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Firms find dealing with Cruise a tough mission

May 10, 2006

By Gail Schiller

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – While problems with
A-list Hollywood talent frequently are blamed for the demise of
film tie-ins, Tom Cruise’s new movie turned out to be a true
“Mission: Impossible” for several of the film’s promotional
partners, sources close to the deals contend.

Brands such as Casio and Nokia either had to shelve or
curtail elements of their promotional programs, mostly because
of difficulties winning approvals from Cruise and his C/W
Prods. Casio got stuck with watches that it could not sell in
the United States, while all of Nokia’s print ads were vetoed.

With Cruise both starring in and producing the Paramount
Pictures release, he had an unusual amount of control over
promotional decisions that are usually left more solidly in the
hands of studios.

“Tom Cruise is probably one of the top three movie stars in
the world, and if any movie is going to have challenges with
talent approval, it’s going to be a Tom Cruise movie,” said
Sabrina Ironside, chairman of the board of the Promotion
Marketing Assn. and vp integrated marketing at Fox Home
Entertainment.

Cruise’s producing partner, Paula Wagner, said their
obligation is to make movies rather than commercials.

“The products that are featured in the film are utilized in
creative ways that support the movie, and we have to approve
materials that reflect our creative vision. We stand behind
every decision we made,” she said.

Casio, whose G-Shock watch is worn by Cruise in the film,
manufactured a limited edition “M:I-3″ watch with the movie’s
logo inscribed on the back that it planned to promote and sell
in the U.S. But Casio said that after failing to obtain a
signed contract from Paramount in time to deliver the watches
to retail outlets, it was forced to can its promotion and ship
all the watches back.

“We were hoping to promote the product during the time that
the movie was slated to open, and in order to do a promotion of
that nature, you need approval from the production company, and
we were unable to get that, at least not in time,” said Denise
Ruiz-Cabrera, spokeswoman for Casio Inc., the U.S. subsidiary
of Tokyo-based Casio Computer Co. Ltd.

“I honestly don’t know why we didn’t get the approvals. I
just think the promotion of the movie was being very tightly
controlled and they were being very cautious about affiliating
it with any product.” Ruiz-Cabrera said she did not know how
much money Casio lost because of the U.S. deal falling through.

Casio did manage to get distribution and promotional
agreements signed and approved in time to sell and promote the
watches in certain countries in Europe and Asia.

Sources close to the Nokia deal said the company, which
provided all of the production’s telecommunications needs and
had its phones placed in the film, was able to get C/W approval
for an international TV spot only after a long and arduous
process but never won approval of its print ads. Nokia went
ahead with its promotional plans even after discovering that a
competitor’s products wound up in the movie despite assurances
that Nokia would have placement exclusivity in the
telecommunications category, the sources said. While Nokia
phones appear in the film, the company’s logo is not visible.
Nokia did get approval to use the video from its international
TV spot for online, viral and mobile phone ads and has plans
for more promotional activity around the DVD release.

“We are unable to comment in depth on rumors surrounding
our marketing plans,” a Nokia spokeswoman said. “We do have
some involvement in ‘M:I-3,’ and like any project, there were
some bumps in the road. But suffice it to say we still have
plans around ‘M:I-3,’ particularly around the DVD release, and
look forward to that.”

DHL is the only brand of eight listed as partners on the
official “Mission: Impossible” Web site that is running a major
U.S. ad campaign tied to the film. Other listed partners such
as Foot Locker, Best Buy and XBox said they had no problems
working with Paramount or C/W, but none is implementing a media
campaign.

Entertainment marketers speculated that C/W was not anxious
to have promotional partners nor did it think the film needed
them. However, the film’s North American opening of $47.7
million was judged a disappointment by many box office
observers.

“Cruise/Wagner holds the ‘M:I-3′ brand very close to their
hearts and don’t want to over sully it with corporate
presence,” said Stacy Jones, executive vp at entertainment
marketing agency Creative Entertainment Services.

While DHL insisted that it was very happy with its global
promotion for “M:I-3,” entertainment marketers noted that the
company’s TV spot does not feature a key scene in the movie in
which Cruise is driving a DHL van and that its billboard ad
features no images at all from the film.

“The DHL spot used no digital collateral of DHL in the
movie,” said one brand marketer involved with the film. “They
created a scene to mimic the movie, but it wasn’t from the
movie, and then they tagged ‘M:I-3′ scenes on at the end. The
reason you do a promotion around a movie is to build assets
around a star interacting with your product.”

But DHL corporate advertising manager Dirk Ude claimed that
from the outset DHL and its ad agency wanted the TV spot to
depict a DHL courier parachuting into Hong Kong to deliver a
film reel to underscore the fact that DHL was the official
logistics and shipping partner for the movie.

Ude said it also was DHL’s decision not to incorporate any
images from the film on its billboards and to limit the movie
logo to small print in the right-hand corner of the outdoor
ads. He said DHL wanted the billboards to be consistent with
its 2004 and 2005 outdoor ad campaigns, which also featured
large red type on yellow background. “We are very happy with
this partnership because it’s been very successful for us,” Ude
said. “It’s the first major film promotion we’ve ever done, and
we have gotten so much positive feedback throughout the world.
In the end, we did even more than we planned from the
beginning.”

DHL, which delivered everything needed to produce the movie
at all its locations from Los Angeles to Shanghai to Rome, said
it spent several million dollars on its media campaign in the
U.S. alone. The company declined comment on how much it spent
on shipping costs for the movie or on international media.

But while Cruise may have been difficult for promotional
partners to work with on “M:I-3,” he is by no means alone,
especially among A-list celebrities striving to protect their
image and the possibility of future endorsement deals. Tom
Hanks, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Ben Stiller, Harrison Ford,
Will Smith and Danny DeVito are among the many other top-name
actors known to shun any association with commercial tie-ins.

“Actors can spoil a lot of promotions by refusing to lend
their likeness or refusing to allow footage from a film to be
used in commercials,” said Aaron Gordon, president of
entertainment marketing firm Set Resources Inc. “One of the
first things I do as a marketer is find actors who are easy to
work with.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter


Source: reuters



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