In the second annual RoadShow tour visiting New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, executives from several major film studios are meeting with ad agencies, promotion agencies and marketers, presenting information about promotional tie-ins for films through 2001.
The final stop on the tour in L.A. this week is expected to draw record attendance of more than 200 in the ad community, including several first-time attendees among marketers in the automotive, beer, liquor and package-goods industries.
CREATED BY L.A. OFFICE
The event, created by Hollywood promotional consultancy L.A. Office, has gained significant momentum since last year and in 1999 includes presentations from Columbia Pictures, DreamWorks SKG, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Miramax Pictures, New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox Motion Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Walt Disney Co. is conspicuously absent, along with a handful of others.
"We created this event because we realized studios were always struggling to work directly with brand managers but no one was working with agencies, and film tie-ins should actually be agency-driven," said Mitch Litvak, president of the L.A. Office, which he founded in 1994.
Agencies attending the show on previous stops have included Leo Burnett Co., Saatchi & Saatchi and J. Walter Thompson Co., but some insiders say the best tie-in opportunities are forged behind the scenes and through one-on-one relationships, not at mass presentations like the RoadShow.
"You're not going to find the really new or exclusive opportunities at an event like this -- a lot of the opportunities you'll see have been in the studios' sales kits for a while. But it's useful for agencies to explore these opportunities" like the RoadShow, said Tom Baer, a veteran entertainment marketing executive who was recently named senior VP-entertainment marketing for Draft Worldwide, Chicago.
He added that as studios have created more opportunities for tie-ins like PepsiCo's massive link up with "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," many marketers have rushed into promotional tie-ins that don't always have a good strategic fit, and some have bombed.
LURING NEW CATEGORIES
Studio executives say the RoadShow is helping bring new categories of advertisers into the film tie-in scene and raising the quality of opportunities for both sides.
Two romantic films from MGM slated for 2000 that might not have drawn tie-ins a few years ago are driving "surprisingly strong" interest from agencies and advertisers attending the RoadShow in the package-goods and high-tech industries, said Keith Snelgrove, senior VP-operations for MGM's worldwide promotions.
"Return to Me," a romantic comedy, opens in February and stars David Duchovny and Minnie Driver; due next fall is a romantic drama called "Autumn in New York," starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder.
"The success of America Online's tie-in with last year's hit "You've Got Mail' helped prove that romances present some great tie-in opportunities with real creativity," Mr. Snelgrove said.
An MGM action film called "Rollerball," due late next year, also is generating more traditional tie-in possibilities, due to the opportunity for realistic arena signage within the film.
Despite the escalating interest in film tie-ins, not all movie promotions succeed, and experts warn there have been many misfires that could have been avoided by taking a more strategic approach.
'GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS'
"There's good news and bad news in the fact that entertainment marketing has become so big -- the studios are creating more opportunities that ever, and corporate America seems to be embracing it," said Draft's Mr. Baer. "But companies need to make sure they're getting into something that has a perfect strategic fit, not just an opportunity that came long."
In addition to the RoadShow, Mr. Litvak's company in 1997 launched a monthly report called "Entertainment Update," describing tie-in opportunities and deals; the nine-person shop also does direct consulting with advertisers and agencies.
"We've helped advertising and promotion agencies get more involved in the process, because it's a fact that the most effective film tie-ins have agency involvement from the outset," Mr. Litvak said. "A good tie-in has to be able to stand on its own merit in case [the movie] busts at the box office. 'Godzilla' was a disappointment to some in Hollywood, but the promotional tie-ins were terrific, including Taco Bell's introduction of the Chihuahua that later became