DHL Buys Into Global 'Mission Impossible' Co-Promotion

Shipping Firm Is Movie's Sole Promotional Partner

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LOS ANGELES -- James Bond may rely on his Aston Martin, but Ethan Hunt and his team of spies in "Mission: Impossible III" can't do their jobs without the help of shipping service DHL. At least that's what a campaign around the film says.
Paramount Pictures was attracted to DHL's nontraditional media -- its millions of packages and trucks -- for 'Mission: Impossible.'

When Paramount Pictures' "M:I3" opens in theaters May 5, the film, starring Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, will feature a slew of Lincoln Navigators, LR3 Land Rovers, Nokia cellphones, Casio watches and a Lamborghini in key scenes, but none of the brands will launch major promotional campaigns around the latest installment of the spy franchise.

Full-scale global marketing effort

However, DHL, owned by Deutsche Post World Net, is backing the movie with a full-scale global marketing campaign centered around a tagline, "Impossible Missions Accepted Daily," which appears in TV, print and outdoor ads as well as in its international offices, on the marketer's bright-yellow packaging and trucks -- and even on its hold music starting this week.

Steve Siskind, Paramount Pictures' exec VP-worldwide marketing and advertising, said DHL's positioning of speed and timeliness and its global flavor matched up with the movie's themes. Discussions started more than a year ago, and Paramount also was attracted to DHL's nontraditional media -- its millions of packages and trucks.

"That gives us a way to penetrate the culture," Mr. Siskind said, "and it doesn't look like paid advertising."

The German company served as the film's official shipping and logistics service during production and parlayed its position into being the film's sole marketing partner as part of that deal. It's the first feature-film promotion for DHL. The company appears in a pivotal role during a mission in the film. A DHL truck is featured prominently in a two-minute scene of the movie shot in Rome, where Mr. Cruise's character is trying to break into the Vatican. The truck serves as a diversion as the spy completes the task.

Watching FedEx on the big screen

DHL executives have wanted for some time to get closer to Hollywood after seeing competitors like Federal Express cozy up to studio films like "Castaway" and benefit from the association.

The TV campaign for DHL shows an employee racing across continents to deliver a copy of "M:I3" to an outdoor screening in Hong Kong. Along the way, he jumps out of a plane and parachutes into his drop off point. Action clips from the movie end the spot, from Ogilvy & Mather, New York.

The ads dovetail with a recently launched global campaign from DHL, focusing on the people who work there. For "M:I3," some of the ads highlight Dirk Ravensteiner, who managed the logistics and shipping for 50 tons of cargo used in the movie's filming.

The absence of additional marketing partners is unusual for a film like "M:I3," which is expected to appeal to a broad audience and be one of the biggest box office hits of the summer. The previous two outings have earned more than $1 billion worldwide at the box office.

The sequels are the exception

The "Mission: Impossible" franchise has been the exception before. The first sequel, which was released in 2000, didn't boast any promotional partners either, despite featuring the new Audi TT roadster in a major sequence.

But the first film did. Apple Computer spent millions to tie-in with "Mission: Impossible" in 1996. A series of TV and print ads and a Web site featured Mr. Cruise using the company's PowerBook laptop, which was prominently featured in the film. However, despite the additional dollars Apple spent as part of the tie-in, the company's logo never actually appears in the movie. Neither does the Macintosh operating system. Apple had to insert additional footage into its own campaign to show its logo on its computer to make up for the missing imagery.

That campaign, however, may be one of the main reasons for the lack of partners around "M:I3." Apple's effort was so flashy and overly hyped that it ultimately distracted viewers from Mr. Cruise as the main attraction. Over the years, Mr. Cruise has been careful to control every aspect of his image.

At the same time, Mr. Cruise isn't exactly known for offering himself up to marketers. When he has, it was while starring in two Steven Spielberg films -- "War of the Worlds," which featured a tie-in with Hitachi, and "Minority Report," which had Lexus on board.

The studio, taking a cue from Mr. Cruise, pursued only one co-marketing partner, despite heavy exposure for numerous brands in the film.

"He has to feel comfortable with the brand and its message," Mr. Siskind said. "That's easier to do with a select few."

Hollywood's less-is-more approach

Having a single deal around a major action movie is becoming part of a less-is-more approach in Hollywood, as studios opt for one partner vs. multiple deals with marketers, such as fast-food chains, automakers, snacks and soda brands and wireless carriers, especially if awareness for a property is already high. The third installment of 20th Century Fox's "X-Men" franchise has no partners. It simply doesn't need the extra marketing muscle, the studio said.

Either way, it's not as if the marketers that appear in "M:I3" will be losing out in any way. If anything, they'll be getting considerable exposure without having to spend millions to promote their association with the film.

For example, Ford Motor Co.'s Land Rover and Lincoln brands appear prominently in the film's marketing materials -- from its trailers and TV spots to online teasers, images on Web sites and downloadable clips from the movie -- that show off the company's cars in the movie's action sequences.

Myles Romero, Ford's global brand entertainment manager, said that "Mission: Impossible" was attractive because of its global reach and its box-office potential. Mr. Romero and his team read the script and, in scenes that called for a sports utility vehicle, suggested the new Land Rover LR3. In the film, Mr. Cruise and Mr. Rhames use the vehicle to escape from packs of villains, giving it a coolness factor.

"We're still in launch mode, so the timing couldn't be better," Mr. Romero said. "It's the right genre for the vehicle, and it's a great pairing of car and star."

Car marketer's dream placement

The placement shows off the styling, the nameplate and the driving dynamics, Mr. Romero said, making it a car marketer's dream.

Although Ford was interested in potentially co-marketing the film, it didn't end up "pursuing" a partnership with Paramount that would have extended the placement off screen, Mr. Romero said.

"Paramount didn't need a lot of partners for this movie, which speaks to the success of the franchise," Mr. Romero said. "We're very happy with the exposure in the content."

Nokia products also appear prominently in the film, with Mr. Cruise's character and his fellow IMF agents using several Nokia phones, including the N92 media phone and 7270 handset, which are only available outside of the U.S. Because of that, Nokia is planning a limited campaign in certain foreign territories.

Both Ford and Nokia have had a long relationship with "M:I3" director J.J. Abrams, having been integrated in and sponsored his spy series "Alias" on ABC.

Casio's G-Shock watches are also worn by agents in the film.
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