Universal Using Animated Games to Market “American Pie”

Universal Pictures is seeking to promote the upcoming release of “American Pie 2” by throwing serious dollars into a niche campaign, using online cartoons and games to build buzz.

Through a deal with San Francisco-based online cartoon firm Mondo Media — which creates and hosts episodic online shorts like as “Thugs on Film,” “Gary the Rat” and “The God and Devil Show” — Universal is hoping to tap into a young and Internet-savvy demographic for the film, which debuts August 10.

Through the agreement, Mondo is creating and hosting games and rich media ads featuring characters from the movie.

Ads throughout Mondo’s site, and on Universal’s official movie site, will promote games based on the film. The games feature the same sort of tongue-in-cheek and semi-raunchy humor of the teen sex comedy, incorporating a viral component which allows users to forward the games to friends.

Additionally, the campaign includes Flash-based commercials for the film, which will appear throughout Mondo’s sites.

“We are very impressed by Mondo Media’s creativity, execution and reach,” said Kevin Campbell, who is vice president new media marketing for Universal Pictures. “The commercial, game, viral marketing component and mini-Web site created by Mondo Media capture the spirit of the film.”

Universal previously has made use of using rich media in its ad campaigns, looking to reach out to young people, who are more likely to have the hardware and high-speed connections. Indeed, youthful, broadband-equipped audiences comprise most of the audiences of sites like Mondo Media and JoeCartoon.com — and such are the audiences that Universal is aiming to hit with the “American Pie” campaign.

But it’s not alone: most studios now run online campaigns as a matter of course, with 20th Century Fox, Dreamworks SKG and other film producers launching big-budget Internet marketing pushes in recent month.

That’s another reason that Universal says it uses rich media advertising — because compelling creative helps to counter a trend of increasing ad clutter. Earlier this year, the studio’s rich media ad buy for “Jurassic Park III” included several high-traffic sites and portals. The creatives for that film used sound and full-screen “takeover” animation to draw attention to smaller banner ads promoting the film.

Similarly, the work with Mondo is also aimed at making noise in an increasingly crowded environment for marketing summer releases — a fact that Campbell and others have said often hampers’ filmmakers’ efforts to promote new films.

“The ‘American Pie 2’ campaign’s use of our new Mondo Side Show advertising product will break through the clutter and boost the film’s pre-opening awareness,” said Robin Harper, who is Mondo Media’s senior vice president for marketing. “It’s fun, entertaining and thoroughly involving.”

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