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''X-Men'' uses sneaky marketing

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It’s the kind of sneaky grassroots marketing that would make the Blair Witch guys smile. Since February, Twentieth Century Fox has been waging an extensive campaign — including a website, a TV spot (airing late at night, mostly in New York City, L.A., and Washington, D.C.), bumper stickers, and buttons — to rally the populace behind Sen. Robert Kelly and his anti-mutant legislation. The catch? Kelly is the fictional right-winger trying to thwart the mutant superheroes in July’s X-Men movie. ”We got the ball rolling,” says Jeffrey Godsick, a top Fox publicist, ”and fans have decided to give it a life of its own.” Indeed, X-Meners toting pro-Kelly placards recently showed up at the Today show. More pranks are planned May 30 in Chicago outside the Daley Center municipal building and at a Pennsylvania Reform Party meeting in June. What’s next, Mutant Day at Wrigley Field?

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