Michaelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo--the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles--are crazy about pizza but a fast-food hamburger chain, Burger King, scored possibly the biggest commercial coup of Turtlemania.
Burger King made a deal with IVE to sell four previously unreleased Turtle animated videos exclusively at its restaurants for $3.49 each with a purchase. IVE is shipping 7 million copies of the Turtle tapes, according to IVE's marketing vice president Lauren Becker.
Since the live-action movie "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" opened in theaters two weeks ago (box-office gross: a whopping $50.9 million ), Turtlemania--the merchandising phenomenon that's bordering on last summer's Batmania--has been in full bloom. Children are buying all sorts of products associated with the Turtles, including videos.
Your local Burger King has become Turtlemania central. IVE's Becker reported booming business at Burger Kings for the videos, released through IVE's kidvid division Family Home Entertainment. For the last two weeks, a new video has been introduced in 5,000 of the chain's 5,400 U.S. restaurants each week. By the end of the month, all four--"April Foolish," "The Great Boldini," "Invasion of the Turtle Snatchers" and "Sky Turtles"--will be available.
Of these 28-minute programs, 22 minutes are devoted to a Turtle episode. The rest is commercials, including a 2 1/2-minute ad for IVE's other Turtle videos, a 90-second trailer for the movie and a Burger King ad pushing its Kids Clubs.
Though these Turtle episodes are new to home video, they're not new. All have been previously shown on the Turtles' syndicated TV series. "It doesn't seem to matter that they've been shown on TV," Becker said.
It certainly hasn't mattered for IVE's other Turtle titles. Becker reported that in the two-and-a-half years IVE has been involved with Turtle videos, several million copies have been sold. Prior to the Burger King promotion, five titles--each containing two episodes--were on the home-video market, selling for $14.95 apiece. IVE's initial shipment of the most recent Turtle video, "Cowabunga, Shreadhead," was over 600,000 units.
One reason the Burger King chain was a perfect place to introduce the Turtle videos is that there was a previous promotional tie-in with the Turtles. In February, Becker said, over 14 million "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" badges were dispensed as part of Burger King's Kids Club promotion. "Kids already associated Burger King with the Turtles, which makes selling the videos there much easier," Becker explained.
To enhance the association between Burger King and the Turtles' videos, two ads have been running on TV--one for adults and one for children--as part of a multimillion-dollar ad campaign.
What's clever about this IVE-Burger King promotion is that not only are these videos new to the marketplace but they're also only sold at Burger King.
This exclusivity is a new wrinkle in what's known as the video premium business. Other companies have used videos in promotions--such as offering a free sports video with a magazine subscription--but those videos had been previously available through traditional outlets. A magazine would buy the give-away videos in high volume at a low cost-per-video. Old titles are commonly used as premiums--not hot, unreleased product like the Turtles videos.
One reason IVE is able to sell these $3.49 videos at such a low cost--a reported $2.25-$2.50 per cassette--is that they're duplicated at the slowest speed (EP). Since EP duplication uses only one third the tape as standard-play (SP) duplication, manufacturing these videos costs much less. However, recording at EP generally results in picture quality inferior to any recorded at SP. But for kidvid cartoons that were previously shown on TV, a top-quality picture isn't that necessary.
What's next for the Turtles?
In the fall, the Turtles TV series moves from syndication to network TV--as a CBS Saturday morning series. The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie will be out this fall too, Becker said. Most likely it will be released at a $20-$25 price geared to sales in the holiday market.