actual red carpet "is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of the integration we're aiming for" and is a nice advantage of being an official Academy Awards sponsor, said Joan Buyce, PR manager for Masterfoods.

Additionally, Masterfoods will integrate a one-minute segment about how to use M&M's to throw an Oscar party during E!'s pre-show Countdown segment and run a 30-second interstitial on the Style Network Feb. 27th featuring the spokescharacters prompting people to tune in to the Oscars. Public relations efforts will center around tips for throwing an Oscars party from celebrity party planner David Tutera, host of Discovery Channel's "Party Planner with David Tutera."

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