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

The wide-reaching social push is unlike anything done before

While some say Anchorman 2’s elaborate social media plan is a sign of things to come in movie promotions, still others believe the strategy could have a much broader impact. “We think product marketing is going to look more like movie campaigns in the near future, with longer narratives and more stage craft,” offers Pete Stein, global CEO of Razorfish. 

Photo: Andrew Macpherson/© Paramount Pictures.  

Guy Longworth, svp of marketing for Sony’s PlayStation Network, also thinks Anchorman 2’s long-tail social approach will inspire copycats in categories outside entertainment. “In this day and age, you really have to seed ideas,” he says. “Take how Google didn’t just come out with Google Glass. They have people who spent $1,500 to be among the first with Glass learning the product and creating content. We are increasingly thinking about taking products to market with longer-term [marketing] models.”

Anchorman 2’s social nature inspired some unusual—and highly creative—partnerships. The Washington, D.C.-based Newseum, a museum of media and journalism, partnered with Paramount on an exhibit that runs through next August. It enables visitors to interact with “#AskRon” displays with Burgundy’s answers to questions posed on Twitter. As with other elements of the campaign, Ferrell recorded the responses. “We are using the hashtag #StayClassyNewseum in our print and online ads,” notes Scott Williams, marketing vp for the Newseum. He adds that around Halloween, people were asked to share stories about themselves dressed as Burgundy, “and we got a ton of content.”

Dressing up as Burgundy on Halloween also changed the life of an enterprising Idaho sportscaster. Paul Gerke of KIVI-TV in Boise impersonated Burgundy during his Oct. 31 broadcast, nailing the character despite only three hours of preparation. Before leaving work that night, the 28-year-old saw a video of his shtick on the hugely popular sports blog Deadspin. From there, the video went viral, collecting millions of views.

“When I witnessed that, I knew it was game on,” Gerke says. “By the time I woke up the next morning, it was in USA Today, the U.K. Daily Mail, Japanese websites and the front page of Yahoo and MSN.”

Meanwhile, Gerke’s Twitter followers went from 300 to 11,000 overnight. He appeared on CNN, and NBCUniversal requested a meeting to chat about a potential gig. The quick-thinking team at Zemoga also reached out to see whether Gerke would participate in the “Join Ron’s News Crew” events, to which he agreed.

Now, thanks to Ron Burgundy, maybe Gerke will become kind of a big deal, too. Gerke is cautious. “A social media-driven world has a fickle personality,” he acknowledges. “This could all be over tomorrow.”

Ephemeral as fame can be, it’s a sure bet Anchorman 2 won’t be the last movie to employ social in a big way.

There’s definitely more social business to be had out of Hollywood, says Tumblr’s Hayes, who worked in marketing at distributor Lions Gate Entertainment before joining the social site earlier this year. Studios’ attitudes toward social media continue to evolve, says Hayes. Case in point: director McKay tweets from Ron Burgundy’s Twitter account whenever he wants to share something he thinks is funny.

Apparently, that’s pretty unusual as the movie business goes.

“With some studios, single tweets actually have to wait for approval,” Hayes notes. “But Paramount has really turned the table on that idea. Part of the splendor of a socially progressive movie campaign is that you turn some of the control over to the fans.”

And who knows? Maybe Baxter, Burgundy’s faithful pooch, can be president of the fan club. But only if he has time. Yes, the dog has a social presence, too—and a couple thousand Facebook fans to manage already.

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