Sears: Coming Soon To A Screen Near You?
By Reed Tucker

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Don't be surprised if Sears starts hanging with Leonardo DiCaprio or checks into a local hospital suffering from "exhaustion." The 100-plus-year-old retailer has hired a bigtime Hollywood agent. Last month, Sears Roebuck & Co. (no word if the store will start going by "S.Ro") struck a deal with California's Norm Marshall & Associates. The product-placement specialists have sneaked USA Today into Tom Cruise's Minority Report and dropped bottles of Heineken into Austin Powers in Goldmember, and now NMA hopes to work similar movie magic for Sears.

"We are looking at nontraditional means of promoting the brand and, in part, responding to the changing landscape and the media mix," says Sears spokesperson Ted McDougal. Business-speak-free translation: Consumers are getting too slick and jaded to be swayed through traditional 30-second commercials, calling for more subtle tactics. "I think when a brand is integrated into a show [or movie], it's not perceived as a commercial, and it's very powerful," says NMA president Devery Holmes.

Sears already has a plum goods-for-publicity deal going with the ABC hit Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and now the store evidently wants to become truly A-list--but only with the right vehicles. "We would not reside in anything that would not appeal to the entire family," McDougal says. Too bad. Audiences could have been asking during The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, "Hey, is that a Craftsman?" --Reed Tucker