June 18th, 2007

Best Ad Ever

By Dorothy Pomerantz
Forbes

How GM Scored Two Hours of Advertising in the Upcoming Transformers Movie.

"We just had a robogasm,” declared car blog Jalopnik.com. The source of its excitement was not a cool car but a Web trailer for an upcoming movie called Transformers. To General Motors, it was all the same. When Transformers arrives in theaters July 4, GM will be the beneficiary of maybe the biggest product placement ever: the stars of this movie are all GM vehicles, transformed into robots fighting evil.

And remarkably, GM didn’t have to pay Paramount to get the product placement--at least not with checks payable to Paramount. The car company contributed $1 million worth of cars and will pay for loads of ads that will showcase its vehicles and the movie.

Why GM? In Hollywood it’s all about who you know. GM snagged the gig by getting to director Michael Bay early. William Morris represents both GM and Bay, known for explosion-heavy movies like 1998’s Armageddon. And Bay has a history with the car company, having directed two Chevy ads. “GM’s been good to me,” says Bay.

In 2005 GM officials took Bay out to a secret design center in the San Fernando Valley to offer him a smorgasbord of 100 Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Hummers and Cadillacs. The director fell in love with the new Camaro concept car and chose it to play the lead role of Bumblebee. The car will be on the market later this year.

GM is now tapping the buzz around Transformers to push its cars. Fans can create their own transformers at Chevyautobot.com. Maxim’s Summer Hot 100 issue includes a Pontiac spread featuring Transformers human star Megan Fox.

GM could use the youthful exposure. Last year the company lost $2 billion. “An opportunity like this isn’t going to come around again,” says Dino Bernacchi, head of branded entertainment for GM. “Unless there’s a sequel.”

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