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Marketers missed ‘Mars’

Brand could have stepped up and funded the production

The producers of “Veronica Mars” and the show’s faithful fanbase are thrilled now that they’ve raised more than $2 million to get a film featuring Kristen Bell’s sleuth finally greenlit through Kickstarter in less than a day.

But marketers should be kicking themselves for missing out on a rare opportunity to connect with such a loyal audience.

When the opportunity to finance the film became available Wednesday, a brand could easily have stepped up and funded the production, which already has distribution and marketing support lined up from Warner Bros.

The move would have instantly generated goodwill among the show’s rabid fans, who have eagerly awaited a movie since the show ended its run in 2007. A quick online search would have revealed as much. It could have been a brilliant act of real-time marketing that took advantage of a topic on a lot of people’s minds and made a brand a hero. Even if they had footed just half the bill, they would instantly have been thrust into the spotlight and given credit for making the movie happen.

It’s the kind of instant hype that companies need to pounce on at a time when there are so many distractions for consumers. On Wednesday afternoon — the same day a new pope was introduced — it was “Veronica Mars” that dominated social-media conversations. The press pounced, but marketers were nowhere to be found.

“Veronica Mars” is certainly brand friendly. In the show, the character was often seen using a cell phone, a computer or driving a car, a prime opportunity for a smartphone, tablet maker or auto brand looking to connect with younger buyers. A soda or snack brand, even a clothing or cosmetics company trying to reach young women could have stepped up, as well.

The involvement wouldn’t have had to be too blatant, either, since many brands these days are selling an overall lifestyle rather than shilling a specific product.

This, of course, raises a big question: Who wasn’t paying attention?

In this case, a lot of people. In the business of branded entertainment, a company’s role in Hollywood is managed by talent and advertising agencies, media buyers, entertainment marketing shops, inhouse PR and marketing execs, as well as those outside the firms on retainer.

At a time when companies are increasingly seeking high-profile and creative ways to associate their products with popular properties — from films to Web series — to boost awareness and sales, “Veronica Mars” fell into their laps and no one noticed.

All either missed the frenzy that surrounded the film’s Kickstarter campaign or were just too slow to react.

And that’s unfortunate, since there has been so much discussion in social-media war rooms that companies like Pepsi, Oreo and Coca-Cola have set up in order to stay connected with consumers at all times via Facebook and Twitter. But it’s clear that those outfits are only focused on such big events as the Super Bowl and the Oscars.

After the $2 million goal was reached, Bell tweeted: “I love you guys. You are all SO spectacular. I am speechless. This excitement is prolly gonna send me into early labor.”

It should send brand reps into panic mode to be ready for the next big opportunity to come along. As long as they’re paying attention, that is.

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