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Burger King Corp. this week begins its $25 million marketing push tied to DreamWorks SKG's "Small Soldiers," a self-proclaimed "Big movie" arriving in the wake of other event flicks that delivered less than promised.

BK's promotional assault is backed by two TV spots from Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, and Industrial Light & Magic, which did the film's computer animation.

The first spoofs "A Few Good Men," where Jack Nicholson barks at Tom Cruise, "You can't handle the truth!" In the commercial, a toy soldier tells a slick lawyer that he can't handle Burger King's new Rodeo cheeseburger.

BK's "Small Soldiers" effort will push the Rodeo cheeseburger value meal to adults and 12 toy premiums from Equity Toys to kids.


By launching a six-week promotion four days before the movie opens on July 10, the burger chain makes itself more dependent on "Small Soldiers" being a hit. That's a risky bet in a summer that's seen made-for-merchandising properties like "Lost in Space" and "Godzilla" not live up to hype, frustrating promotional partners, licensees, retailers and consumers. Often, promotional marketers will break their efforts 10 days to 14 days in advance of a film's opening, leveraging hype and anticipation, thereby protecting themselves against bad reviews and poor box-office performance.

But if any movie this summer screams made-for-merchandising, it's "Small Soldiers," in which toy soldiers and toy monsters do battle in suburbia.

Anne Giangardella, head of marketing and promotions at DreamWorks Consumer Products, said the studio is hoping this movie does well.

"When somebody overpromises, and doesn't deliver, it's not good for the rest of the business. The best thing to do is not hype it too much," she said.

Although the film carries the tagline "Big movie"-justified as an ironic play on "Small Soldiers"-DreamWorks has been quite strategic in its marketing efforts.

For months, the studio has been targeting trendsetting teens, with TV spots on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and outfitting extreme-sports athletes. Coca-Cola Co. told teens back in March via direct mail to phone in after June 1 to register for a free screening and received more than 10,000 calls.

Bus shelter ads have focused on individual toy characters; DreamWorks mostly has showcased Chip Hazard and the commando elite, believing the soldier motif puts a more mass audience face on the film, whereas monsters would skew younger.


DreamWorks denied the character-based ads were designed to build equity in the toy line created by Hasbro. Sales already are said to be strong, which is unusual since the commando elite are actually the villains of the film-and toys based on villains traditionally don't sell as well as toys based on heroes.

Brad Globe, head of DreamWorks Consumer Products, said the licensing strategy-Hasbro leads a list of 60 marketers signed to make "Small Soldiers" products-was to underhype and overdeliver.

"Our strategy is to just put the pieces in place, and if the movie is good and it sends people into stores-great," he said.

While the toys are Hasbro's major product introduction for 1998, the bulk of its own "Small Soldiers" marketing will hit in the fourth quarter, timed to the home video release.

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