Marketers latch on to 'The Incredibles'

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Production of the Disney/Pixar movie "The Incredibles" has included more cross-promotional custom animation for marketing partners than any of the company's past feature-length cartoons, according to Walt Disney Co. executives.

Partners such as Procter & Gamble Co., McDonald's Corp. and SBC Communications will all use meaty segments of custom animation of the Incredibles, a family of superheroes, in their myriad media campaigns.

For instance, in an SBC TV spot slated to air later this month, the young Dash Incredible, a child superhero with lightning-quick reflexes, tries to download an image of the Great Wall of China for a homework assignment but is quickly frustrated with his slow Internet connection. He zips out of his house, across continents and oceans and eventually snaps his own photo. The spot then touts the SBC Yahoo DSL service, which presumably would've been faster than Dash.

The tie-in between SBC and "The Incredibles" is the latest example of how Hollywood studios and their marketing partners are cooperating to fashion entertainment bits that more closely align animated characters with a brand message. The characters don't actually touch the brands, but the intercut between the animation and marketing message is so seamless that the characters appear to be product endorsers.

Several studios have joined the custom-animation bandwagon, creating closer links between their movie characters and tie-in brands. DreamWorks SKG did so recently for "Shrek 2" with partners including Dial soap, and continued the trend with Coca-Cola and "Shark Tale," which opens this week. Universal last Christmas linked its "Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat" characters closely with several partners including P&G, while Disney/Pixar did the same last summer with McDonald's and "Finding Nemo."

For SBC, this is its first feature-film tie-in, and the marketer will promote services such as wireless, high-speed Internet connections and other communications products. Each service will be linked to an Incredible character; for instance, teenage Violet will be associated with teen-skewing wireless services.


"We saw this as a great way to use the family members as metaphors for our products," said Michael Grasso, executive director of offer management at SBC. "This allows us to personify our products in so many different ways."

While there is generally no product placement in animated films, what the tie-in brands are now getting is the next best thing, as they link their message with the central movie characters.

"It's incumbent on us to make promotions entertaining-the consumer demands it," said Brett Dicker, exec VP-marketing at Buena Vista Pictures. "These spots match the attributes of the character to the attributes of the brand in a smart, fresh way."

For "The Incredibles," P&G will promote a stable of brands, including Tide, Swiffer, Downey and Bounce, using Mrs. Incredible as the prototype of a multitasking supermom. In one spot, Mrs. Incredible shows off her ability to juggle everyday chores while fighting bad guys. P&G will use a "mom to the rescue" tagline.

"The Incredibles" opens Nov. 5, and brand partners will hype it from October through the end of the year with an estimated $60 million in TV ads alone. Partners-including Kellogg Co., Safeway supermarkets, Hollywood Video, Toys "R" Us and numerous licensing companies- also will tout the film through print, outdoor, online, direct mail, in-store and other media.

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