Brandweek: Dateline Industry Insights Summit

Return to Newsroom

By Laura Petrecca - July 23, 2007

The Simpsons TV series on Fox is known for its outrageous characters, oddball phrases and unexpected guest stars. It only makes sense, then, that promotions for The Simpsons Movie, which opens Friday, would be in the same offbeat mold.

Hype for the flick has ranged from a blog by fiendish Mr. Burns (owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and the richest man in the Simpsons' home town) to an "official" doughnut in shocking pink.

The promotions from studio 20th Century Fox and partners such as Burger King, 7-Eleven and JetBlue needed to be quirky to stay true to the Simpsons brand, says entertainment marketing expert Mitch Litvak. "The Simpsons have always been offbeat, cool and fun. They've always been something you don't expect."

One stunt was the overnight transformation of 12 North American 7-Eleven stores into Kwik-E-Marts. The Kwik-E-Mart, run by clerk Apu, is Springfield's convenience store.

Signs on the stores now read Kwik-E-Mart. Inside stand life-size cutouts of Apu and Homer and Marge Simpson.

Some store employees are playing supporting roles by wearing "Apu" name tags. Simpson merchandise for sale includes wall clocks and beer-can openers.

But the real star at the Kwik-E-Marts may be the "Sprinklicious" doughnuts, frosted in hot pink and coated with sprinkles. Homer, as any fan of the series knows, loves doughnuts.

The Dallas Kwik-E-Mart is ordering 1,000 Sprinklicious doughnuts a day.

At the Manhattan Kwik-E-Mart recently, customer Shawn Cheng, 24, was pumped for the promotion.
"I love The Simpsons," says the 24-year-old after posing for a picture next to Apu Nahasapeemapetilon (yes, that is his little-known, 18-letter last name).

More Simpsonesque marketing

• Become a Simpson. Burger King last week launched SimpsonizeMe.com, a website where visitors can use a head-shot photo of their choice to create a Simpsons character — adding to the face such Simpson features as yellow-hued skin and Marge-like big, blue hair. Users can use the images to make a computer screensaver or e-mail the pictures to friends. By Friday, 1.4 million photos had been uploaded.

• Bizarre Burns blog. Nuke plant head Mr. Burns has temporarily taken over the blog of David Neeleman, JetBlue's chairman and founder.

"Here's my newest attempt at robbing a man of his livelihood … as I believe I have more efficient ways to run this airline," writes Mr. Burns at jetblue.com/about/ourcompany/flightlog. "I could crush (Neeleman) like an ant."

In a disturbing entry, Mr. Burns talks about his upcoming "colon cleansing."

• The Simpson sofa. About 1,000 movie theaters in the USA and Canada have lobby displays of the Simpsons sitting on their trademark sofa. A spot is left open for moviegoers to plop down next to the life-size figures of Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

Patrons at the AMC Loews theater in Manhattan recently crowded around the sofa and had pictures taken with the dysfunctional family. "It's incredibly popular," says AMC Theatres spokeswoman Melanie Bell.

As a whole, the entertaining marketing has worked, says Forrester Research senior analyst Peter Kim. "People are so into the advertising that they actually seek it out rather than avoid it. You've got people who say, 'Hey, I want to be a part of this.' "

Bart to pagans: Don't have a cow

Well, not everyone wants to join in.

The chapter of the Pagan Federation in Dorset, England, wanted no part of a promotion for the film in Britain. A giant figure of Homer with a doughnut was painted on a Dorset hillside alongside the ancient, possibly Celtic, 180-foot figure known as the Cerne Abbas Giant.

Carved centuries ago into the chalk rock underlying the hillside, the club-wielding naked man is significant to followers of ancient religions and thought by some to have fertility powers.

The federation, which promotes "awareness and acceptance of Paganism," says on its website that the oversized Homer and the commercial use of the revered area "is just plain wrong."

NEW & NOTABLE

A jingle that sticks with you.
To pitch an antibiotic-infused Band-Aid, Johnson & Johnson has revived the contagious "I'm Stuck on Band-Aid" jingle created by ad agency Y&R and introduced in 1975. It ran through 1997 but has been on the shelf since. A new commercial features two painfully cute kids who show off their boo-boos and sing the hard-to-get-out-of-your-head tune with some new twists.

Cosmo makes the brand a buddy.

Blind date going downhill? Don't fret, Cosmopolitan magazine has your back. "Cosmo Fake Calls" is a scripted call-back service that will help damsels in distress ditch a dull date for 99 cents. A rescue request can be made at m.cosmopolitan.com.

Users receive a text message confirming their phone number and then message back when Cosmo should call (five, 15, 30 or 60 minutes — or NOW!) and who the fake call should be from (boyfriend, girlfriend, neighbor, etc.). When the automated caller dials up the would-be escapee, it prompts her with a response — such as, "You're the only person I know who could lock yourself out with no pants on" to pretend she has to leave to rescue a desperate neighbor.

Spritzing for love.

It will be awhile before the Sex and the City movie is out, but in the meantime fans can amuse themselves online with Unilever's weekly "Sprays in the City" animated series.

The "webisodes" feature brand-based characters looking for love, including Spritzy (a flirty Wish-Bone Salad Spritzer) and Spraychel (an I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray) looking for love. Butter's brand marketing manager Javier Martin says the cartoon cast has no direct link with Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals, but embodies the "spirit" of the HBO show.

With dialogue that includes lines such as, "Once you go spray, you never go away," the Ad Team thinks Unilever could easily work in more of its brands, such as its cheesy Knorr Four Cheese pasta sauce.

Cool makeup for a hot day.

Sweltering temps melting your makeup and firing you up? Chill your temper and your products with an IcyBag, a fully insulated makeup bag with a compartment for two freezable gel packs that last up to four hours. The $14.99 bag sells online at icybag.com.

Creator Kathy Cohen came up with the idea five years ago after a makeup meltdown during her outdoor wedding. "I went to reapply my makeup and everything had melted," she says. "I said 'I can't be the only one who has gone through this.' "

And for those who need more than fresh makeup to perk themselves up at a long outdoor wedding, the bags can also keep mini-liquor bottles refreshingly cool.

Coke bubbles up, Sony sinks.

Coca-Cola unseated Sony for the No. 1 slot in the annual Harris Interactive survey of what consumers think are the "best brands." Sony had held the top slot for seven consecutive years.

Playing games with ads.

Four-fifths of gamers notice ads while playing video games, according to a report that ad seller Double Fusion will release today. The group tracked eye movements of 100 video game players.

It also found that promos positioned at a player's eye level fare best. Double Fusion CEO Jonathan Epstein says he hopes to convince more advertisers that video game ads are a good buy. Annual game ad spending currently is about $400 million. It is projected to top $2 billion by 2012, according to research group Parks Associates.