'Spider-Man 2' Swing Across NBCU's TV

Spider-Man can swing from city skyscrapers, subdue villains like Doctor Octopus and Electro, and climb up walls like the insect after which he is named. Yet in all his escapades, he has never been able to force a major media conglomerate to run ads for his movie across multiple TV networks – and then tailor the ads for each outlet’s viewership.

Until now, that is.

As part of an advertising pact with NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures will hawk its movie “The Amazing Spider Man 2” across Bravo, E!, USA, Syfy, Telemundo and mun2, as well as on a customized page on Fandango, the company’s web-based movie-ticketing service. Starting today, the NBCU networks will run a single spot that shows a search for five so-called “Spiderfans” or extremely passionate fans of the movie franchise. Starting April 28, each participating network will run specially created 60-second spots that play up themes relevant to viewers of each outlet.

On Syfy, for example, the ads will focus on the technology and special effects behind the film. On E!, a young woman gets to meet the movie’s costume designer – as well as actress Emma Stone, who has a prominent role in the film. Andrew Garfield, who plays the title hero, will appear in another ad set to appear on Bravo and Telemundo. The ads will also offer a peek at footage from the movie, which is slated to debut in theaters May 2.

“This was really about matching up these fans and their experiences to tie back to the channel brands – putting their stories in the right environment,” said John Shea,  chief marketing officer and executive vice president  of  NBCU’s Content Innovation Agency,  a unit that tries to devise ad plans that work across the company’s large suite of media properties.

The movie maneuver is the latest sound in what has in recent weeks become an ongoing promotional drumbeat from NBCU’s ad sales staff. Just last week, the company unveiled a slate of embryonic web-based video series in the hopes of luring advertisers to support them and, in the process, thwart streaming-video players like YouTube or AOL from siphoning off ad dollars.

Like rival media operations, NBCU is gearing up for the so-called “upfront:” marketplace, where U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming programming season. For the past year, NBCU has been trying to make the case that sponsors should buy ad packages that run across many of its outlets, not just, say, NBC or USA.

To find the fans, NBCU enlisted a production company to sift out candidates in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, and Minneapolis, said Shea. Over a two-day period, candidates in each city were asked to come out and tell executives why they were passionate about the movie and its central character. “We taped all of those, asked them about themselves and then worked on an almost daily basis with Sony to identify the fans that felt right for the channel environment and the storyline we wanted to tell,” he explained.

Talks between Sony and NBCU for the promotion began just four or five months ago, Shea said.

In May, NBCUniversal plans to run a two-minute ad created from elements from all the various “Spider Man 2” promotions and run it during an episode of “The Voice” on NBC. The ad for the movie will be the only one to appear during the commercial break, Shea said.

Sony has often tested non-traditional marketing efforts behind its “Spider Man” franchise. The studio is also working with the United States Postal Service, which is offering stamps and packages with the hero’s likeness on them In 2004, Sony struck an agreement with Major League Baseball to decorate bases and on-deck circles with a spider-web pattern to call attention to the launch of a previous “Spider Man 2,” this time starring Tobey Maguire. When purists howled, the two partners opted to scale back their plans.

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