If you knew someone who knew someone who lived near a working wi-fi connection in late 2013, then you probably heard about Anchorman 2.
Chances are you saw clips from at least one of Will Ferrell‘s many, many “content marketing” projects: the Dodge commercials, the local TV appearance, the journalism school event, the underwear commercial, the in-character interviews, etc.
There’s no question that the campaign was one of the largest in history and that it will serve as a model for future big-name movie promotions.
Here’s the problem, though: it didn’t really work.
Several post-mortem analyses (collected here by Idio) concluded that, while the campaign certainly raised awareness, it didn’t drive viewers to the theater. Despite the fact that the movie has earned a respectable $165M to date including overseas revenues, the campaign may have led you to think it would be much bigger by turning it into an “event.”
We weren’t going to complain, but we feel like quite a few viewers—even those who liked the first movie—thought “enough already” before the sequel even appeared in theaters. And while Anchorman 2 made nearly twice as much as the original, it also cost far more even before considering its marketing budget (and despite the fact that director Adam McKay said Will Ferrell generated $20M in free publicity on his own).
On a personal level, we felt like we’d already seen most of the movie and didn’t have any interest in visiting the theater to check it out. It was a “maybe wait for Netflix” release—and remember that the first movie, like so many “cult classics”, earned most of its views long after it left the box office.
Our suspicions were confirmed when a friend who loved the original responded to the sequel on Facebook by expressing his desire to punch both Ferrell and McKay for ruining his evening.
Maybe the movie will make a healthy profit in the long run, but we still conclude that even the best-planned content campaigns and media placements can’t sell an inferior product.