Apple, MCI tout 'Independence Day'

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PowerBook featured in sci-fi epic; phone cards feature film images

Apple Computer is promising to save the world again. This time, it's not serious.

The computer marketer Sunday kicked off a three-day TV blitz tying into 20th Century Fox's "Independence Day," the likely sci-fi blockbuster that opens July 2.

The movie features Jeff Goldblum as a computer programmer trying to save the world from alien invasion. The tool he uses: an Apple PowerBook.


MCI Communications Corp. also is tying into "Independence Day," launching prepaid calling cards featuring images of the scenes in which the alien spaceship hovers over the White House and the Empire State Building.

Sold in denominations of 30 or 60 minutes, the cards are priced at $10 and $20, respectively, and MCI is in discussions with movie theaters to sell the cards along with tickets or refreshments.

The Apple commercial from BBDO Worldwide, Los Angeles, uses film footage with voice-over saying: "If you have only 28 minutes to save the entire planet, you better hope you have the right computer."

It concludes with the line, "The power to save the world," which may be the boldest claim Apple has made since it vowed to save the world from Big Brother 12 years ago in "1984."

"I think there we were serious," said David Roman, VP-corporate advertising and brand marketing at Apple. "We were not the jaded middle-age managers that we are now. Now we [can] laugh at ourselves."


Apple is spending an estimated $5 million-plus for the movie tie-in. It may return with the spot and an "Independence" promotion in August, Mr. Roman said.

The computer marketer did a similar tie-in this summer with Paramount Pictures Corp.'s "Mission: Impossible," in which Tom Cruise also uses a PowerBook.

Mr. Roman praised BBDO for its strong "Mission" and "Independence" campaigns. "We thought it would be very difficult to beat the excitement of the `Mission: Impossible' spot," he said. "They came up with something that is equally clever, equally exciting."

The campaigns likely will help an agency relationship that looked on the brink early this year as Apple's future seemed its darkest. Now, Mr. Roman said, "I think [the relationship] is as strong as it's ever been."


MCI is supporting its phone card with ads in USA Today on July 5 and 12, and is mailing bill stuffers to 2.3 million residential customers. The ads are handled in-house.

Although this is MCI's first foray into movie tie-ins, the marketer said it's in discussions with Fox's News Corp. parent to do similar programs with other movies. About a year ago MCI formed an alliance with News Corp. in which it agreed to invest about $1 billion in the media giant.

"A calling card promotion is a great opportunity to assist in the expansion of the movie release and give the movie a longer shelf life," said David Ford, general manager of MCI's PrePaid division. "But it also allows us to present cool images on the cards as well as be part of the hype and excitement surrounding `Independence Day.' "

An MCI logo is anchored to one of the buildings in the New York City skyline used in the 6-foot stand-up promotions in most theaters.

MCI already offers prepaid cards in such specialty retailers as Harley-Davidson shops and museum stores at the Smithsonian Institution.

"We've been focusing on niche groups, but marketing with blockbuster movies and big film releases will help us to reach the mass consumer," Mr. Ford said.

Apple's decision to do movie tie-ins is "very much part of our communications strategy," said Mr. Roman. "I think we have only begun to scratch the surface."

Copyright July 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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