BURBANK, Calif. -- The ante has been raised for sell-through video in the fourth quarter -- and it's way up.
Cumulative marketing spending on Disney products will exceed $250 million, the biggest effort ever for the company and the video industry, said Dennis Rice, senior vice president of marketing at Buena Vista Home Video, here, Disney's video sales and distribution arm.
The company had previously announced combined spending of $145 million on "Toy Story," including dollars spent by itself and five tie-in partners.
"It is clearly the most exhaustive and most extensive marketing campaign that we have ever had in the fourth quarter," said Rice. "We think there has never been a better time for supermarket accounts to participate in the video category."
Disney has reported four other developments that are significant for supermarkets that sell videos:
Pre-orders for "Toy Story" were over 21 million units, exceeding the 20 million units initially ordered for "The Lion King." "Lion King" eventually sold over 30 million units, making it the best-selling video title ever.
The company's annual "Disappearing Classics" promotion has been moved up from January to November. This event highlights four titles that will be put on moratorium at the end of April: "Pocahontas," "The Aristocats," "Oliver & Company" and "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh."
General Mills will offer a $10 mail-in rebate in January with the combined purchases of a Disney Masterpiece video and four boxes (7 ounces or more) of Big G cereal.
Buena Vista will re-issue the Disney classic, "Bambi," Feb. 4 for a limited release period of 55 days. It goes off the market at the end of March.
"The programs that begin in the fourth quarter and extend into the 'General Mills Disney Video Days' program, and our release schedule in 1997, show our commitment to the grocery store industry," he said. "We think that they can take advantage of our program so that they can get their fair share of the video business from consumers who shop their stores more frequently than they shop other channels of distribution."
With aggressive spending from other studios on sell-through titles like "Twister," "Mission Impossible," "Independence Day," "The Adventures of Pinocchio," "The Nutty Professor" and others, marketing for the entire industry could well approach half a billion dollars this year, observers noted.
The spending is "enormous," said Michael Schau, executive editor of Entertainment Marketing Letter, New York. "Disney alone is accounting for astonishing amounts of it."
Competition and a favorable economic climate have driven up the stakes for fourth-quarter sales, he said. "It's just gotten down to the point where you have to market your brains out to come up with the numbers you want," he said.
"I think Disney's feeling about 'Toy Story' is that it could be one of the biggest titles of all time, and I think they are right," said Tom Adams, president of Adams Media Research, Carmel Valley, Calif.
But because the "Toy Story" theatrical run ended long before other fourth-quarter titles, it will take more ad spending to create levels of consumer awareness needed to generate those sales. "I think it's likely to work and likely to drive some pretty phenomenal sales figures. It probably won't beat 'Lion King,' but I'm sure it will go over 20 million and maybe over 25," said Adams.
Disney's shift of the "Disappearing Classics" promotion from the first quarter to the fourth quarter follows similar moves by other studios. For example, both FoxVideo's "Independence Day" and Columbia TriStar's "Matilda" were originally pencilled in for a January release, but are now releasing in the fourth quarter.
"Fourth quarter can be one-third to 40% of sales in a given year for the industry. It's hard to resist trying to take advantage of that by getting the titles out in time to capitalize on some of the impulse buying that goes on in November and December," said Adams.
Studios may also be looking to take advantage of one of the brightest fourth-quarter retail sales forecasts in some years. Bruce Van Kleeck, vice president of member services at National Retail Federation, Washington, predicts that overall retail sales will be up 5.5% to 6% compared with last year, when sales were only up 1.3%.
"People are spending more on entertainment, fitness and leisure activities, and we see that continuing for the remainder of the year," Van Kleeck said. However, surveys report that people intend to save more in 1997, so marketers may be thinking this is a better time to get those sales, he said.
At Disney, Rice said, "We have moved the 'Disappearing Classics' campaign forward for retailers to take advantage of the holiday selling season." Advertising supporting this promotion will begin Nov. 18. The titles will be taken off the market April 30.
"It is a program that is designed for grocery stores. They can take advantage of great promotional partners that are perfect for that channel of trade. Those accounts that do not fully support these programs will probably lose market share to other retailers," said Rice.
This promotion is in addition to campaigns for "Oliver & Company," which was released Sept. 25; "James and the Giant Peach," which streeted Oct. 15, and the massive effort behind the Oct. 29 release of "Toy Story." Tie-in partners for "Toy Story" include General Mills, Ocean Spray, Kodak, Energizer, Oral B and Burger King.