Disney Promotion Is Thriller for Michael Jackson’s Video


A new Michael Jackson marketing blitz is about to make the superstar’s 1984 “Victory Tour” look like a Sioux City sock hop.

A massive advertising campaign to promote the suddenly-out-of-seclusion Jackson’s latest venture--a $15-million, three-dimensional musical video--is slated to spread nationwide this week. The promotion behind it will feature a series of giveaways via splashy television, radio and print media hype over the next two weeks.

In making the still-sequestered video, “Captain Eo,” Jackson has teamed up with some of the biggest names in entertainment--George Lucas (executive producer), Francis Coppola (director) and Walt Disney Co. The video features a state-of-the-art laser light show, which promoters say will appear to spill right from the screen into the audience.


Ten days from now, the unlikely quartet will premiere their one-year-in-the-making “Captain Eo” concurrently at Disneyland in Anaheim and at Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla.

Some industry insiders are quietly calling it “Captain Ego.”

Indeed, the egos involved may seem to be a marketing executive’s nightmare.

“From the outside, all the big names might appear to be a problem, but actually all have worked very closely together,” said Patrick O'Neil, director of marketing on the “Captain Eo” project.

Disney officials refuse to reveal the project’s promotional budget, but industry executives say that seldom has an amusement park attraction received such fanfare.

Eastman Kodak of Rochester, N.Y., will sponsor the attractions at both Disneyland and Epcot. And no doubt, Kodak and Disney are a match made in marketing heaven.

Kodak estimates that 3.6% of all amateur snapshots taken every year are shot on Walt Disney properties. That, by the way, is about 60 million photographs. “Theme parks in general--and Walt Disney in particular--is our ideal market,” said Tom Levy, Kodak’s manager of news services.

Later this week, Disney’s in-house advertising campaigns for the attraction are scheduled to break on ABC, MTV and the Disney Channel. The 30-second commercials will try to lure the curious to the park by showing brief segments from the “Captain Eo” film, said Jack Lindquist, corporate director of marketing for Walt Disney Co.

Two weeks ago, Disney began promoting the attraction in city magazines and on radio stations in the Midwest and on the East Coast, featuring free trips to the premiere at Epcot.

Next week, the ad campaign will get plenty of local radio air time--and extol the fact that the esoteric flick can only be seen at Disneyland and Epcot “and nowhere else in the universe,” O'Neil said.

In the 17-minute film, Jackson plays a spaceship commander who is sent on a mission to battle evil forces on another planet.

Disney marketing executives have weaved a Disneyesque web of promotions around the project--a few of which have never been tried before.

On Friday evening, Sept. 19, for example, Disney plans to concurrently air live commercials from the “Captain Eo” theater on all seven major Los Angeles television stations.

Leisure industry experts think that with “Captain Eo,” Disney has once again pulled a winner from between its Mickey Mouse ears.

“No park except Disneyland would ever put that kind of time and money into a marketing extravaganza--and expect to get a return,” said Richard Battaglia, a Huntington Beach-based leisure industry consultant. “But when you spend $15 million on something, you’d better be out selling it.”

No, it is not a terminal case of beer belly.

Rather, it is a “pregnant” man that television viewers in the St. Paul, Minn., area have been seeing since an unorthodox ad campaign by St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center began airing there in July.

The man, after suffering a series of health-related mishaps--ranging from getting his thumb stuck in a bowling ball to having a peach flambe blow up in his face--finally suffers the most far-fetched health dilemma of all: He becomes pregnant.

“The point of the campaign,” said Dave Bradley, associate creative director at Kolesar & Hartwell Inc., the Minneapolis firm that produced the 30-second spot, “is that no matter what happens to you, St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center is the place to come.”

The 455-bed hospital is vying for recognition in a market oversaturated with health-care facilities. Hospitals nationwide have been forced to look at new marketing methods, but few have attempted such unlikely plugs.

“Sure, there’s an element of risk,” said Bradley of the $40,000 spot. “We don’t want people to think that we’re a silly hospital.”

Apparently, people are thinking nothing of the sort.

Since the campaign began nearly eight weeks ago, outpatient use of the hospital is up 3%, said Rick Jones, the hospital’s marketing director.

“It would be presumptuous of us to say, however, that we ran the commercial in order to get 50 new patients a month,” Jones said. “We ran it to create greater awareness.”

It has.

The hospital is suddenly getting referrals from doctors in rural areas that it has never heard from before. And Kolesar & Hartwell is working on a sequel--but keeping mum about the content.

Perhaps the guy will have quintuplets?

Nobody is going to mistake Blake Baker for Willard Scott.

But Baker may know as much about the weather as television’s high-profile weatherman. The Dallas-area executive created an international telephone weather service three years ago that has lured such big-name corporate sponsors as Avis and United Airlines.

The service, WeatherTrak, from Airdata Inc. of Dallas, premiered in the Los Angeles area two weeks ago. At no charge, callers--such as traveling executives--can hear the weather forecast of their choice for any of more than 235 cities around the world.

The hitch is, before hearing the weather report, callers must listen to a 10-second sales pitch--such as one for Avis in Los Angeles or one for United in Chicago. The service, already in place in a dozen cities from Atlanta to New York, will be in San Diego next month.

What prompted Barker to begin this personalized weather service?

“I went to Nashville on business wearing a seersucker suit,” he said, “but when I got there the temperature was 30 degrees and it was sleeting.”

He figured someone had to make a business out of executive weather forecasting.

The response has been more than chilling.

Nationally, the service receives more than 75,000 calls a day. After the weather message, callers can push one more digit on their phone and find themselves talking to a car or plane reservations agent.

Even with the program just a few weeks in place--and no outside promotion--Avis has received “hundreds” of calls already from customers who push that extra digit, said Bob Simpson, Avis’ director of marketing.

Baker insists that WeatherTrak is also an anecdote for boring conversations. “How many people do you know who can recite the next day’s weather forecast for Buffalo or Cleveland?”