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By T.L. Stanley - November 9, 2008

In the churn and burn world of entertainment, fans and marketing partners are always looking for That Next New Thing, preferably attached to a Big Event. Evergreen properties, without high-profile stunts or tentpole films, tend not to generate much heat.
Apparently that just doesn't apply to The Simpsons.

The Fox series, now in its 19th season, just scored its best ratings in five years in the critical 18-49 demographic for its annual Halloween-themed episode. Its 12.5 million viewers overall won the night in the advertiser coveted demo and younger age groups.

And there's a global promotion kicking off this week with Burger King, centered on a Kids Meal, 17 million premiums, custom-created TV, in-store and online media. It will roll out across 58 international territories, including Asia, Europe and South America.

It's rare enough for a marketer to return for multiple hookups with a franchise, and BK's relationship with the yellow animated family from Springfield goes back to the show's early days 16 years ago (10 co-branded programs over that time). It's more unusual, still, to build a worldwide, multidimensional promotion when there's no milestone to latch onto. "There's enough of a halo effect, and the property has such widespread appeal that it's not really necessary to have a movie or DVD release," said Cindy Syracuse, BK's senior director, cultural marketing.

BK, which launched the hugely popular Simpsonize Me online program around The Simpsons Movie in '07, will be the first partner to get its hands on the famous couch gag that leads every Simpsons show.

The fast feeder's ad agency, Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, has created a live-action TV spot that plays off the opening sequence of the series with the family clowning around the living room sofa. Collectible premiums in Kids Meals will follow that theme, snapping together to make a wacky tableau under the tagline, "Hang out with the Simpsons. "The Pitch Agency, L.A., helped create the program.

With the show's consistent track record, consumer products sales that now top $6 billion, popular Simpsons theme park attractions in Hollywood and Orlando, and a movie that raked in $527 million worldwide, Fox can afford to cherry pick its Simpsons partners. "We look for the highest level blue-chip brands and partnerships with a major scope," said Howard Nelson, vp of worldwide promotion at Fox Licensing and Merchandising. "You won't see us doing small brand partnerships for this property."

Fox, which recently re-signed the show's voice talent to new three-year deals, is prepping for the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons to kick off in '09. The TV season is on the cusp of November sweeps, and there's a season 11 DVD recently launched into the market. But those factors didn't drive the current BK deal.

"A partnership like this is designed to create its own excitement," said Elie Dekel, Fox evp, "and to drive business for both of us all over the world." There are efficiencies in recurring partnerships, said Mitch Litvak, president of The L.A. Office, a marketing consultancy. "The Simpsons brand is stronger than a lot of evergreens,"said Litvak. "It has the history, but it's constantly refreshed. It doesn't need a movie or stunt to be attractive. Its value is inherent."