*Reelshort.com Gets Hypnotized

Universal Studios is expected today to relaunch Reelshort.com, its answer to AtomFilms.com, as Hypnotic.com in response to the growing popularity of online short films.

To support the site's new identity, it is running its Content is King marketing campaign well into early next year.

The effort targets men ages 18 to 34 as the cornerstone of the site's fan base. This demographic was chosen not only because this group is amenable to short films, but also because they often have the broadband access necessary to enjoy this type of online entertainment.

With a budget of roughly $2 million, the campaign will run lean and mean. Most of the marketing for Hypnotic.com will involve promotions, special events and radio spots in six target cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

“Rather than taking a national media focus, we're taking a localized focus to get as specific to the consumer as we can get,” said Evan Shapiro, co-partner at FourFront, New York, the interactive agency running the campaign. “It's different from AtomFilms who are doing national spots. They're selling broad entertainment vs. what we're doing, which is selling a different wave of artists.”

The site also will run spots on the two top radio stations in each market. Deejays such as Howard Stern will endorse the site. Hypnotic.com will tie-in with station events and concerts as well as provide prizes for on-air give aways.

More than 1 million patrons of the top-grossing theaters in targeted markets also will receive in-theater advertising, including on-screen slides before the feature presentation and commercial spots during the film previews.

Offices and universities will receive branded coffee cups featuring the site's URL, and local bars will get branded coasters and books featuring teasers. “Wild” posters will be pasted on available space on city streets. Consumers at airport terminals and train stations will receive tickets to special online screenings.

This month, the site will roll out its Million Dollar Film Festival. One director will receive a $1 million budget and distribution through Hypnotic.com and Universal for his or her film.

The site will collect submissions and select the top 25 films. Online voters then can pick the top five films after which a panel will select the best film from those five.

“We're getting a bunch of young talented people and giving them a chance to show their [vision],” Shapiro said.

“Hypnotic will also give out grants to film students. “Hypnotic will do things to benefit the film departments of universities, to work with them to do events so young filmmakers can benefit from the experience and the audience can see films they would have never seen before,” Shapiro said.

Online, the site plans to unleash rich media banners with an enter-to-win offer. E-mails will provide links to movie trailers. Hypnotic hopes this will create a viral effect among movie fans.

Readers of daily newspapers in each market within the site's target demographic will receive a CD-ROM sampler of the site's fall trailers. Subscribers of alternative weeklies will be invited to exclusive screenings as well.

Michael Maronna, best known as Stuart, the wisecracking copy guy from the Ameritrade ads, will serve as the site's spokesman. Print will involve full-page ads in industry and aficionado publications. A public relations push is hoping to land the site on NBC's Today Show, E! and various film festivals.

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