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

The wide-reaching social push is unlike anything done before

Although so much of Paramount’s strategy revolves around user-generated content and earned social media, Facebook and Twitter ads and homepage takeovers on sites like Yahoo and MSN will bolster those elements. “Our fans have been creating content and essentially marketing for us,” says Megan Wahtera, Paramount’s svp of interactive marketing. “But it’s our job to feed the frenzy.”  

Photo: Mark Seliger/© Paramount Pictures

Indeed, the paid elements are designed to piggyback on the momentum generated by thousands upon thousands of GIFs on Tumblr—where “Ron Burgundy” and “Anchorman” have been some of the most popular search terms this year among people hunting for memes. (In one GIF, Burgundy is seen pouting in a phone booth, the text reading: “I AM IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTION.”)

When it comes to why user-generated GIFs are a boon to Anchorman 2, the film’s marketers compare the format’s entertainment value to clips from the silent film era. Looked at another way, Ferrell essentially is the Buster Keaton of the social media age.

But it hasn’t been all fun harnessing the Burgundian social effect for Paramount’s interactive leads. “The fans, due to the nature of the Internet, are quite disparate,” Runyon explains. “So we had to collect and organize these fans from channels and discussions that are already going on about the film.”

What’s more, global-marketing issues often arise—especially given that comedy doesn’t always travel easily from continent to continent compared to other genres. “Comedy is very subject to local and cultural sensibilities,” Runyon points out. “It requires a little bit more customization.”

So Ferrell and McKay got to customizing, hatching dedicated videos for far-reaching markets like the U.K. and Australia. Besides his Irish-targeted video, Burgundy recently delivered his postelection musings on the presidential race Down Under in a 30-second video. In the vid (which drew 585,000 views), he intones: “We laughed. We cried. We became distracted by [Prime Minister] Tony Abbott’s banana hammock. [Burgundy chuckles.] I know I certainly did. And forgot a Labor Party ever existed. Good times, Australia.”

In an era in which every brand has a social-data dashboard, Paramount, Zemoga and the principals are closely watching how their videos and memes perform in real time. “We can see how the trailer and one-liners are doing, helping reveal which ones are watercooler moments,” says Wahtera. “The data allows us to see what fans are interested in, and then we can push those materials accordingly.”

Such data helped inform the Scotch Toss, a mobile game via Paramount and comedy site Funny or Die (founded by Ferrell and McKay). The game—enabled for social sharing, naturally—features 300 voiceovers by Ferrell, who, in the character of Burgundy, eggs on players to flick ice cubes into his scotch. If the player is successful, he might hear a line like: “Bull’s-eye! From that Latin ‘bullseyellius,’ which means ‘eye of a whale.’” Or miss and you might get: “Do that again, and I’ll batter your kidneys!”

“It’s really silly, addictive and stupid, which a lot of these mobile games are,” says Mike Farah, president of production at Funny or Die, a strategic partner that helped Wieden + Kennedy develop the Dodge Durango spots that have people talking—and sharing. The spot “Staring Contest” alone has garnered more than 2 million YouTube views.

For the Anchorman 2 push, the team is especially bullish about the movie’s Tumblr hub featuring all those GIFs—including one in which a bandana-wearing Fantana lifts weights along with the text “PUMPIN’ FOR A THUMPIN’.” As inherently social brands, Anchorman and Tumblr seem made for each other. (If Burgundy and Facebook are the same age, then Tumblr might as well be the mustachioed one’s little bro.)

“Paramount has taken a lot of our recommendations to heart, and they are blowing it out of the water,” says David Hayes, lead in Tumblr’s brands-focused department called Canvas. “It’s a studio that we are pointing to when we talk to entertainment brands.”

Hayes says Hollywood is slowly but steadily coming to employ user-generated GIFs and memes as branding vehicles. The memes may start out at Tumblr, but more importantly—and this is key—they’re often exported to Facebook and Twitter’s broader platforms. Hayes points to an effort last spring for Paramount’s Star Trek: Into Darkness as an “aha” moment. Nine animated GIFs were pieced together to create a socially embeddable poster for the latest installment in the iconic franchise.

Might GIF mashups even be the future of movie posters in a digital era? It’s possible, says Cliff Marks, president of National CineMedia, which is trying to reshape in-cinema advertising with interactive bells and whistles. “These small, chewable formats are a cool way to present your content,” he says. “And the studios are starting to make that content a focus.”

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