I absolutely could not wait for Cars 2 to come out last week. But unlike the normal Pixar fan, I wasn’t excited because I wanted to see the movie. No no, actually the Cars series is the only work by Pixar that doesn’t appeal to my interests whatsoever. But what I was excited for was the incessant, over-exposed Cars 2 advertising to finally come to an end.
It seemed no matter where I turned, I couldn’t get away from Lightning McQueen. He was EVERYWHERE: all over the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Target, the grocery store. I saw the beloved cars on diaper packages, cereal boxes, battery packs, paper towel packaging, coloring products…the list goes on. I even saw a Cars 2-themed Target aisle with skid marks on the tile that led to toys galore. This was not your average advertising campaign; it was an invasion.
So let’s break it down. How did they totally take over television? Aside from the Cars 2 trailer, there were two spots that showed up a LOT. First, there was the Cars 2: The Video Game trailer, which gives the game a very spy-like feel. Intriguing the first time, annoying every time after. The second ad, which was for State Farm, was even more irritating than the first. To me, it felt like an abuse of beloved childhood characters, putting them in a car insurance commercial. As if we don’t see enough of THAT on a regular basis. We certainly don’t need it coming from animated characters, too.
Next was the grocery stores. According to AdAge, the Cars 2 partnership was the “biggest multibrand retail marketing program for [Kimberly-Clark Corp.] in eight years.” This collaboration put McQueen’s face on toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, tissue boxes, wipes, etc. K-C also backed the campaign with cinema ads, a national newspaper coupon insert, a direct-mail program, ads on the Walmart in-store network, and many other in-store promotions (like in Target). In addition, they also included 3-D glasses in 1.2 million Kleenex boxes, which included a code which buyers could use to get access to a Cars 2 e-book on the Disney website. The final component of this partnership was a multibrand rewards program for K-C products, where buyers could redeem points at participating stores for Mattel cars, giant Crayola coloring pages, Visa prepaid cards, or Cars 2 movie vouchers. (My hands are tired from typing all of these brand names!) This partnership was put into action in 22 different retail chains. Imagine what that kind of coverage means. Practically every household in the country could have been touched by this campaign, as I’m sure Disney-Pixar intended them to be.
One notable component (which I find shocking, considering it’s coming from Disney) from the K-C partnership carried across almost all Cars 2 partnerships: giving away free stuff. For example, Kellogg’s ran a huge online redemption program, in which buyers would get codes inside cereal boxes that would unlock certain items. The participating brands are pictured below, as is the points redemption site.
In addition, if you were a cereal-box reader as a child (or even now), you would have had something like this to complement your morning:
What else were they giving away? According to takefiveaday.com, you could also redeem codes with Rayovac battery packs for discounted or free movie tickets for Cars 2. You could also get a free movie pass inside Cars DVD boxes sold at Target. And, if that wasn’t enough, if you spent $10 with Fischer Price, you would receive a free Cars 2 mini-backpack.
So what’s UP with all of this free stuff flying around everywhere? My gut feeling has always been that when a studio deliberately makes it so that you can’t turn your head without seeing another advertisement for them, they are compensating for something. Now, having not seen the movie yet, I know…I don’t quite have room to talk. However, after seeing the film’s unimpressive ratings on RottenTomatoes.com (33%, making it the lowest scoring Pixar film, trailing Cars at 74%) and IMDB.com (6.7/10), I can’t help but feel that my hypothesis might have some truth to it.
However, despite the annoying advertising, the film has done in the Box Office what Hollywood wanted it to do: make some $eriou$ ca$h. After only a week in theatres, Cars 2 has shot it’s way to the top, generating a whopping $66.1 million buckaroos, more than doubling the second place movie, Bad Teacher, box office revenue ($31.6 million).
So it all comes back to the unrelenting question of purpose: Is the money worth Pixar finally having their first “flop”? What do you think?