UP FOR DEBATE

Cross-merchandising video often draws a mixed reaction among supermarket retailers.Even though supermarkets appear to present the ideal stage for cross-promoting video, given the format's abundant mix of products and the frequency of store shopping trips that can trigger high impulse turns, retailers are often stumped by execution and the complex makeup of some video promotions.Brenda Vanover, video

Cross-merchandising video often draws a mixed reaction among supermarket retailers.

Even though supermarkets appear to present the ideal stage for cross-promoting video, given the format's abundant mix of products and the frequency of store shopping trips that can trigger high impulse turns, retailers are often stumped by execution and the complex makeup of some video promotions.

Brenda Vanover, video coordinator/merchandiser at K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., said the success or failure of an in-store cross-promotion depends a lot upon the personality of the video buyer, and how much time he or she has to initiate and implement a promotion.

"Until recently, we were doing two or three promotions a year," she said, "but now, I'm doing a couple a month, and that's because I have more time. The opportunities to cross-promote are really unlimited -- you just have to make sure the events are handled properly. I work with a lot of different managers, and they all work in different stores and have different personalities. Some are good at promoting and some aren't. You have to keep after them."

Marilyn Aldrich, video buyer at Dahl's Food Markets in Des Moines, Iowa, said she no longer does cross-promotions. The reason: they are too difficult to coordinate. "We had big communication problems," she said, noting that she didn't always know in time when a studio was tying a video in with a grocery product.

For Brent Bailey, video manager at Darrow's Country Market in Baraboo, Wis., the problem is even bigger. "The digital dish has taken its toll in this area," he said, noting that Darrow's serves a rural market. "We virtually never do cross-promotions anymore, and that's because video is on its way out the door. With DSS, you push a few buttons, and it costs you a buck more than what we charge to see a movie. Cross-promotions are of no use to us at all. We can't even make free pop go over."

However, distributors and suppliers rarely snuff cross-promotional efforts.

One distributor, speaking off the record, said that supermarkets' ability to tie in with other in-store products "puts them three steps ahead of the average video specialty dealer. Of course, the buying programs take them five steps backwards, but overall, they have a tremendous advantage in being able to cross-promote."

The trick, he said, is for video buyers to treat their departments like specialty stores. "Unfortunately, some aren't willing to do that," he noted, "but these tie-ins can really double your marketing muscle. It takes a commitment, but the payoff is there."

Kate Winn, director of marketing at A&E Home Video, New York, agreed. "There's so much competition in the world of entertainment that you need to catch consumers while they're doing what they need to do," she said, "such as grocery shopping. They don't always have time to go to Blockbuster to buy a sell-through title or DVD. But they do go to the supermarket."

A&E is currently tying in its new "Peter Pan" video, slated for release on VHS ($19.95) and DVD ($29.95) Oct. 10, with Peter Pan Peanut Butter. A half-page freestanding insert running Nov. 5 and reaching more than 24 million readers will promote a $3 rebate for consumers who purchase the video or DVD and any Peter Pan product. In addition, Peter Pan will sticker four million peanut-butter jars about the promotion.

The release will also be promoted with a sweepstakes that will feature a grand prize trip to St. Croix, plus second and third prizes of DVD players and VCRs.

"A&E has never done a promotion like this before," Winn said, noting it's the company's "first time" cross-promoting in supermarkets and drug stores. "It's a whole new way of reaching people who don't think to go out to buy home video or DVDs. Traditionally, it's males who buy DVDs, but that doesn't mean women wouldn't be interested if we could catch their interest."

She said that racks would be provided to display the videos in the peanut-butter section, but Vanover said in promotions like these, her videos stay in their departments.

"We'll use signage," she said. "And we might even bring the peanut butter into the video department for a display, but that will be up to each individual store."

What other cross-promotions have been slated by the studios? SN did a round-up of what's in store in the coming months:

Warner Bros. Home Video: Warner will cross-promote the fall release of "Scooby Doo" and the "Alien Invaders" with Frito Lay and Pepsi. There will be a $3 rebate offer, along with an offer for a Scooby Doo plush toy. The offers will be featured on upwards of 65 million packages of Frito and Pepsi products, together with in-store displays.

Paramount Home Video: Paramount and Nickelodeon will back the Oct. 3 release of "Blue's Big Musical Movie" on VHS ($19.95) and DVD ($24.99) with a cross-promotion with Johnson & Johnson. The company will package more than 250,000 containers of shampoo and bubble bath with a notebook touting the availability of the video. * Universal Home Video: Universal will launch Aug. 29 its Universal is Halloween program, which will include a large slate of classic, contemporary and kidvid titles. The program will be supported with print advertising, a short-form infomercial, a national sweepstakes, and a CD-ROM on-pack bonus. Forty-three titles will be packaged with an in-pack collectible Halloween Decoder Card, which enables consumers to become instant winners of thousands of prizes.

One of the kidvid titles offered, "Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolf Man," will be supported by a national sweepstakes promotion with Sun-Maid Raisins. More than five million bags of raisins will feature an "instant-win" game piece with a trip for four to Universal Studios (Hollywood or Florida) as the grand prize. Non-winning game pieces earn a $3 mail-in rebate toward the purchase of the video.