MGM spotlights film titles in new branding strategy

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is tearing a page out of TV marketing handbooks to brand its new films.

Commercials for new MGM releases will prominently display the movie's title for the full length of the spot, similar to the way many broadcast and cable networks now feature their logos in the bottom corner of the TV screen during programs.

The spots will appear in letterbox format, which frames the TV screen in black borders to re-create the rectangular shape of a movie screen.

MGM's new "Just the Ticket," which stars Andy Garcia as a ticket scalper, is one of the first films to be promoted via the new commercial format. It will also be used for the upcoming "The Mod Squad," based on the 1970s TV show.

"Audiences are really bombarded with messages, not only film, but television networks, cable networks, and now home video," said Gerry Rich, president of worldwide marketing for MGM Distribution Co., the theatrical division of MGM. "We asked, 'How can we stand out and look a bit different?'"


One veteran Hollywood ad executive said the MGM strategy is a new one for a major studio, and could keep TV viewers from grabbing the remote.

"It's the first time I've seen it," said Craig Murray, president of Craig Murray Productions. "It may give you one less reason to jump to another television show."


Promoting new films is increasingly time sensitive, with opening weekend performance seen as crucial to success.

Weeks before a film opens, producers track audience response to TV spots, theater trailers and outdoor ad campaigns.

Two factors, "intent to see" and "awareness" are seen as accurate indicators of how a movie will perform.

MGM's new process, the studio's Mr. Rich said, "will heighten the awareness level of the title, which is certainly a factor in determining box office success."

MGM hopes the process will distinguish its campaigns from those for rival flicks, which can often look numbingly similar. There's a reason for that. In the movie industry, Hollywood's boutique entertainment shops regularly work on multiple films from different studios at the same time.


"We all go to the same boutiques, and we all have the same look to our advertising," said Mr. Rich. "There is room for innovation."

By doing this MGM believes it will distinguish its ads from those for other studios' films and other entertainment properties, such as TV movies and home videos, thereby letting the viewer know the MGM product is of theatrical movie quality.

For "The Mod Squad," MGM plans a more elaborate identification on spots, with the black border replaced by a late '60s pop art motif.

Copyright March 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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