"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 15 May 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Mission Implausible


[Impossible Mac]

In a country where carbonated

beverages are romanticized more

than marriage, far-fetched

marketing schemes hardly

register on the absurdity radar.

But Apple's recent cross-promotional

campaign with Paramount

Pictures has all the subtlety of

a radio wristwatch or a

self-destructing tape player.

Apple TV ads now feature a

"Mission Impossible" theme,

including clips from the movie

and the slogan: "After you see

the movie, why not pick up the

Book?" The Power Book, get it?



While arbitrarily linking a

Hollywood movie and a

floundering high-tech company

might, indeed, seem like an

impossible mission, the

perceived ridiculousness of such

tie-in promotions fades as their

pervasiveness increases.

Suddenly it seems that almost

any two products can become

bedfellows, no matter how odd

the couple.


[Bond Car]

Take Travelodge, a company which

has reportedly experienced a

10-15 percent annual growth rate

since using tie-in promotions,

including one cross-promotion

with Paramount Pictures' "Congo"

and Citgo gasoline. BMW's

tie-in with "Goldeneye" was

perhaps a bit more appropriate -

even though Bond usually drives

an Aston Martin. Then there's

Hewlett-Packard, cross-promoting

with Disney Interactive, or

McDonald's, cross-promoting with

every Hollywood blockbuster for

the family - though we still

expect nicotine patches to start

showing up in "Happy Hour Meals,"

now that the clown's all grown



[Customer Showcase]

Naturally, the Web is a swirling

sea of cross promotions - it's

just so easy to do. Link

trading, listing search engines,

listing news services, listing

the coffee the webmaster

drinks... It's an orgy, where

everyone's turned on but no

one's getting laid.


[Starbucks Coffee]

Starbucks, on the other hand,

seems to be getting a piece of

everybody, including real estate

in Barnes & Noble, American

Express commercials, and service

on United Airlines. While it's

hard to believe anyone cares

that much about a hill of

(coffee) beans, let's keep in

mind that it's the brand, not

the product, that matters, and

the brand is all about eliciting

positive associations. When

you're squished into a tiny

airplane seat, with a sluggy egg

loaf perched ominously in front

of you, that Starbucks' cup

might just bring to mind a sunny

afternoon on a shop-lined

street, where you bought that

fabulous blue silk Ann Taylor

that you wore to Gigi's last

cocktail party... Suddenly the

skies seem just a little

friendlier. Or trendier, anyway.



But the skies can't get much

friendlier, as long as airlines

are teaming up with just about

anyone in their frequent

flyer programs, offering deals

on rental cars, credit cards, hotels,

florists, long-distance phone

services... Since every purchase

leaves consumers feeling like

they've accomplished something,

like they're "saving" for a

vacation, no less, the

popularity of such programs

isn't hard to grasp. "All I have

to do is charge $3,000 more on

my American Advantage Miles Visa,

and we're off to Club

Med!" In the world of marketing

promotions, that's a win-win

situation equivalent to landing

The Pope as your celebrity



[Johnny Depp]

Of course, celebrity endorsements

are just another form of

cross-promotion, as stars

are essentially promoting

themselves as products along

with the product or service they

represent. Once you recognize

that such endorsements can help

to improve celebs' careers by

giving them visibility they

might not find elsewhere, it's

hard not to scrutinize stars'

moves for hidden agendas - maybe

Johnny Depp's "Winona Forever"

tattoo wasn't true love at all,

but a cross-promotional scheme

dreamt up by their managers.


[Shell Motorsports]

Tie-ins are consistently

successful, and we can hope to

see many, many more. Says Caryn

Crump, Shell brand positioning

manager, who recently announced

a promotion with motorsports

sponsorships: "We want to start

having a continuous Shell

message in the marketplace,

continuously offering promotions

and events and reasons for

consumers to keep coming back."

So the reasons for coming back

are not the product itself, but

instead the promotions and

events - sort of like going to

the prom dateless, just for the

petit fours. (A shudder of

familiarity overcomes us... )



When you consider all the

possibilities, you realize that

never before has it been easier

to be a marketing executive -

just spin the product wheel, and

pick 2 - 4 from the following

list: a model, an actress, a

fictional character on a sitcom,

a cartoon, a beverage, a

fast food, a perfume, an

airline, a retail clothing store,

a Hollywood blockbuster, a video

store, a "high tech" or "cutting

edge" company. The cycle

continues endlessly, with

Internet service providers

marketing with sodas and

breakfast cereals, perfume

tie-ins with romantic comedies,

record companies cross-promoting

with Cheez Whiz.



Soon it's impossible to tell the

promoters from the promoted -

choices begin to seem organic.

What other soft drink would our

friends on Friends drink but

Diet Coke? They're hot, they're

slender, they wear Levi's (isn't

a girl wearing Levi's in one of

those Classic Coke

commercials?), and when they're

not drinking Diet Coke they're

drinking milk. And getting it

all over their upper lips, which

is really pretty disgusting.


[Michael Jordan]

And if they drive cars, they're

probably Miatas. And if they

wear T-shirts with little

pockets, they're probably from

The Gap. And if they wear sneakers,

they're probably Airwalks.

And if they had an NBA

star on the show, it would

probably be Michael Jordan,

except he'd be wearing a Hanes

pocket T and Nikes. So there

might be a fight, which would be

on Pay-Per-View, unless that

violates Jordan's contract,

since NBC is covering the NBA.

But before the fight, they'd

have to play Paula Abdul, since

she thinks Coke is It, and so do

the Friends, except that Paula

was once a Laker's Girl...



Given the endless conflicts these

cross-promotions create, the

formation of various competing

consumer groups or parties seems

inevitable, in which each

demographic has a number of

lifestyle packages to choose

from: will you be a Pottery

Barn-Victoria's Secret-Virgin

Records-Heineken Frequent Buyer,

or would you prefer to be a

Crate & Barrel-Frederick's-Tower

Records-Guinness Consumer Club




Fact is, there are so many other

promotional opportunities as

plain as the clogged pores on

your Sara Lee-snarfing face. We

imagine trading in 40 lids from

pints of Ben & Jerry's for one

free week at Nautilus. Every

50th case of Bud could earn us one

free month at the Betty Ford

Clinic. And that 200th carton of

Salem Lights? Perhaps it would be

worth a coupon for $200 off a

plot at the local boneyard, for

the rapidly-approaching time when

we're no longer "alive with


courtesy of Polly Esther