SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- The next wave in marketing may be coming
to a theater near you.
The nation's largest advertiser, General Motors Corp., has teamed
up with Sony in a novel effort to gently advertise cars to
in Southfield, Mich., a suburb of Detroit.
It has begun the alliance -- which goes far beyond simply running
ads during the movie previews -- at a new 6,000-seat, 20-screen
theater here called the Star Southfield Entertainment Center, owned
by the Sony Retail Entertainment division.
Marketing experts say the movie house approach is innovative, and,
if it is successful, GM or other advertisers may bring it to other
GM is hoping it has found a way to reach past the clutter of
traditional advertising to woo potential customers during a night
out, instead of counting on television ads to grab their attention
before they channel surf to another station. With potential
customers suffering from media fatigue, "it is incumbent upon us to
find new and fresh ways to engage them," said Phil Guarascio, GM's
general manager of marketing and advertising.
A visit to the new theater complex goes something like this: you
drive to the Star theater in Southfield, where Batman and Robin
at 20-minute intervals on seven screens; you park in the giant
parking lot, and instead of remembering that you parked in the B1
area you memorize that your car is in the Chevy Camaro section. You
walk past the eight new cars and trucks on display near the theater
entrance, and past a model of the latest Batmobile, called the
Once inside, you admire -- or so GM hopes -- the bright red 1997
Corvette parked nearby as you wait to buy tickets. Spotlights swirl
overhead, shining the names of GM divisions along the floor and
-- first Chevrolet, then Saturn, then Cadillac.
Head for the popcorn and you may pass a display showing Elvis with
the Corvette he drove in the movie Clambake. You might stroll down a
wide hallway decorated with scenes from Detroit -- Tiger Stadium,
Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River, the city skyline, and the
longtime headquarters of General Motors.
Settle into your seat and stare at the oversized screen to watch
previews, then watch one last, one-minute video before the movie: a
montage of clips from past movies featuring movie stars with their
cars, followed by the line "GM -- Always a part of the movies that
are a part of your life."
The links between advertisers and entertainment have been growing
closer for years. Companies pay to have sports stadiums and even
stages named after them, they negotiate with studios to have actors
use their products on screen (like the new Mercedes sport utility
vehicle displayed so prominently in The Lost World: Jurassic Park)
and to give away toys with images from movies like Disney's 101
Dalmatians. But industry experts said that they could not recall a
promotion similar to GM's link with the Sony theater.
"What is novel certainly is the idea of doing it at a movie
house," said Clive Chajet, a corporate identity consultant who runs
the Chajet Consultancy in New York. …