How a Son of Springfield Made a Splash in Europe

Ivan Pollard From London

By Published on .

This month, all across Europe, one of the most respected and esteemed leaders of your country has been making his presence felt on the political stage. A man of insight, wisdom, compassion and traditional values, he is one of those products of the American way of life that makes us look wistfully across the Atlantic.

This profound leader is none other than Homer J. Simpson. There are many things we can learn from this celebrated son of Springfield, but the one that is most salient is the way he has marketed his first movie.
Ivan Pollard
Ivan Pollard is a partner at Naked Communications, a communications-strategy shop with offices in six countries.

Millions of dollars in investment and a narrow window for a successful launch -- now, that is pressure, and yet studios always seem to find innovative ways to market.

In the U.K., we saw the standard movie-marketing fare -- big billboards, trailers, bus ads, etc. But it was the "special stuff" that made you believe we could learn a thing or two. For example:
  • The film partnered with NestlĂ© to produce a "yellow" Kit-Kat chocolate bar with the whole Willy Wonka thing going on. It's been done before, but the way Homer was used was a delight.

  • In the "Simpsons" avatar creator, the film had a hugely successful online application plugged in to social networking. More than 50,000 people have registered and played in the U.K.

  • The film generated huge PR by pitting one crude, old-fashioned man against another, chalking an enormous Homer next to the ancient hill engraving at Cerne Abbas in Dorset, England.

  • A kids' TV commercial exhorts every British youngster not to be the only one going back to school who has not yet seen the movie.
OK, it's an interesting product -- Homer beats homeopathy anytime -- but the filmmakers still make the most out of it. And the results? To date, the movie has taken $174 million in the U.S. and a whopping $68 million in the U.K. -- a huge result in a country one-fifth the size.

Visit Wikipedia, and you will find this line in Homer's entry: "Although he is gluttonous, lazy and often simple-minded, he has displayed flashes of brilliance and an integrity reflecting his own values." The same could be said of the way Fox marketed the movie across Europe -- apart from the first bit of the sentence. D'oh!
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