'Indiana Jones' and the lover of the big promo

'Crystal Skull' latest Spielberg pic to get billboard play

Steven Spielberg loves billboards.

That's the simple explanation for those giant double-billboard promos for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" throughout Los Angeles as well as the huge Indy messages plastered around all four sides of Madison Square Garden in New York. Paramount mounted a big outdoor-ad campaign last year for the Spielberg-produced "Transformers," and when the studio was strategizing over how to similarly scream "event pic!" in marketing the Spielberg-helmed Indy sequel, the creative hyphenate had just one suggestion: more.

"Steven said, 'I know they always do big billboards in L.A., but let's do them all over,' " said Steve Siskind, executive vp advertising and marketing at Paramount.

That enthusiasm led to the MSG placements adjacent commuter-nexus Penn Station as well as major billboard "dominations" -- that's what the industry calls it when you really "own" a site, Siskind noted -- in Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas and elsewhere. Airports were targeted in several hub markets.

Several Los Angeles sites were selected for their proximity to freeways.

"I guess it's kind of a trains, planes and automobiles strategy," Siskind chuckled.

To make the Los Angeles locations stand out, Paramount went to CBS Outdoor and other vendors of billboard sites it regularly uses throughout the year and asked whether there was a chance of adding adjacent sites to allow one message to run across two billboards. As a result, the studio was able to plaster simple messages impossible to miss.

Paramount execs said they believed it was the first time anyone has employed multiple billboards for a single movie message.

Among the Indy campaign's other splashy L.A. signage is a building under construction at Sunset and Vine laden with film promos on all four sides, and the intersection of Venice and La Cienega boulevards boasts no fewer than eight billboards.

"L.A. in many cases is 10% of our boxoffice," Siskind said. "(So) it's a great market for billboards."

Nationwide, the Indy campaign comprises about 2,000 billboards, wall messages, bus-side promos and other "out of home" messages. Executives wouldn't disclose    p the cost of the campaign. But outdoor advertising on tentpole releases generally cost from $2 million-$4 million, and Siskind said Paramount didn't spend any more than the norm.