How DreamWorks Set the Movie Marketing Pace with Shrek
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Shrek: A Marketing Masterpiece
by Joe Tracy, Publisher of Digital Media FX Magazine

Part of the success of any movie is how well that movie is marketed and how early the marketing begins in order to build anticipation.

If movie marketing was a grade on a report card then DreamWorks would easily receive an A+ for Shrek. If it was rated on a scale of 1 to 10, DreamWorks would receive a 12.

The Art of Marketing an Animated Movie
With Shrek, DreamWorks is bringing back the art of marketing an animated movie. Here are a few primary examples:

1) DreamWorks is courting online journalists. In March, DreamWorks began inviting online journalists, and Webmasters of fan sites, to private screenings of Shrek where no more than 12 Internet journalists would view Shrek then have a candid discussion with Jeffrey Katzenberg following the viewing. This drummed up support for Internet journalists to cover Shrek with articles popping up left and right. Unfortunately, DreamWorks somehow missed us (Digital Media FX) in the process even though Digital Media FX is one of the largest award-winning online publications for animation enthusiasts.

"During Mid-March, I flew down to L.A. to the DreamWorks invited test screening of Shrek which is the best animated feature I have ever seen," says Jawad Mir who creates fan sites for DreamWorks pictures, including a Shrek site. "DreamWorks' marketing machine is truly brilliant. I have been covering their films ever since they started back in 1997 and can easily say that they only get better. And with Shrek they went above and beyond as they invited online journalists, including myself, to attend the test screening. A month before they invited 12 selective online journalists, including myself, for behind the scene look at PDI, but due to plane problems, my L.A. correspondent couldn't make it."

2) DreamWorks has been sending the press little trinkets that peak interest and get a good laugh. For example, early last month, DreamWorks sent to select press hundreds of bottles of "Shrek Beauty Mud Mask Cream." The bottle states, "Fresh From the Swamp of Shrek - Use Nightly for Amazing Results." You open the bottle and there is some sort of muddy green cream inside. The top of the bottle simply says "In Theaters May 18". Curious journalists who actually fully opened the box would find a message, almost hidden, attached to the inside of the box that says, "As SHREK prepares for his big-screen debut on May 18th, he wants to share some of the beauty secrets that have made him the film industry's newest leading man. For that flawless ogre complexion, Shrek recommends his GREEN MUD SCRUB fresh from his very own swamp.

3) DreamWorks made sure that Shrek was the talk of several different major tradeshows like the annual Toy Fair (where it introduced several Shrek action figures and showed off a movie trailer for the film) and ShoWest, where screenings were held and press were able to meet with Mike Myers standing by a life-size Shrek figure. McFarlane Toys is offering dozens of Shrek figures and play sets that come in different sizes with different features (i.e. some include sound effects and play action).

"Shrek is the biggest marketing campaign ever undertaken by DreamWorks," Brad Globe, head of DreamWorks Consumer Products. It shows. And I haven't even touched on the dozens of licensing agreements, tie-ins, and the Shrek movie trailers, including a behind-the-scenes teaser.

Early on in DreamWorks existence, the company appeared to be anti-Internet. It wouldn't build its own Websites for movies (companies like and Reel paid for that honor) and it didn't use the Internet to its fullest potential. DreamWorks is more than making up for lost time by now setting the pace in both online and offline movie marketing. DreamWorks is getting journalists excited about covering its film and audiences excited about seeing it. That's not an easy task.

Ice Cream and Charity
One of the most successful marketing and public relations events associated with Shrek was a DreamWorks partnership with Baskin-Robbins to give away free scoops of Shrek ice cream with donations being made to charity for each scoop served. Supported with print and TV advertising, the campaign was a great success on May 3 when millions of scoops of Baskin-Robbins Shrek ice cream was served to people waiting in long lines (going out the door and down sidewalks in most cases) for their opportunity to get something for free while helping charity at the same time. It was also a great launch to Baskin-Robbins new Shrek flavors of ice cream that will continue to be served throughout Shrek's theatrical run. The event also brought some great news publicity since it helped charity in the process.

Beyond Publicity - The Release Date
Marketing goes beyond publicity. Part of marketing is the proper selection of a release date and once again DreamWorks came through with flying colors. Shrek will open on May 18, 2001 with no competition (except for an R rated film by Warner Bros. called Angel Eyes, which is getting very little coverage). The Mummy Returns will have already been in theaters for two weeks and Pearl Harbor will still be a week away. This gives Shrek an entire week of being almost all alone as the "must see movie." When Pearl Harbor opens a week later (with no competition), Shrek will also enjoy the benefits of the Holiday weekend. It will have several weeks of playtime before the main competition hits on June 15 with Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Tomb Raider, both which will take a chunk out of the Shrek audience, but only after the film has been racking up money in theaters for nearly a month.

Now take a look at the placement of Disney's animated Atlantis. It is being released on the exact same day as Tomb Raider, which will create a large audience divide, cutting into its audience potential. A week later, Dr. Doolittle 2 hits followed by A.I. the following week and Cats & Dogs after that. Each week, Atlantis will see fewer screens because of the major summer competition and each week it will still be playing against Tomb Raider.

Creating an Event
From positioning to building an anticipation, DreamWorks is slowly turning Shrek into an "event" versus just a movie. And they did this with one strike against them. That strike is studies which show that PG animated films do much poorer than G rated animated films. Shrek is rated PG. Recent animated movies like Titan A.E. and The Iron Giant bombed with PG ratings.

So what is the difference with Shrek? DreamWorks is reaching beyond families with small children (or teenage boys as was the case with Titan AE) through its parody on fairy tales that everyone grew up with. Even elderly people can enjoy Shrek along with their younger neighbors. Shrek spans generations while not hiding the fact that it is a comedy that is sometimes irreverent.

An Early Start is Vital
One of the keys to DreamWorks marketing success with Shrek is that the company started early - years ago - mapping out the marketing strategy and securing tie-ins. Contrast this Warner Bros. which did virtually no marketing of the highly acclaimed The Iron Giant animated movie until it was too late. No anticipation had been built and marketing efforts were thrown together too quickly.

There's a lot other movie studios can learn from DreamWorks marketing of Shrek. Here's the short list:

1) The Internet is your friend. Fans are your allies. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

2) The right release date can be the difference between a $7 million opening or a $17 million opening.

3) Get press enthusiastic about your product. Peak their interest and get them investigating.

4) Build anticipation early through teasers. Remember the masterful job that Jurassic Park did in building audience anticipation? It released little tidbits very early on and slowly ramped its marketing effort up with the anticipation level. This is genius movie marketing.

will likely succeed beyond many people's expectations because of the marketing efforts that have built such a strong interest that even many news publications are calling Shrek "one of the most anticipated movies of the summer." Kudos to DreamWorks for a job well done.

Joe Tracy is the publisher of Digital Media FX Magazine and the author of the critically acclaimed Web Marketing Applied book. His newest book, Achieving Web Profits is being published in October, 2001. Tracy is also a national speaker on the subject of marketing. His next appearance is in August at the Fourth Annual Pharmaceutical Marketing via the Internet Conference in New Jersey where he will be a featured presenter.



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