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Advertising Goes Hollywood


Marketers use silver-screen strategies to get you to buy.

Michael Power is Africa's answer to James Bond. Played by British actor/model Cleveland Mitchell, the character starred in the 2003 film Critical Assignment, a hit African film with the tag line "A simple assignment just became a mission."

In that movie, Power attempts to stop corrupt African officials from using money earmarked for fresh water projects to buy illegal weapons. Despite the hackneyed premise, the combination of action, explosions, and femme fatales made it Africa's most popular (and expensive) beer commercial ever.

That's right - it's a beer commercial.

Critical Assignment was the culmination of a hugely successful ad campaign for Guinness Breweries. With parent company Diageo (DEO) at the helm, the series of short films from Guinness Africa, all featuring Michael Power, saw a massive spike in brand recognition and the doubling of sales between 2000 and 2003. The campaign was discontinued in 2006, but American advertisers are now taking a cue from Diageo's branding strategy and using Hollywood marketing to reach consumers.

One of the first large-scale American campaigns to use a similar strategy was the inventive fake movie trailer used last year to promote LG's (LG) new Scarlet series of LCD televisions.

Using explosions, high-speed montages and breathy voiceover, the ad originally looked to be promoting an upcoming TV series. Lensed by Emmy-Award winning director David Nutter, whose work includes the X Files, ER, Supernatural, and Smallville, the commercial shocked a number of TV viewers and bloggers, who had hoped the anticipated series was real.

Despite that disappointment, the campaign proved successful for LG as well as its star, actress Natassia Malthe, who was rumored to have been cast in the sequel to the blockbuster Transformers movie not long after the Scarlet campaign started.

Samsung took those Hollywood production values to a different level entirely when they produced 5 separate fake movie trailers for their Instinct phone. While the subtler LG trailer barely featured the product, each of the 5 Samsung trailers used a different film genre to hail the new handset as "the ultimate product placement."

Using a different film genre in each ad, the horror trailer featured a murderous masked man using the Instinct's voice-activated GPS navigation to track down his victims while the romantic date movie trailer starred a cynical woman wondering aloud why men couldn't be more like the Instinct. The ads helped the phone become Best Buy's best-selling handset.

So why the sudden reliance on the movie-trailer format? For one thing, Tivo (TVO) recently found that, while viewers fast-forwarded through most commercials, they tended to actually sit through movie trailers. Fake movie trailers have proven so popular that they've even been used to promote real films, as a popular series of fake trailers did with last year's blockbuster Dreamworks release, Tropic Thunder. even recently launched the first ever International Festival of Fake Film Trailers. The winner, to be named in March, will receive free facility time to make their own film short. With a fake ad for a nonexistent live-action Thundercats movie starring Brad Pitt and Vin Diesel making the rounds online, it could be just the beginning.

For more on innovative product placement, check out Hoofy and Boo's always astute report.

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