Geoff Ammer

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Try to tell Geoff Ammer one can't be all things to all people, and he'll reply with one word-"Spider-Man." Mr. Ammer is the president of worldwide marketing for Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group and shepherded the marketing effort behind last summer's hit that opened May 1, and took in $119 million during its first weekend.

"I think the tone of the whole thing was we had a movie that was for everybody," says Mr. Ammer, 52, who joined Columbia in September 2001 as domestic marketing president, being promoted to his current role this year. Because the Sony Corp. studio believed in the movie's potential, the marketing-which was a team effort done in-house-needed to go beyond the comic book, young male genre, he says. The $40 million-plus campaign was segmented into parts so that the message could be tailored to the specific crowds. To attract the female audience, Columbia TriStar created TV spots that included "the kiss."

"Normally, if you are just an action movie going after teen boys, the last thing you want to put in is a kiss," Mr. Ammer says. The spots for kids featured Peter Parker transforming into Spider-Man. The commercials for adults ended with Spider-Man's aunt in the hospital saying, "You do too much. You're not Super-Man."

The film grossed $821 million worldwide, with $408 million in domestic ticket sales. "Spider-Man" led the pack of high-ticket sales films, followed by such hits as "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter." They all helped propel the U.S. motion picture business to its best year in 20 years. The Motion Picture Association of America reports that overall business was up 13.2% to 9.5 billion in 2002. Attendance at theaters was also up 10.2% to 1.64 billion tickets, the highest level since 1957.

"When you're in the pole position for the summer," Mr. Ammer says, "you're not just trying to win for your team, but for the industry." In addition to "Spider-Man," Mr. Ammer oversaw marketing of hits such as "Black Hawk Down" and "Men in Black II," part of Sony's billion-dollar summer.

From carl's to cingular

The "Spider-Man" take was driven in part by the push the movie had from its promotional partners. The studio aligned with Kellogg Co. and Hershey Foods Corp. for their wholesome nature; Cadbury Schweppes' Dr Pepper and CKE Restaurants' Carl's Jr. to reach older teens; and Cingular Wireless and Reebok International to reach adults.

With so many different partners, it was imperative to make sure the look of the campaign was consistent not only throughout the divisions of Columbia Tri-Star, but also with the partners.

"You wouldn't send out shots of Spidey that weren't consistent with advertising or publicity stills. You also want to make sure with your promotional partners that what appeared with Dr Pepper or a magazine or newspaper or consumer products piece had to be of the highest quality," Mr. Ammer says. "The single most important part in this campaign was the consistency in the look of all the material," he adds, "because if as a team you go into this and you don't function as a team, there could have been a lot of different looks and feels and messages sent."

Columbia TriStar plans to start shooting the sequel next month, slated for a 2004 release. Mr. Ammer says he's beginning to formulate a marketing campaign for that movie. The DVD of the original broke industry records with $190 million in sales the first week of its release in November. Columbia TriStar's home entertainment division handles the DVD marketing.

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