Reggie Awards 2001

By David Finnigan

©, March 13, 2001.

Even The Simpsons' own surly Comic Book Guy could not dismiss the success of the show's Global Fanfest. For 10 months last year, marketers at Fox's News Corp. One unit generated a steady stream of fan excitement through promotional events leading up to the show's Nov. 5 U.S. season premiere, its 250th episode, which guest starred The Who.

The Global Fanfest marked the creation of the first official fan Web site for a show that Fox licensing and merchandising president Steve Ross has called "our Looney Tunes, our Mickey Mouse." At the promotion's end, more than 350,000 fans had signed up to compete in the "Bart Bowl," with 215,000 online names registered for Simpsons ISP/e-mail service plus 235,000 people signing for the newsletter.

The promo culminated on Oct. 29, when some 3,000 Ÿber-fans joined show staff and executives from about 30 promotional partners at a Simpsons-branded carnival held at the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles. News Corp. One svp Kayne Lanahan said the event gave fans around the world an opportunity to "come together and celebrate" the 10th anniversary of the show. "We wanted to reinvigorate the franchise from a viewer standpoint and from a financial standpoint," she said.

With 26 Fox divisions participating, from Sky Latin America/Canal Fox to Harper Collins to the Fox Television stations, the Fanfest demonstrated "the power of News Corp. around the world, when we really rallied everyone around a common goal," said Lanahan. "There's so few truly global television properties. When we're all sitting in the U.S., we tend to forget what a phenomenon The Simpsons is in the world. It was a great education and reminder for all of us."

Indeed, Fox flew in 700 winners of Simpsons trivia contests from 16 countries across the globe. The Simpsons is now shown in a total of 70 countries, and Fanfest partners included Quaker Oats in Europe, Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay in Canada, Kmart and Target in Australia, Burger King Worldwide and, in the U.S., Butterfinger, one of the show's oldest promo partners.

Retailers also got in on the act. With its Simpsons-branded hot dogs and Xtreme Gulp cups, 7-Eleven aired spots last summer before each episode. Meanwhile, TV Guide recognized the show's anniversary with no less than 12 collectible Simpsons covers. Despite the promo's success, Lanahan said there were logistical problems inherent in any massive global undertaking. "The one thing that we would like to enhance is more fully integrating sponsors on a global basis," she said. "From a logistics standpoint, it was just very hard to get to decision makers at a specific client at various regions in the world."

The Global Fanfest turned out to be the perfect vehicle for the show. It also served well for a licensing franchise that has generated more than $1 billion in retail, tie-in merchandise sales since 1990. (This year, Playmates-designed World of Springfield Intelli-Tronic talking dolls will depict the show's second- and third-tier characters.) Success for both the Global Fanfest and The Simpsons stems from the fact that the promotion and the show do not take themselves -- or TV -- too seriously. "There's an edge, but it's not a threatening edge," said marketing consultant Mitch Litvak, president of The L.A. Office consultancy. "No matter what the promotion, it's the characters' sense that personally comes out in the program. It's the brand management that Fox puts into it, so the characters don't stray from who they are."

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Last updated on May 12, 2001 by Jouni Paakkinen (