Star Wars: The Phantom advertiser

By: Jason Williams

Star Wars: The Phantom advertiser

After a tidal wave of feature stories, contests, countdowns, posters, Web sites, and reviews leading up to the premiere of “Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace,” the ad revenue for newspapers was an anticlimatic undertow.
“In some respects, we shot our own selves in the foot. News, TV, radio, no body really received a lot of advertising [for the movie],” says Dennis Lloyd, arts/entertainment advertising manager for The Boston Globe. Lloyd says they even suggested to Fox – the promotional gatekeeper for Lucasfilms – an idea for a 3-D display ad but were turned down.
The “thrust of their marketing campaign” would be to women’s magazines, Lloyd says Lucas’ camp told him, trying to capture a market not already sold on “Star Wars.” Most newspaper advertisements were 2×10 or quarter page display ads, in contrast to competing movies like “The Mummy,” which ran two full-pages in several newspapers. Lucas didn’t have to advertise, Lloyd says, in part because of the months of coverage newspapers devoted to “Star Wars.”
In fact, Competitive Media Reports, a New York-based company that monitors media advertising, says there was absolutely no Star Wars advertising in newspapers in April. May statistics are unavailable.
Rusty Anglin, entertainment ad manager for the Chicago Tribune, places less emphasis on the editorial push of “Star Wars” but admits that the media hype led to lower expectations for the film’s advertising.
“Fewer films are going up against ‘Star Wars,'” adds Anglin, which, along with the tremendous amount of coverage, would have lessened the need to advertise. “All of Hollywood is very conscious of how to market movies.”
Sherry Jaffe, sales executive in the movie category at the Tribune says that “Star Wars” has potential staying power, though.
“They might advertise for a longer period of time,” says Jaffe, adding that, like “Titanic,” “Star Wars” may still be advertising well into the summer, where competition, and therefore the need to advertise, would increase.
Although the movie lacked direct advertising, Star Wars merchandise inserts, circulars, and ROP ads may have made movie advertisements unnecessary.
“We didn’t get any business that we wouldn’t have gotten anyway,” says Anglin. But stores such as Toys ‘R’ Us, Ames, Barnes & Noble, Crown books, CompUSA, JCPenny, and K-Mart advertised their Star Wars products and collectibles up-front in their ads, sometimes devoting half the insert or tabbed pull-out sections to everything from action figures to toothpaste.
One insert included in over 1,500 newspapers was the Tricon restaurants (Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell) ad, detailing the promotional instant-win contest called “Defeat the Dark Side and Win” and containing coupons to the three franchises. Prizes included a Star Wars Speeder hovercraft, a 1999 Lincoln Navigator, or a $10,000 Visa shopping spree to “Star Wars” games and books or free food from the three restaurants.
Handling the print promotion for the insert was Valassis Communications Inc. of Livonia, Mich. Valassis used its database of over 12,000 newspapers to match the Tricon restaurant locations with area newspapers and spent a reported three and a half million on distribution to newspapers.
“Print promotions continue to be the best way for companies like Tricon to make a lasting impression on consumers,” says Tim Garvey, account executive for Valassis.
Barnes & Noble’s Star Wars-themed display ads featured six Star Wars books, including Star Wars dictionaries, sticker books, and spacecraft blueprints, their stores are selling, with the words “Star Wars: The Adventure Continues.”
“This has been a very big book for us,” says Debra Williams, director of corporate communications, in reference to the novel based on the movie, which has been on their best-seller list since May 3.
?(Editor & Publisher Web [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher May 29, 1999) [Caption]

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