Cents and sensibility

Toon marketing budgets rising

By Marc Graser
June 20, 2008

The characters may be cute. The plots may be funny. But Hollywood isn't finding anything hilarious about marketing animated movies.

Over the last five years, toons were the most expensive movies to promote, easily costing tens of millions more than the average pricetag to promote live-action features.

Disney and DreamWorks Animation are the top spenders and, whether intentional or not, it's become a Coke vs. Pepsi kind of battle.
This year isn't expected to prove any different.

Despite costly campaigns for "Iron Man" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," Disney-Pixar's "WALL-E" is expected to easily become the year's most marketed movie, with DreamWorks' "Kung Fu Panda" coming close behind.

Last year, "Ratatouille"topped the marketing charts, with Disney spending $54 million to cook up ads for the Pixar-produced pic, according to TNS Media Intelligence. That's compared to the $46.8 million Paramount and DreamWorks spent to tout "Transformers" that year.

To put that into perspective, the industry average to promote a pic was $35.9 million last year, according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America. "Cars," "The Polar Express" and "Finding Nemo" led each annual list, respectively, before that.

Four toons broke the top 10 in ad spending in 2007 and 2004: "Ratatouille," "Bee Movie," "Shrek the Third" and "Meet The Robinsons" in '07, and "Polar Express," "Shark Tale," "The Incredibles" and "Shrek 2" three years earlier.

Only 2005 was an unusual year, in which live-action pics dominated. Yet "Madagascar," "Robots and "Chicken Little" still spent considerable coin for ads that year, with DreamWorks' zoo animal adventure leading with $44.8 million.

There's a reason for the high cost to hype toons.
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