Promotional products in the entertainment industry are no longer limited to Hannah Montana beach towels. Hollywood is finding more and more that, in order to make money off big-budget films, they’ve got to have the swag.
Been in an Urban Outfitters store recently? Partnering with Warner Brothers and director Spike Jonze, for months the store has featured Where the Wild Things Are promotional products in anticipation of the movie’s October 16th release. Hipsters everywhere could shop for slippers, coloring books, t-shirts, keychains, books, CDs, toy figurines, wall art, movie stills, shadow puppets, pillow cushions, dolls, designer clothing, and even a Viewmaster themed after Dave Eggers’ hip-terpretation of the classic children’s storybook. (The Viewmaster reminds me an awful lot of the short-lived television show Wonderfalls, about a Gen-Y sales clerk who hears the voice of God in promotional products, but that’s a story for another day.)
Warner Brothers isn’t the only studio looking to promotional products to save its profits. Hollywood has recently witnessed two major firings: 1) that of Disney’s studio chief, and 2) the sacking of Universal Pictures’ two top chairmen. Disney then hired Rich Ross, who had been the head at Disney Channel, a network famous for spawning young superstars like Miley Cyrus and Hillary Duff. Universal promoted their marketing chief, Adam Fogelson. In both cases the studios opted for people with experience promoting films beyond the box office.
Kim Masters of KCRW’s The Business had this to say about the entertainment industry broadening its marketing efforts:
In the case of Disney, they went with the TV executive who’s not a movie guy, and the idea is brands, brands, brands — sell it across the platforms. Look at High School Musical, sell it as a concert, sell it as a stage thing, sell it as a — any — a t-shirt. You know, that’s the idea that they’re pursuing at Disney.
“Economy, Viewer Habits Transforming Hollywood,” npr.org
Movies failing to make enough money at the box office are old news. But with the popularity of DVR and other technologies, films are now floundering in DVD sales as well. Marketing strategies that worked for High School Musical and other children’s films are starting to look pretty attractive to grown-up movies.
Thus, Where the Wild Things Are throw pillows.
In the case of Urban and Jonze, promotional products are not only marketing a film; they are making profits in and of themselves. And record labels have been doing the same.
What do you think about all this?
a. I hope Pinnacle starts offering promotional products for A Christmas Carol! I really want a Scrooge-shaped shadow puppet lamp to adorn my living room.
b. Ugh. Please don’t Hannah Montana-fy my favorite movies.
c. What’s a Dave Eggers?
d. It’s complicated. (Please elaborate.)
Answer in the comments section! (Until we get a poll installed.)
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