Disney steers “Cars” in promo fast lane

The Pixar cartoon "Cars" drives into theaters June 9, and auto-related firms such as Hertz, Goodyear and Porsche are coming along for the ride.

The film, which features the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman and Helen Hunt, will be turbo-charged by one of the biggest movie promotions in the history of Walt Disney Co., which bought Pixar in January for $7.4 billion in January.

Buena Vista Pictures, Disney's marketing arm, has lined up a total of 17 promotional partners for the movie, with 12 of the advertisers running TV ads and spending about $50 million on media buys.


"We've never had that many partners doing TV on any Disney movie," said Brett Dicker, executive VP at Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. Only four of the 17 tie-in partners — McDonald's, Kellogg's, Go-Gurt from General Mills and Airheads candy — sell products or developed promotional programs geared specifically for children, while eight of the 17 have some connection to the auto industry.

"I think for an animated film, we have a tremendous number of adult partnerships, which is unusual," Dicker said. "We built this campaign to reach out to everybody, because the remarkable thing about Pixar films is that they have the broadest appeal of almost any movie."

Besides Hertz, Goodyear and Porsche, other auto-related partners include State Farm Insurance, Valvoline, Mack Trucks, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Intelligent Direct Marketing, which specializes in customized automotive direct mail campaigns. Among the animated characters featured in "Cars" are a Porsche and a Mack Truck, while "Lightyear" tires and a "Lightyear" blimp are also depicted. At the "Cars" premiere, Goodyear tires will fly a rebranded "Lightyear" blimp over the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. About 30,000 people are expected to attend the event.

"Cars" is the first movie tie-in for State Farm, whose ads will premiere during "American Idol" on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The other tie-in partners for "Cars" are AT&T, Georgia Pacific, Energizer, MovieTickets.com and NWA World Vacations.

Dicker said most of the promotional partners running TV ads were able to use custom animation in their spots, with the creative talent at Pixar helping to develop the campaigns and the partners able to use a variety of cars featured in the film. "The cars all have distinctive looks and personalities, so we were able to spread the wealth with our partners," he said.


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