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TAKING A SAFARI ON THE INTERNET GRAMERCY PICTURES, TRAVEL CHANNEL TEAM FOR ONLINE PROMOTION

By Published on .

Gramercy Pictures and the Travel Channel are taking their first trip on the Internet.

A sweepstakes promotion tied to the Sept. 9 Gramercy release "A Good Man in Africa," starring Sean Connery and John Lithgow, offers the chance to enter via the Interactive Connection, a new online service now in beta test on the Internet.

The promotion ties into a multimedia offering on Interactive Connection, where users can see a clip of the movie and learn more about the Travel Channel.

"This is a trial balloon of, `OK, here's the technology,'*" said Interactive Connection President Neal Weinberg, a former account executive with the Travel Channel. "It's our first step in solidifying our service as a viable medium for advertisers."

Prizes include an Isuzu Trooper as well as five African safari vacations for two. The contest also is being promoted via spots on the Travel Channel and Weather Channel, direct mail and point-of-purchase displays in movie theaters.

"The reason I put it together for Gramercy is they were looking to get more involved in the promotional end," said John Bohan, who orchestrated the promotion as account manager at the Travel Channel. "They had looked at different interactive services such as Hollywood Online ... and that's the reason I brought Interactive Connection in," said Mr. Bohan, who last week joined USA Networks as an account executive.

Although Gramercy was interested in using interactivity, going on the Internet wasn't something it was willing to pay extra for yet.

"They didn't pay X amount of dollars to be part of Interactive Connection," Mr. Bohan said. "We said for X amount of dollars what we'll do is give you these five elements, one of which is Interactive Connection."

"The Travel Channel brought Interactive Connection to us as part of our added value that we had negotiated with our media buy," said Karin Muff, VP-account supervisor at Gramercy agency DDB Needham Worldwide, Los Angeles. "It was another medium for us to utilize in order to reach an audience we may not have reached with a traditional media buy."

Those who access the Interactive Connection area on the Internet will be able to see a clip from the movie, a brochure for the Isuzu Trooper, and information about African Travel Inc., US Africa Airways and the Travel Channel. But unlike Hollywood Online, an established multimedia movie promoter available on America Online and other services, Interactive Connection isn't likely to be seen by many people.

The service "is still at the preliminary stages," Mr. Bohan acknowledged. "I think that it was something that we wanted to try out."

Interactive Connection plans eventually to offer themed areas covering entertainment, sports, travel and other subjects. The service, currently operating out of the offices of Crane Media Sales, New York, will cost $12 per year, plus online time, although the advertising area is free to anyone who accesses it.

Interactive Connection is negotiating with the Travel Channel and Weather Channel to be content providers on the service. Chiat/Day Chairman Jay Chiat and former American Express Co. Chairman-CEO James Robinson III are investors in the company, which hopes to launch its service officially in October (AA, June 20).

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