What flew (and what Failed) in Hollywood

Another year may be under way, but Madison & Vine isn't completely ready to close the door on 2006. Another six months have passed so it's time to lay out the five best and worst branded-entertainment deals brokered or projects produced during the period.

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mgraser@crain.com, tstanley@crain.com

The Five Best

1. Sony Pictures' 'Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby'

The deal: Sony wallpapered the Will Ferrell comedy with marketers. There were 10, including Sprint Nextel, Wonder Bread, Coca-Cola's Powerade and Goodyear.

Why we liked it: Though the successful satire boosted every brand associated with it, Wonder Bread might have been the biggest winner. The Interstate Bakeries Corp. brand, which has been in bankruptcy since 2004, did not pay to be embedded into the movie and isn't an official Nascar sponsor. Yet its logo appeared clear and in focus for 11 minutes, 32 seconds, giving it $4.3 million in exposure, according to Joyce Julius & Associates.

2. Bud.tv

The deal: Anheuser-Busch is taking an unprecedented step by launching a 24-hour internet-based TV network, diverting money from traditional TV advertising to fund it.

Why we liked it: Yeah, we know it hasn't launched yet, but Bud.tv helps prove that branded entertainment is no longer an afterthought for marketers. A-B will make Bud.tv the largest piece of an online budget that makes up 10% of its $607 million media war chest. Plans call for seven or eight channels of entertainment content.

3. GM nabs starring role in 'Transformers'

The deal: General Motors Co. partnered with Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures to have its lineup of vehicles portray the film's lead characters.

Why we liked it: When GM pulled out as a major sponsor of CBS's "Survivor," the automaker said it wanted to play a bigger role in the entertainment projects it appears in. GM wants the vehicles to be central to the plot. You'll only have to watch a couple minutes of next summer's "Transformers," which opens July 4, to see what that means for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Hummer and GMC.

4. Dodge builds the Fantasticar

The deal: Dodge paid several million dollars and committed more than $10 million more in marketing to brand the four-passenger vehicle that carries around the superheroes in May's "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," from 20th Century Fox.

Why we liked it: Dodge becomes one of the only automakers to ever have its brand emblazoned on a superhero's primary mode of transportation. Dodge elements appear in the final design, such as its signature grill and company logos on the front end and on seats. Dodge is also written on the hood.

5. Snickers' 'Instant Def' webisodes

The deal: Masterfoods USA's brand launched a five-webisode series, "Instant Def," starring the Black Eyed Peas.

Why we liked it: "Def" deftly made the connection between Snickers and the hip-hop generation. An average of 12,000 unique visitors a day flocked to the home page. And it sold candy: Snickers consumption grew 4.8% in the 12-week period ended Aug. 13 vs. a year ago; convenience store sales jumped 11.6%.

The Five Worst

1. My Network TV's telenovelas

The deal: My Network TV this fall launched English versions of Spanish-language telenovelas with a level of brand integration rarely seen in scripted programming outside Latin America.

Why we didn't like it: The integrations were blatant and in your face. Consider a scene in which two girlfriends chat and one puts lipstick on the other: "What color's that? It's cute," one says. "It's Maybelline New York Shiny-licious lip gloss," the other answers. "You know men can't resist shiny lips."

2. Passing on the video game

The deal: Marketers that have spent millions to align themselves with popular TV shows have opted out of the series' ancillary properties, including video games. In "Desperate Housewives," the women of Wisteria Lane drive Nissans, Volvos and Aston Martins. But in the video-game version, Chrysler is the carmaker of choice.

Why we didn't like it: This could be a major missed opportunity for advertisers looking for new ways to connect with the much-sought-after 18- to 35-year-olds who are spending more time playing their PlayStations, Xboxes and PCs than watching their TVs.

3. Brawny Academy

The deal: This summer, Georgia-Pacific's Brawny paper towels launched a web-based reality series.

Why we didn't like it: Despite heavy promotion, including TV spots, data reported by Alexa in September showed a total audience of around 150,000 since the launch in June, making the audience number for "Brawny Academy" considerably smaller than a magazine ad or thinly viewed cable program.

4. Burton Snowboards wipes out with 'For Right or Wrong'

The deal: Burton Snowboards teamed up with Mandalay Sports Action Entertainment to produce a full-length snowboarding documentary .

Why we didn't like it: The movie (with a budget of around $5 million) just doesn't play broadly enough. While the snowboarding in the film is impressive, you've seen it before and you've seen it better.

5. Philip Morris battles product placement

The deal: This past summer, Philip Morris USA launched a campaign in trade publications asking filmmakers not to put its products in movies.

Why we didn't like it: Since 1990, PM's policy has been to deny use of its brands in films. So why did the company launch a print ad campaign 16 years after that fact? To us, it just seems like a smoke screen.
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