Will Ferrell’s Anchorman 2 Is Changing the Way Movies Are Marketed

The wide-reaching social push is unlike anything done before

In a video that will soon be making the rounds in Ireland and beyond, Ron Burgundy—as if he had been cryogenically frozen since the late ’70s—offers his congrats to Irish actor Jamie Dornan for landing the lead role in the forthcoming erotic thriller Fifty Shades of Grey.

Photo: Mark Seliger/Paramount Pictures

In the run-up to Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, the fictional blowhard TV newsman opines: “I can only imagine it’s a charming documentary on the low-barometric pressure that often occurs in Ireland, resulting in various shades of overcast skies, as the Irish are known for having a strange obsession with their weather. I imagine this is a big win for them. So good job, boyo!” (To pick at just one of his points, in classically absurd Burgundian “expertise,” men from the Emerald Isle do not typically refer to each other as “boyo”—unless they want to accuse an Irish friend of being Welsh, that is.)

In addition to being just plain funny, the 27-second video perfectly captures the snackable, custom-made social content that is the tent pole of the film’s global campaign, led by the studio, Paramount Pictures, and digital-focused shop Zemoga but creatively masterminded by Anchorman 2’s talent. From Will Ferrell (Ron Burgundy) to Steve Carell (Brick Tamland) to Paul Rudd (Brian Fantana) to David Koechner (Champ Kind) to the folks behind the camera, it’s an all-hands-on-deck affair. “This has been the most comprehensive amount of material I’ve ever participated in,” Ferrell tells Adweek. “I’m taken aback.”

Actually, Ferrell and his merry troupe are moving social media as marketing tool forward, as they get themselves up to speed with the discipline’s ever-changing argot. “I barely knew what a meme or GIF was when we started the campaign,” confesses Adam McKay, the 45-year-old director of Anchorman 2, who also co-writes the franchise with Ferrell. “But those terms starting coming out and I would be like, ‘You mean a good joke?’ To me, those are just new words for premises, tropes or riffs. The only big difference to me is the riff is now often going on a loop.”

Paramount has struck the deepest movie partnership to date with Tumblr, which represents the linchpin for a digital appeal that bristles with more social lingo than a Facebook developer’s powwow. The studio has been seeding the social media ecosystem with Burgundy’s essence at just the right pace in recent weeks, placing several of 50-plus videos and social nuggets cooked up by the Ferrell-McKay duo and content shop Jetset Studios. (Anchorman 2 hits theaters nationwide on Dec. 20.) “The concept of social media barely existed at the time of the first Anchorman,” notes Andrew Runyon, Paramount’s vp of interactive marketing. “Facebook had just been conceived a few months prior, and YouTube and Twitter hadn’t been created. But social has allowed Anchorman to live on as a film. And it makes us believe that we have something really zeitgeisty here that we can capitalize on.”

The campaign is not only very 2013 but is also a model for the future of movie marketing. It encompasses native ads on The Huffington Post, including taking over the news site’s homepage logo on Dec. 16. And in an Onion-like gag, Burgundy will take to Huff Post to pontificate for several hundred words on something, well, newsy.

Paramount has also teamed with CNN for comedic opportunities employing storylines from Anchorman 2 that fit like an Isotoner glove from the Carter administration. (The movie centers on Burgundy’s involvement in the creation of the first 24-hour news channel—Global News Network, or GNN.) The New York-based narrative is set as America transitions into the garish decade that brought us Miami Vice, Ghostbusters and massive cocaine abuse. So what if Burgundy and his network buddies end up testing Bolivian marching powder’s stimulative effects? After all, they’re going to need as much help as they can get producing news segments around the clock.

Working with Zemoga, Paramount is employing a social media-styled casting call. The talent show-like initiative, “Join Ron’s News Crew,” asks people from around the world to audition for the positions of anchor (#TeamRon), meteorologist (#TeamBrick), sportscaster (#TeamChamp) and live reporter (#TeamBrian). International bloggers have been enlisted to weigh in, posting video of the screen tests and outtakes, tweeting the bits with the appropriate hashtags. There’s no actual prize for winning—other than the 15 minutes of fame participants will reap from big-time YouTube views and social buzz. 


DJ Edgerton, Zemoga’s CEO, says contestants will be able to concoct Anchorman-minded personalities from scratch. “There will be characters out there that can work themselves into the DNA of the Anchorman phenomenon,” Edgerton explains. “One of the beautiful and disruptive components of social is that the cream rises to the top. The creative director doesn’t decide what’s best at the end of the day—the audience does.”

Taking a cue from shows like American Idol and The Voice, the competition will include Web voting and a panel of celebrity judges. (Paramount execs remain tight-lipped about the details.) Videos of the tryouts will be promoted via Anchorman and Ron Burgundy’s enormous Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest followings. And Paramount’s sibling pay TV channel Epix has invited Instagram users to submit videos of their best Burgundy imitations. (The winner will be invited to walk the red carpet at the New York premiere Dec. 15.)

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