Chrysler revamps Harry Potter campaign

COMMENT
Marty Bernstein is an advertising consultant and has worked on auto accounts at Campbell-Ewald and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles

Last month, the Chrysler group sent a media release regarding a promotional program that was linked to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the movie based on J.K. Rowling's first book in the international best-selling series.

All customers had to do was test drive either a 2002 Chrysler Town & Country or Voyager minivan and they'd be sent a free copy of the Harry Potter audio book that retails for $35.

The promotion, backed with a variety of media components that included theater advertising from Screenvision and National Cinema Network; Web tie-ins; e-mail blasts; and theater slides, commercials and displays, was set to start Nov. 2, two weeks before the movie opened in theaters.

It appeared Chrysler had scored a promotional coup. Based on forecasts by entertainment industry analysts, the Potter movie is destined to be one of the biggest blockbusters ever.

But at the Nov. 5 marketing press briefing for the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep lines, not a word was said about the Potter promotion.

A source close to Chrysler revealed that "the company that sold them the promotion didn't have the rights to sell the promotion."

Warner Bros., a division of AOL Time Warner, is the producer and distributor of the movie, and the parent company has a close relationship with DaimlerChrysler.

The Potter books are published by Random House, and the audio book is produced by Listening Library, both divisions of the media conglomerate.

And last year, DaimlerChrysler said its employees could use AOL's Internet service for only $3 per month.

Something was amiss, but calls to the publishing companies involved were not returned.

In a telephone interview, Jeff Bell, DaimlerChrysler's vice president of marketing communications, explained the situation: "There was no fire; there was an infrastructure problem. The distributor of the audio books, based on overwhelming sales at retail, would be unable to ship the test drivers their Harry Potter audio books reward in a timely manner.

"We changed the promotion. All the original media elements are still in place, but rather than reward test drivers with the audio book, they will receive either four tickets to the Harry Potter movie or a $50 gift certificate from Brookstone."

Actually, this switch from the audio book to four movie tickets or gift certificate might be just as well received by customers as the original promotion.

But I can't help but wonder why the new promotion wasn't reviewed at the media briefing or why a press release wasn't issued regarding the change.

Tags: Chrysler Media

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