BK falls back on contigency plan

All the talk about Burger King’s “Small Soldiers” promotion will most likely end up moving product beyond expectations.

Even Burger King spokeswoman Kimberly Miller was willing to admit, “Whenever a dialogue is ongoing, it makes its subject ‘top of mind.’ ”

By those standards, the “surprise” PG-13 — rather than a PG — rating given “Small Soldiers” by the MPAA, followed by the scramble by Burger King to protect a licensing investment described by one insider as being “at the level of ‘Lost World,’ ” led to a surprising amount of media coverage.

Not that Burger King or DreamWorks, which released “Small Soldiers” with Universal, intended things to work out that way.

As Brad Globe, who oversees licensing for DreamWorks, told Daily Variety: “A PG rating was our expectation last year when we started working from the script. But as production got underway, and we recognized the possibility of losing the rating, we brought Burger King in and showed them footage.”

The result was a contingency plan that eight weeks ago suddenly became Plan A. Its highlights are:

  • Two new commercial executions, courtesy of lead BK agency Ammirati Puris Lintas, that aim older. One advertises the 99-cent “Rodeo Cheeseburger,” described by BK as having an “adult” taste, while the other features premiums from the movie, although in a way that appeals to 10-to-12-year-olds instead of the originally targeted 2-to-8 set.

  • A revised media buy, where funds earmarked for the promotion are being shifted out of kids programs (Saturday morning cartoons) and to the sort of shows kids watch with parents.

  • An extension of Burger King’s “Have It Your Way” campaign, with child appeal in mind, to place on those kid programs for which BK originally bought “Small Soldiers” time and can’t, or won’t, exchange.

    “This is the first time we’ve directed ‘Have It Your Way’ to kids,” Miller said, “and we’re extremely happy by the way it turned out.”

  • Finally, a ubiquitous placement of warning signs, which, in addition to offering such replacement toys as “Mr. Potato Head” and other left-over movie merchandise, warns parents that the 12 toys being offered throughout “Small Soldiers’ ” six-week promotion are based on a movie that “may contain material that is inappropriate for younger children.”

Such last-minute glitches go hand-in-hand with movie merchandising — so much so that neither Burger King nor Dream-Works seemed uneasy by the turn of events.

Indeed, the biggest surprise may be that success follows notoriety — even when dealing with campaigns literally of the Kids Club league.

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