'Happy Feet' lands promo partners

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NEW YORK -- Warner Bros. has lined up 10 promotional partners for "Happy Feet," including Comcast, Sears, Burger King, General Mills and Roche -- the first pharmaceutical company believed to ever tie in with a movie property.

The marketing and promotional support from the 10 U.S. partners and another 50 or so global advertisers is valued at over $150 million for Warners' latest animated fare, which opened Friday and stars Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman.

For its tie-in, Roche launched a national TV, print, online, in-theater and in-airport ad campaign called "Flu Facts" featuring the "Happy Feet" characters. It delivers educational messages about influenza prevention and treatment and directs consumers to a new Web site, www.fluFacts.com. Even though the campaign is not branded, the Web site contains a link to information on Roche's anti-viral medication Tamiflu.

"Happy Feet presents a wholesome storyline in a wintry backdrop that serves as an ideal platform for communicating to consumers, especially moms, about the flu," said Mike McGuire, vp anti-infectives for Roche. "The Flu Facts campaign represents a new approach for the industry, combining disease awareness and education with pop culture and creativity."

Roche spokesperson Terry Hurley said the company, based in Basel, Switzerland, was looking for a "way to break through the clutter to grab consumer attention about the seriousness of the flu."

The Roche campaign triggered criticism from a Harvard Medical School professor, who suggested in remarks published in the Boston Globe that it was irresponsible to use up supplies of Tamiflu, which plays a key role in the nation's planned defense against an avian flu outbreak. The professor, Dr. Jerry Avorn, also warned that the drug could be less effective against avian flu if its use becomes widespread and Americans build up resistance to the antiviral treatment.

"We have ample supply," Roche's Hurley said. "We increased manufacturing significantly over the past two years and have the capability now to produce 400 million treatment courses annually, 80 million of which can be manufactured in the U.S. Tamiflu is an effective medication for flu and resistance has been minimal. The drug has been used extensively in Japan by more than 31 million people with hardly any resistance."

Despite the bit of controversy over the partnership, Warners said Roche was not only helping promote "Happy Feet" through its massive media campaign but also by distributing movie-themed content in medical offices and schools. "They're getting us into channels that we typically would not be able to get ourselves into," said Gaetano Mastropasqua, senior vp corporate global promotions and partner relations for Warner Bros.

Another unique promotional tie-in is Comcast's offer of free, exclusive on-demand "Happy Feet" content to its subscribers, Mastropasqua said. "I don't know of another cable company that has done a promotion on the scope of what they're doing with 'Happy Feet.'" The offer of on-demand trailers, clips and original content such as Spanish lessons with the Adelies penguins and a tap dancing lesson with Savion Glover -- whose tap dancing skills were depicted in the film using motion capture technology -- is being supported by broadcast and cable ads.

In yet another unusual tie-in, Blockbuster is promoting the film during the theatrical window, selling "Happy Feet" licensed product and the movie soundtrack, featuring clips from the movie on in-store monitors, running print and online ads and offering customers a movie-related sweepstakes.

For its part, Burger King is offering a kids meal but also targeting adults with its ad campaign. Sears' promotion revolves around a movie ticket offer and is supported by a national ad campaign. General Mills is promoting the movie through 13 different brand tie-ins.

Seventeen Taubman Malls around the country will feature giant snow globes depicting scenes from the movie, along with video and interactive elements.

Other partners include Pepperidge Farm, Doubletree Hotels and Color Me Mine. Of all 10 partners, only Sears and Comcast featured custom animation in their spots.
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