GM’s GTO in ‘XXX’ driver’s seat

Automakers driven to put their cars in pix

General Motors’ Pontiac division has inked a deal with Revolution Studios to promote the spy thriller “XXX” and is negotiating to make its new redesigned GTO a co-star in the sequel.

A 1967 edition of the original supercharged muscle car receives considerable screen time in “XXX” as star Vin Diesel’s primary mode of transportation. No deal with GM had been arranged when the pic was written or produced. Pic bows Aug. 9 and is being distribbed by Sony.

After seeing trailers for the film, Pontiac execs quickly approached Revolution, with the help of entertainment media consultant Michael Kassan and agency Norm Marshall & Associates, to build a campaign around the pic as a way to make the new GTO appealing to younger buyers when it hits dealerships in late 2003 as a 2004 model. Pontiac sold the original GTOs from 1964-74.

“The reason that the Pontiac GTO works so well in “XXX’ is that the creative process guided the relationship between the two companies as opposed to the relationship guiding the creative process,” said Revolution partner Tom Sherak.

The choice of the car was based around Diesel’s character, an extreme sports star who is recruited to become a secret agent. It’s also a favorite of Revolution partner and classic car buff Todd Garner.

Pontiac and Revolution already have launched a print and online sweepstakes that offers consumers a chance to win a trip to meet Diesel at NASCAR’s Daytona 500 race in 2003. Diesel will drive the new GTO as the pace car at the Daytona 500.

But Pontiac is betting heavily on a major presence in the “XXX” sequel, which is being prepped for summer 2004 release and reteams Diesel with helmer Rob Cohen (behind car racing actioner “The Fast and the Furious”). The inclusion of the car would make Pontiac an even bigger promotional partner, contributing millions to Revolution’s marketing coffers for the pic.

Where it has been a given that a fast-food chain will help sell a film, Hollywood is increasingly relying on automakers to not only provide production resources such as vehicles, but also millions in additional marketing dollars to help promote tentpole pics.

“Cars are one of the easiest product integrations that exist,” Kassan said. “People need cars and productions utilize cars. It’s not a reach. It’s not like a character holding a Coke can. It’s a way for a car to resonate with a character and convey a message.”

Cars are the stars

This summer alone has seen Mercedes appear front and center in Col’s “Men in Black II,” BMW’s new Mini Cooper make a cameo in New Line’s “Austin Powers in Goldmember” and a futuristic Lexus appears in Fox’s “Minority Report.”

General Motors is the largest ad buyer in the country and is expected to help expand the reach of the $30 million Col has earmarked to promote “XXX” with its own dollars.

Other automakers go one step further.

Considering the attention that the previous cars have received in MGM’s James Bond pics, Ford-owned Aston Martin spent tens of millions to outbid BMW last year to return to upcoming pics in the franchise — providing not only cars for productions, but also additional funds to off-set shooting budgets and buy its way into becoming a promotional partner. Its new $228,000 Vanquish sports coupe will appear, complete with gadgets, in November’s “Die Another Day.”

Revolution isn’t done looking at cars. The studio is auditioning wheels to appear as the talking Kit in its upcoming “Knight Rider” pic.

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