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‘Pirates’ display attracts landlubbers

Five33 marketing a Hot Topic draw

The idea of experiential marketing — the chance for consumers to interact with a product’s marketing campaign — is a good one, but too often winds up looking cheap (think cardboard cutouts) or doesn’t work (defective touchscreens).

For the launch of Disney’s fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which sets sail May 20, British marketing agency Five33, which recently opened an office in Los Angeles, has created two displays for a Hot Topic promo that could easily be installed at the Mouse House’s theme parks once the pic has bowed in megaplexes.

At Los Angeles’ Hollywood & Highland entertainment and shopping complex, the company has re-created part of the bow of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the gothic ship in the film, while at Westfield’s Garden State Plaza mall in New Jersey, another galleon sails the stormy seas inside a bottle.

Big draw in both cases is the sheer size of the displays, as well as the meticulous detail and quality that Five33 (which also worked on a similar “Alice in Wonderland” effort for Disney and Hot Topic) put into designing and building each one.

The wood of the near full-scale portion of the ship and the bones of skulls and skeletons look like the real thing; the ring on the door leading into Blackbeard’s quarters is made of heavy metal. And the ship inside the bottle moves with each crashing wave, just as it does inside its glass prison in the film.

While watching shoppers interact with the display at H&H, it’s clear that consumers think it’s a real setpiece, with individuals careful not to break any of the props as they take advantage of the photo opportunity.

As a result, it’s no surprise that both displays have been attracting large crowds at their respective malls, driving traffic into Hot Topic stores, but also providing Disney with a unique billboard for its franchise that encourages fans to Tweet and post Facebook messages of their experiences, which easily spreads the word to millions of moviegoers.

And that’s exactly the point: to create something that gets prospective auds excited enough to buzz about and then buy tickets. When it works, it’s like capturing lightning — make that a ship — in a bottle.

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