Universal Hopes to Steal Moviegoers With 'Grinch' E-Mail Campaign

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Although the holiday movie season is more than three months away Universal Pictures is not wasting any time in promoting "The Grinch," its live-action version of the Dr. Seuss tale.

Universal will begin a direct e-mail campaign the first week of September targeting several hundred thousand people within its database.

The recipients opted in to be updated with information on the movie. They will receive an e-mail message that, when opened, will play a video trailer for the movie.

While the campaign will begin with those people in its database, it has been designed to reach a wider audience.

Universal is working with Indimi, New York, a developer of e-mail and "extreme" viral promotions, on the campaign. Indimi will be using its ice9 product to design the messages. The ice9 application has a video player built directly into it so the user will not be required to download Flash or Quicktime technology to play the video trailer. The user will only need to click on the message to play it.

Once the e-mail message is opened, a video screen will pop up and begin playing a 15- to 20-second trailer for the movie. According to Mark Wachen, CEO of Indimi, viewers will have the ability to download and play a longer version of the trailer as well.

The video screen will also have other features and options. Most importantly for Universal, viewers will have the ability to e-mail the message to other people.

From the main screen viewers will be able to link back to the Universal site and its shopping site; subscribe to a mailing list to receive updates and information on the movie; or link back to an area of the Universal site where they can obtain more information on the movie. Other movie trailers from Universal can also be downloaded and played through the message.

Recipients will have the option of either leaving the message in their e-mail inbox or saving it to their desktop.

Universal worked with Indimi earlier this summer on a campaign to promote "The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps." For that campaign Universal also used direct e-mail, but instead of e-mailing the trailer it sent people a Web address where they could download an interactive version of the Granny Klump character featured in the film.

Once downloaded, the character moves across the screen speaking lines from the movie. By clicking on Granny Klump the user is presented with a number of options and links. They can make her drive a motorized cart across the screen, have her knickers fall down or be quiet. Also, users can access the film's Web site, link directly to Moviefone to purchase theater tickets or e-mail the Granny Klump download to a friend.

According to Universal and Indimi, the interactive Granny Klump character has been downloaded by more than 1.2 million users. It also has experienced a 23 percent pass-along rate and "resulted in direct ticket sales" for the movie.

"These types of campaigns allows the products being marketed to live on beyond just a short-burst campaign," Wachen said. "They could have an indefinite life."

Details for the Grinch campaign are still being finalized. Universal would not discuss whether a link to the Moviefone Web site would be added to the e-mail message.

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