TIE-INS UNRAVEL

Video cross promotion continues to be an elusive goal for some supermarket specialists, hindered by the organizational difficulties such merchandising often involves.But the concept is so attractive that suppliers keep adding new partnerships, hoping to reap the sales rewards that come from getting it right.To do so, however, can require extensive cooperation along the supply chain, with distributors

Video cross promotion continues to be an elusive goal for some supermarket specialists, hindered by the organizational difficulties such merchandising often involves.

But the concept is so attractive that suppliers keep adding new partnerships, hoping to reap the sales rewards that come from getting it right.

To do so, however, can require extensive cooperation along the supply chain, with distributors and retailers assisting manufacturers to facilitate an orderly flow of product. And with so many players involved, there are more chances for snafus.

Consequently, some specialists have become frustrated with tie-ins, their implementation considered too problematic.

A major concern for some is a lack of local support from tie-in partners.

"Trying to get hold of the right person, broker-wise, to get everything done and all in place sometimes takes an act of God," said Greg Rediske, president, Video Management Co., Tacoma, Wash.

The problem, he said, is that once a deal is made, the tie-in partner's attitude becomes one of "it will take care of itself," leading him to decide that "if they don't care, I don't care. I'm tired of fighting it."

Rediske feels the situation is inexplicable. "Why would you spend that many millions of dollars and then not take it all the way?" he asked. "It boggles my mind."

Another concern is the degree of cooperation from other departments, which can vary widely from chain to chain.

Some find it a hurdle. "We haven't had much response to cross promotions, partly because we don't get much participation from grocery and store managers," said Craig Hill, video specialist, Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark.

Others have no problem. "We always have good cooperation from other departments," said Paul Richardville, director of video/photo, Reasor's, Tahlequah, Okla. "Our people understand incremental sales."

The speed of response can also impact marketing efficiency. Dale Cooper, buyer for supermarket racker Movie Exchange, Oaks, Pa., said some supermarket chains can quickly involve other departments within the stores -- bakery, meat, general merchandise -- while other chains don't seem to have that ability.

And even a well-coordinated promotion, meanwhile, has no guarantee.

"We did a 'Chicken Run' cross promotion with Coke, but we really couldn't measure any success with it," said Bill Glaseman, video specialist, Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., "even though our other departments cooperated, and Coke did what they said they'd do. [Tie-ins] all sound like great ideas, but I don't see the consumer going for any of them."

Still, these same promotions can be undeniably effective in some markets.

"The most successful cross promotions last year involved the video category manager working closely with the beverage category manager, creating events revolving around major cola companies and feature video releases," said Bill Bryant, vice president, sales, grocery and drug, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn.

"Some supermarkets experienced four times the sales by creating a storewide event around a new release video and a 12-pack of cola product," he said. "The most attractive consumer offer has been to purchase a major new release video and receive a free 12-pack of a major cola brand."

Many beverage promotions (and others with traditional movie tie-ins like popcorn) are initiated by grocers on local or regional levels, whereas national incentives usually originate with studios and other suppliers.

These can involve drinks as well. Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif., is launching its "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" 30th-anniversary release Aug. 28 with a Coke partnership. Under it, all Coca-Cola 12-packs will feature $3 rebate coupons toward purchase of the Wonka DVD.

These promos can also involve products with similar demographic targeting.

"We're working closely with Luvs representatives to do programs in grocery and mass merchants," said Debbie Ries, senior vice president, sales, Lyrick Studios, Allen, Texas. "It's just so great for our consumer because obviously she's a big user."

Lyrick's new Barney VHS twin-pack includes $3 worth of Luvs coupons for Ultra Leakguard Diapers and Overnight Leakguard Diapers.

This merchandising can also include auxiliary studio products.

For its July 31 "Trumpet of the Swan" video release and "Stuart Little" VHS repricing (to $14.95), Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, Culver City, Calif., will have displays for a tie-in with the Moon Pie snack-cake brand, said Suzanne White, Columbia's vice president of marketing, family and children. The studio is offering a $2 mail-in rebate when a consumer purchases either "Trumpet" or "Stuart Little" on VHS or DVD with three boxes of Moon Pies.

Some specialists prefer tie-ins with other studio product exclusively.

"Since for us everything is shippers only, we'll participate in self-contained promotions like Warner's buy-three-get-one-free offer," said Rediske of Video Management Co.

In a growing practice, studios are also seeking synergies with new theatrical releases.

Universal, which recently released an ultimate edition DVD of "The Mummy" with a free instant movie ticket to see "The Mummy Returns," is including a ticket for "Jurassic Park III" with its July 10 two-pack DVD release of the first two films in the series.

"We're leveraging the awareness of these titles so retail can benefit from the theatrical exposure of these big franchises with DVD and VHS," said Ken Graffeo, home video senior vice president of marketing.

With studios continuing to develop these promotional partnerships, there is always opportunity for supermarkets to participate -- which some continue to do.

"We get into cross promotions whenever we get the chance," said Reasor's Richardville. "Anytime I can get video out into grocery it's wonderful because the numbers are so much stronger.

"We try to cross promote whenever we can," said Cooper of the Movie Exchange, "but it's a matter of how quickly we can react."

The ultimate result when a campaign goes smoothly can be a gratifying success.

"There was one Disney promotion with General Mills that actually worked the way it was supposed to, where we actually got additional shipper orders because the brokers were excited about putting them in," said Rediske. "That's the only time in my 16 years that it's ever happened."

Many in the supply chain would agree that this occurs far less frequently than they'd like.

"It's a shame because in the grocery trade we have a tremendous advantage -- both in terms of selling the video and promoting the store -- by putting these things together," said Rediske. "And it's being totally missed."