UNIVERSAL PICTURES CREATES UNUSUAL MARKETING GROUP

To Oversee Long-term Licensing and Promo Strategies

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Vivendi Universal Entertainment's Universal Pictures is creating an unusual brand marketing group for its movie franchises and theme parks while its Universal Television Group is starting up a cross-advertising selling division that will work with Universal Pictures and other sibling companies.

Universal Pictures' new unit, the Brand Group, will create long-term marketing and licensing packages for its franchise theatrical and home video releases, such as Jurassic Park and The Mummy. The unit will also focus on the Universal brand name.

Brand strategy
"There is now a dedicated group who can put in place a brand strategy for our franchises and oversee the management and execution of plans," said Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal Pictures who will oversee the group. "Underneath this group there is also the stewardship of the Universal brand."

Universal's group is different than other studio efforts, which are done on a title-by-title basis. Movie studios also typically have separate

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promotional and licensing groups for its theatrical and home video units.

Universal's film franchises include Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jurassic Park, The Mummy, American Pie, and The Fast and The Furious.

Beth Goss was named executive vice president of the Brand Group. She had been senior vice president of national promotions for Universal Pictures for the last three years, working on many of Universal's big-budget movies.

"It's about the leverage our brands throughout its lifetime," she said about the new group, "and not just with traditional ancillary markets like consumer products but in new ones that fit the brand."

Building a lifestyle
For instance, Universal is creating a marketing and lifestyle brand around next summer's sequel to the hit movie The Fast and the Furious. In addition to many consumer product tie-ins, Universal will create a music tour for the young-skewing car movie.

"Kind of like Lollapolloza," said Ms. Goss. "You bring the cars, and there are opportunities for all licensees to show product to the car audience. We are also talking about different ways to use Fast and Furious in television as well -- not in a narrative format -- but perhaps, reality, interstitial or anime."

Universal's Brand Group will also move into the "branded" entertainment arena, Mr. Shmuger said. For instance, Universal could produce a reality car-improvement show for a cable network like TLC. A title could be along of the lines of The Pet Boys' Fast and Furious.

Ms. Goss will also work with Stephanie Sperber, senior vice president of global alliances for Universal Pictures, who also reports to Mr. Shmuger. Ms. Sperber, who worked deals mostly for Universal's theme parks, has put together global partnerships for Toyota Motor Corp., Kodak, and Coca-Cola Co.

"They will be there at the point of origin of, say, The Hulk [an upcoming Universal movie]," say Mr. Shmuger. "They'll understand all the brand values and be able to customize the best deals and promotional partnerships.

Cable cross-advertising sales
Meanwhile, Universal Television Group, the parent division of USA Network, the Sci-Fi Channel and Trio, has started for the first time a cross-advertising sales division to sell across all networks. Kevin McAuliffe will become senior vice president of cross-platform initiatives for the group. He came from Gemstar-TV Guide, where he was senior vice president of affiliate marketing.

Most of Mr. McAuliffe's work will be across Universal Television Group's advertising cable platforms. But he will also work across other Universal companies, especially with Ms. Goss and Ms. Sperber.

Some marketing executives caution these new brand and cross-selling marketing and advertising groups are, in theory, good ideas -- but can cause problems.

Inter-department frictions
"There is a great pollination and opportunity there," one veteran marketing executive said. "But it's difficult working across divisional company lines. There are always inter-department frictions."

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