When it comes to animation, no one comes close to Pixar. When it comes to marketing, real life movies rule. But Pixar surprised us with their promotion of this year's upcoming film "Monsters University."
While most studios rely on trailers, movie posters, and simple social media tactics to attract audiences to theaters, Pixar has gone one step further.
The marketing department has created an entire functioning college website.
Compare this to a real school's site and you will see zero difference.
The extensive site contains links for information on admission, a list of upcoming events on campus, a detailed campus map, and even a student handbook.
Here's the campus map. If we didn't know better, we would think MU was a real place:
And here's MU gear, which you can actually buy:
One reason it's so impressive is because the virtual site and marketing for the film reflects that of a blockbuster theatrical release similar to previous sites created for "Cloverfield" and "The Dark Knight" trilogy.
Sloane Kelley, an integrative strategy director at BFG Communications who has worked with the "Harry Potter" franchise for Warner Bros., says she's never seen an animated film go to such great lengths to promote a feature online.
"This is a really unique approach and they're trying to capitalize on the experience," Kelley tells Business Insider. "They have this issue of getting audiences interested before the launch of a film. They have a real grassroots approach."
Tony Winders, senior VP of marketing for Gum Gum, has worked with Pixar on "Brave." He tells Business Insider movie studios normally spend $50,000 - $100,000 with his company on campaigns that normally last about four weeks.
"MU" isn't coming out until this summer, but the site has been up since last October. With a longer campaign, the marketing figure is certainly higher than that of a typical movie.
Winders, too, tells us he hasn't seen anything like this campaign. He says the use of contextual marketing is really useful.
"This way, there's a higher likelihood of it sticking in the minds of the target audience. Playing the ad during the Rose Bowl was perfect considering the nature of the film," Winders said.
We reached out to Disney and Pixar and received no response about the strategy behind the website campaign.
But according to Ad Age's June 2012 magazine, the Walt Disney Company spent over $2.1 billion on marketing in 2011. That's almost a 10 percent increase from what the Mouse House spent in 2010.
Of that $2.1 billion, Disney spent almost $550 million on television ads and over $100 million each for Internet and magazine ads.
Production budget numbers aren't available for "Monsters University," but we do know that Pixar spent $115 million on creating the first film "Monsters, Inc." with $50 million of that sum going towards marketing and advertising for the film. Pixar's budget for its most recent movie, "Brave" was $185 million.
While we still have to wait until June 21 to see the much-anticipated prequel, here's a clip of Sully pranking Mike Wizowski to hold you over:
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