'Bewitched,' a case study in creative promotion

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In the feature film "Bewitched," you'll see a plethora of consumer brands sharing screen time alongside Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell and the rest of the cast. But those marketers-Bed, Bath & Beyond, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Gorton's of Gloucester, Volkswagen, Pillsbury and Newman's Own-are nowhere to be seen extending that coveted in-content exposure into off-screen promotions.

Why? Talent sometimes just doesn't want to play.

For Sony Pictures, whose executives declined to comment, the hurdle in finding promotional partners for "Bewitched" centers on the reluctance of Oscar-winner Ms. Kidman and other actors in allowing marketers to use their likenesses. It's a common problem that has become even more vexing to studio marketers as they try to engage corporate America and drum up as much pre-release publicity as possible for their films, especially in the packed summer months.

A-listers such as Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie would appear in co-promotional spots for recent films only in character. Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg broke longstanding policies against co-promotions by appearing in a Hitatchi campaign that salutes their careers. The ads also hype the upcoming "War of the Worlds" from Paramount Pictures.

"There are still some old-school, church-and-state attitudes," said Brad Ball, principal of branded-entertainment firm Ball Entertainment Group and former marketing executive at Warner Bros. "Talent will do what's right for the movie promotionally, but they aren't prepared to become ad spokesmen, which is how they view these deals."

Stars might need to re-examine that approach, Mr. Ball said, in light of the current box office malaise. Even with the recent strong opening of Warner Bros.' "Batman Begins," the box office is in its 17th straight week of decline, tying a dubious record set 20 years ago. Overall, receipts are down about 7% this year compared to last. That makes marketing support, above and beyond what studios spend, crucial. "Does anybody believe that competition for eyeballs will get easier?" he asked.

In "Bewitched," pivotal scenes take place in and around Bed, Bath & Beyond and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. A shopping spree at a grocery store shows Michael Caine's character popping up as famous package-goods icons like the Gorton's fisherman, Pillsbury's Green Giant and Paul Newman on Newman's Own Popcorn. Ms. Kidman's character zips around in a yellow VW Beetle convertible.

The movie found co-marketers in two brands that have no product placement-California smoothie and health-food chain Robeks Corp. and retailer Macy's. Robek's, a growing chain that competes with the likes of Jamba Juice, is running a promotion dubbed "Berry Bewitched Summer" around its berry-filled drinks that features a sweepstakes with a trip to a Hollywood premiere as the prize.

To get around the talent issue, the chain is using an image of a man and woman (presumably the movie's Samantha and Darren) riding on a broomstick suspended in air. It's similar to artwork being used to tout the film, but the Robek's shots show the man and woman only from the waist down. It looks enough like the movie's ads that an observer would assume it's Ms. Kidman and Mr. Ferrell.

Macy's is selling a "Bewitched"-inspired T-shirt that gives consumers a movie ticket with purchase. A contest gives away a VW Beetle convertible like the one in the movie. To skirt the talent issue, the retailer's shirt uses an animated image from the classic TV show with the slogan, "I Am a Witch," and flying broomstick imagery similar to Robek's campaign.

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