Entertainment Marketers 2008

Entertainment Marketers 2008: Tony Sella and Pam Levine

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Previous: Howard Ganz
With 400 episodes on the tube, "The Simpsons'" strength as a show was also its fundamental weakness as a feature film.

"One of the biggest brands in the world!" cries Tony Sella, 20th Century Fox's co-president of marketing, pausing to lament in a disgusted deadpan, "And you can see it for free."
Selected for:
'The Simpsons Movie'
  • Reached out to all who fell away as well as current fans
  • Three-part "pulse campaign" drives $526 million gross worldwide
  • Sweet deal with 7-Eleven juices doughnut sales

Besides being tasked with selling a product that can be viewed for free at any hour of the day somewhere on the planet, he had to deal with the matter of "The Simpsons'" audience: In the past 21 years, it has changed, fragmented, re-formed and changed again so many times that Mr. Sella wondered: Just who the hell was it?

His goal was to mount a massive in-gathering of the faithful, along with "Simpsons" exiles -- those who had grown up watching the show but quit over the years because they'd started families, gotten jobs or just plain lost interest.

Mr. Sella, along with his partner, Co-President-Marketing Pam Levine, decided that a traditional six-month marketing plan just wouldn't work. Instead, a three-part "pulse campaign" was needed: In November 2006, "Feed the fans." Then in February 2007, "Broaden the scope." And just before the opening of "The Simpsons Movie" last July, "The worldwide push."

Surreal retail
A clever promotion that transformed a handful of 7-Eleven stores into Kwik-E-Marts generated reams of press coverage, as local Fox affiliates dutifully filmed convenience-store customers buying "real" "Simpsons" staples such as Squishees and Duff energy drinks. Promotion of such fare as Homer-favorite Sprinklicious doughnuts helped boost fresh-baked-goods sales sevenfold.

And while you don't have to be a sociologist to know that Homer, Bart et al. reflect American suburban life, it took special insight to realize that people would be even more curious now to see how Springfield reflected their lives.

A partnership with Burger King Corp. led to "The Simpsonizer," a microsite that showed fans how they would look in the Simpsons' world.

The result was an online phenomenon at almost as impressive as the movie's $526 million worldwide gross. By the time Homer hit the big screen, the widget had welcomed 600 million visitors, with 29 million photos uploaded.
Previous: Howard Ganz
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