Tie-ins Include Script Plugs, E-decoders and In-Bank Ads

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LOS ANGELES -- In the first movie tie-in of its ongoing corporate alliance with the Walt Disney Co., Visa USA links itself to the upcoming holiday-season flick National Treasure, using
The Disney movie 'National Treasure' opens Nov. 19.
Click to see Visa's
in-bank contest poster.

innovative computer screen decoders, in-bank ads and direct, in-film brand references by star Nicholas Cage.

The financial services marketer's multilayered promotional efforts demonstrate how sophisticated movie cross-promotions are becoming, with advertisers pulling directly from the entertainment's plot points for their own consumer communications.

National Treasure, an action comedy that Disney hopes can become an Indiana Jones type of franchise, centers on Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) and his obsessive search for a mythic treasure hidden by the country's founding fathers. Clues are everywhere, as it turns out, on the dollar bill, the Declaration of Independence and national monuments.

Key scene product placement

Visa has product placement in a key scene in the movie, when Mr. Cage whips out the plastic to advance the story. He's trying to steal the real Declaration of Independence when a National Archives worker mistakes it for a copy and asks him if he's going to pay for it. Alas, he's without cash.

"We do take Visa," the worker says.

That integration is another example of the seamless relationships evolving between major entertainment content and marketing partners.

"It's a tongue-in-cheek moment, and it felt right in line with our personality," said Bob Pifki, Visa USA's senior vice president of marketing services. "It's such a logical connection all the way around."

National Treasure, from hit maker Jerry Bruckheimer, opens Nov. 19 with an estimated $160 million in marketing and media heft around it, the largest studio effort for a live-action film, Disney executives said. Mr. Bruckheimer was responsible for last year's mega hit Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl for Disney.

National Treasure will get exposure in nontraditional retail venues like Visa member banks and financial institutions. A Visa "Year of Treasure" contest will give a winning consumer the value of all purchases made in 2004, reflecting the movie's theme of a valuable stash that's accumulated over time.

9 million e-decoders

An instant-win online game called "Reveal the Treasure" will dole out vacations and prepaid gift cards. The marketer will distribute 9 million e-decoders that, when held up to the computer screen on Visa's Web site, show the prizes.

Visa's fourth-quarter promotion usually focuses on adults 25 and over, but this year the effort is being expanded to target college students. The marketer will distribute coffee sleeves and door hangers with e-decoders on campuses, school cafes and events.

It's imperative that Visa tries new tactics for its end-of-the-year promotions, Mr. Pifki said, such as the campus outreach and e-decoder game pieces. "We must innovate in some way," he said, "and do something that's new to financial services."

The marketer plans National Treasure-themed TV, radio, print, direct mail and online ads, all picking up the movie theme and using versions of its key artwork. Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, is the agency of record, with Publicis Groupe's Frankel, San Francisco, handling the promotion.

5,000 transactions a second

Holiday time is especially important, making up 40% of Visa's annual volume with an estimated 5,000 transactions a second, Mr. Pifki said. The marketer hasn't done an entertainment link for several years, with the last one being Universal's How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

"There's an awful lot of noise during the holiday season," Mr. Pifki said. "Tying to a movie helps us stand out from the crowd."

Disney, struggling through a difficult year in its film business, has much riding on the success of its holiday offerings. Its next Pixar Studios movie, The Incredibles, opens Nov. 5 with a raft of promotional partners including SBC Communications, McDonald's Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co.

In addition to Visa, McDonald's, Verizon Wireless, the Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia tourism bureaus, Get Fit Foods, Eastman Kodak, Northwest Airlines and TiVo are hyping National Treasure with national sweepstakes, vacation giveaways, free movie tickets and other consumer offers.

Media spending from the partners is estimated at $50 million, Disney executives said.

"We always think about the emotional touch points in the property and how those can marry up with the attributes of a partner," said Brett Dicker, Disney's executive vice president of marketing. "The closer they link, the better."
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