Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Harry Potter hype in high gear

Promotions will make it hard to evade latest book

By Hillel Italie
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Think you've seen a lot of hype about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? Just wait until the book comes out.

Billboards. Baseball parks. A countdown in Times Square. Scholastic Inc., the U.S. publisher of J.K. Rowling's mega-selling children's series, has planned a $3 million-$4 million marketing campaign, more than doubling its budget for the release of the last Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in 2000.

Timed to the midnight June 21 release of Order of the Phoenix, the show gets rolling on what could be called "Harry Potter Eve," Friday night June 20, with a countdown in Times Square. A billboard on Sunset Strip will announce the news in Los Angeles.

"You can never take anything for granted," says Michael Jacobs, a senior vice president at Scholastic. "There's a lot of noise in the world and you have to do everything you can to get attention, especially after a three-year wait."

Starting in July, billboard ads will appear in Atlanta, Chicago and several other cities. Scholastic will also take its campaign to baseball parks. The publisher has reached agreements with the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and other teams for "Harry Potter" days, featuring costume contests and scoreboard promotions.

"Reaching out to kids is very important to us because they're our future season ticket holders and our future fans," says Orioles' promoter Marco Gentile.

The publisher already has distributed 3 million bumper stickers, 400,000 buttons, 50,000 window displays and 24,000 stand-up posters with countdown clocks.

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