For more than a year leading to its release, Paramount Pictures used a barrage of appearances by actor Will Ferrell in the character of Ron Burgundy, marketing partnerships and social media contests to produce audience engagement.
But did it work?
The campaign began with Ferrell’s appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show as Burgundy in March 2012 to officially announce the film, followed by teaser trailers two months later. Full trailers were released in June and October 2013 in theaters and online through YouTube and FunnyorDie.com.
Appearances as Burgundy continued with numerous media stunts including: presenting at MTV’s Europe Music Awards, anchoring an actual newscast on Bismarck’s KXMB-TV, providing curling trials commentary on Canada’s TSN sports channel and an interview with Peyton Manning for ESPN. Emerson College went so far as to rename their school the Ron Burgundy School of Communication for a day, complete with a press event.
Marketing partnerships provided more ways to get in front of audiences, sell products and promote the film. The Newseum in Washington D.C. hosted a special exhibit, Chrysler produced over 70 commercials for its Dodge Durango starring Burgundy, Ben & Jerry’s released a limited-edition “Scotchy Scotch Scotch” ice cream and Jockey wrapped a line of tight briefs in Anchorman 2 themed packaging.
The onslaught extended online with an audition contest on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest. Fans could tag videos to be considered for best anchor, meteorologist and live reporter, voted on through the web with no reward other than recognition.
Initial results pointed to an unsuccessful campaign. Despite generating over 3.5 million likes on Facebook, 170,000 followers on Twitter, and 60,000 subscribers on YouTube, moviegoers were slow to the box office. The film opened at #2 with $26.8 million, lower than the inflation-adjusted $35 million of the original, and dropped to #10 by its fourth weekend.
This may have been a result of forgetting to “always leaving them wanting more.” Promotion should have been selective, tantalizing audiences to go out to the movies. Bombarding fans with promotional appearances and reruns of the original on cable likely satisfied any longing to see the character and produced audience fatigue.
In the end, Burgundy stayed classy. The film’s eventual $172.7 million gross revenue exceeded the inflation-adjusted $110.4 million of the first. Word-of-mouth and reviews probably account for ultimately being profitable, reinforcing quality content as a key component to successful communication strategies. Paramount’s partners also monetized their marketing partnerships. Chrysler saw Durango spike 59% in October 2013 and up 50% for the year.
Making efficient use of a comparatively small $50 million budget, the stunts produced earned media coverage and social media discussion, demonstrating the power of an integrated approach. Not only did audiences see the stunts themselves, news coverage and online conversation achieved more than paid placements could have alone.
The Bottom Line
Profitable film, ROI for partners and extended earned media reach? In the words of Burgundy, “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”