Talk about the end of the world as we know it.
Disney Studios and its Buena Vista Marketing department may have sent industry marketing budgets into orbit with the 3,000-plus screen launch of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced, Michael Bay-helmed “Armageddon.”
According to Disney insiders, Buena Vista has spent as much as $45 million on advertising (which doesn’t even include the $10 million on prints of the pic). Tack on an additional $50 million from co-sponsors McDonald’s, Nokia, Nestle and Tag Heuer, and the total effort falls just short of $100 million.
That figure added to the $150 million budget of the asteroid pic leaves the Mouse House with, if you will, a Titanic undertaking.
Buena Vista — which always tries to give its feature pics a distinct marketing sensibility — has taken multipage pull-out spreads in the New York Times and the L.A. Times, mounted a crater-sized outdoor campaign that literally stopped traffic and bought a 60-second Super Bowl spot that cost nearly $2.6 million.
Don’t forget about the lavish premiere at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Monday night, for which Touchstone and Buena Vista flew in hundreds of industry mavens and journalists at a high six-figure pricetag.
Following on the heels of the similarly themed “Deep Impact” from DreamWorks and Sony’s reptilian escapade “Godzilla,” “Armageddon” will easily take the dubious achievement award for most heavily hyped pic of the summer. Pic opens at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Sony insiders place the spending on “Godzilla” at $35 million with a huge outdoor campaign and a premiere at Madison Square Garden. Though a $50 million figure had been bandied about for marketing on the lizard pic, sources say that figure was only applicable if the pic lasted long enough to do $250 million in business. Sony also had a promotional tie-in with Taco Bell, which yielded an unending string of TV ads with that Chihuahua.
Disney wouldn’t discuss numbers, but Buena Vista Marketing prexy John Cywinski said the full-blown marketing attack has been a cost-effective effort.
“We’ve been very smart and selective with our campaign,” Cywinski said. “We started the campaign almost a year ago. We staked out the date very early.”
Disney nailed the July 4 weekend slot, which was successful last year for “Men in Black” and the year before for “Independence Day.”
“From a media standpoint, we have spent far less on this campaign than we have on others, just by virtue of having some strategic early activities,” Cywinski said.
Cywinski explained that McDonald’s, Nestle, Nokia and Tag Heuer will launch their TV ads with the opening of the pic and that Disney will pay for virtually none of the TV ad time after that.
Sources estimated that McDonald’s will pony up between $20 million and $30 million, with the rest of the TV budget split among the promotional partners.
The marketing onslaught was not without its setbacks. A massive outdoor ad — depicting an asteroid that hits a building — seen from the 405, L.A.’s busiest freeway, was to have run at least until the film’s July 1 opening. But the California Highway Patrol forced the studio to take down the ad — it was causing too many near accidents on the highway.
If people are as willing to populate theaters as they are to rubberneck from their cars, Disney has a hit on its hands.