February 8, 2006

A ‘Curious’ promo strategy for monkey cartoon

By Gail Schiller

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In a rare move for an
animated film, Universal Pictures' "Curious George" has
integrated Volkswagen, Dole bananas and the U.S. Postal Service
into the movie, which opens Friday.

While many animated movies depict fantastical worlds that
don't usually lend themselves to real-world product placements,
"Curious George," with its realistic city setting, was an ideal
film for product placement, said Stephanie Sperber, executive
vp partnerships at Universal Studios.

"It really is hard to do placements in animated movies,"
Sperber said. "But the way 'Curious George' was written
provided a few key scenes that were appropriate for Volkswagen
and Dole. 'Curious George' is not a fantasy with a capital 'F.'
It takes place close to the real world, so it does lend itself
to product placement more than most animated movies."

The two- to three-year lead time usually needed for
animated films frequently hinders advertisers from partnering
with animated fare because their marketing plans and even their
products could change by the time the movie comes out. Release
dates also tend to shift more with animated fare than with
live-action movies, creating yet another obstacle for brands
that need to time their marketing plans to a movie's opening.

Advertisers also need to be willing to allow their products
to be shaped and styled to fit the animated style of a
particular movie. Sperber said the fact that "Curious George"
is such a well-known and beloved property made it easier for
advertisers to tie into the movie so far in advance.

In "Curious George," the Man in the Yellow Hat drives a
Volkswagen Touareg based on a real-world design of a Touareg
concept vehicle. "We took the Touareg and adapted that car
design to suit the needs of the film," Sperber said, noting
that the filmmakers needed a pickup truck-type vehicle that
could carry George and his so-called magnificator device.

Volkswagen is not promoting "Curious George" but might
partner with the movie's DVD release, Sperber said.

For its part, Dole, which is promoting the movie with
"Curious George" stickers placed on 100 million bananas in
grocery stores nationwide, has its logo depicted on numerous
fruit and vegetable crates during two scenes.

A U.S. Postal Service mailman and mailbox also are depicted
in the movie. The USPS licensed "Curious George" for its
Favorite Children's Book Animals commemorative postage stamp
pane but is not a promotional partner for the movie.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter