How Bad Santa 2 Is Using Artists to Make, and Share, Its Comically Dirty Ad Campaign

Welcome back, Willie

When Bad Santa 2 hits theaters this week, it will join a long list of releases this year that are sequels to movies made before Steve Jobs introduced the iPod. Or before Steve Jobs even returned to Apple in 1997.

So far in 2016, we've seen Independence Day, Bridget Jones' Diary, Zoolander and others all received much-delayed new installments, though audience response to them varied greatly.

2003's Bad Santa introduced us to Willie, a foul-mouthed drunk conman, played by Billy Bob Thornton, who dresses up as Santa Claus to get inside department stores when they're flush with cash during the holiday season. There are complications and problems, many of which he causes himself, and whatever the opposite of "heartwarming, inspirational holiday story" is, that was it.

Now, 13 years later, Willie and his compatriot Marcus (Tony Cox) are back for more Christmas thievery, this time including Willie's mother, played by Kathy Bates. Instead of a department store (possibly a reflection of how the retail landscape is no longer the golden goose it was over a decade ago), the crooks have their eye set on a charity in Chicago, though all the characters are still as loathsome as they were when we first met them.

To bring Bad Santa back with a bang, Broad Green Pictures partnered with Kvell, a creative studio based in Santa Monica, Calif. The studio was given the brief to create a campaign that was "as vulgar as possible," according to Kvell co-founder Adam Rosenberg. That's in keeping with the overall gist of the story, which involves as much cursing, sexual content and generally hateful, selfish, misanthropic behavior as you can imagine.

"We're trying to create art," Rosenberg says, and so the brief took them to photographer/artist John Spannos, who's worked with Kvell before. The campaign features a series of seven images that will appear on the social-media feeds of the artists the studio has worked with.

By allowing the artists to be the ones to share the artwork, they're engaging in, essentially, an influencer campaign and going directly to the audiences those artists have amassed. The studio might, Rosenberg says, share some of the artwork on official movie channels—but that, along with potential paid promotion of those updates, remains to be seen.

See more images below.