NEW MOVIE ADS BUILD BRAND OF IMAGINE STUDIO: MOVIEMAKER STAKES POSITION AS MAINSTREAM COMEDY MAKER

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Feature film producer Imagine Entertainment is taking the unusual step of hyping itself in addition to its products.

Along with its movie distributor Universal Studios, Imagine brought its concept to TV advertising with a special 60-second TV spot that ran during last week's Super Bowl. It touted Imagine's brand association as a provider of adult, mainstream comedies in conjunction with the overall marketing effort for two new movies from Universal/Imagine-"Ed TV," which will debut in March, and "Life," due in April.

A voice-over during the spot intoned "throughout the years, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment have made you laugh and touched your heart. Now from Universal Studios and Imagine come two new comedies."

While a voice-over cited these credentials, the spot featured images of previous Imagine movies: "The Nutty Professor," "Liar, Liar," "Apollo 13" and "Backdraft." The spot was produced by Interlink, a Los Angeles-based boutique entertainment shop.

A VIDEO CLERK'S LIFE

"Ed TV," directed by Ron Howard, is about a video clerk who agrees to have his life filmed for a TV network. "Life" stars Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence as criminals who discover the value of life after being sentenced to life imprisonment.

"We were looking at how we could better communicate our brand," said Michael Rosenberg, president of Imagine Entertainment. "Our research shows that, apart from Disney, people do connect with Imagine as a brand name. It stands for integrity. It stands for something feeling good-something the whole family could enjoy."

MAINSTREAM COMEDIES

"We believe it helps define Imagine as producers of mainstream comedies," said Marc Shumger, president of marketing for Universal Studios.

Imagine kicked off its branding effort, promoting "Ed TV" and "Life," first in print, beginning in December with executions similar in tone to the TV spots. They ran in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

In the past, only Walt Disney has advertised its trademark family oriented and animated features, while at the same time actively promoting itself as a brand name. Most other studios and production companies are usually too busy just promoting each movie on their schedule.

But entertainment marketing executives also maintain that because a studio or production company's slate is typically too diverse, it is virtually impossible to promote the company as a single brand. "You don't hear people say, `Let's go see the next Paramount movie,' " Mr. Rosenberg said.

DIRECTORS AS BRANDS

Movie studios have touted directors in commercial copy, such as with the phrase, "from the director who brought you . . . " But that establishes the director's name as a brand, rather than a given production company.

Unlike most movie campaigns, which run four to five weeks, Mr. Rosenberg insists that this branding campaign is ongoing, and will continue to show up-in one form or another-when Imagine releases future movies. He said this is necessary in the

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