Yes, Ryan Reynolds Really Writes His Own Stuff, and He’s Got 7 Marketing Lessons for You

Adweek's Brand Visionary for 2020 opens up about his methods and madness at Brandweek


If you’re a gin drinker, someone searching for a cheap wireless plan or happen to be shopping around for an ad agency, odds are you’ve heard of Aviation Gin, Mint Mobile and Maximum Effort—three ventures that occupy the time of Ryan Reynolds. And even if none of these circumstances applies to you, odds are you’ve at least heard of Reynolds himself.

Because of his Deadpool movies, of course—but lately, even more so because of his work as a marketer.

Reynolds is the creative dynamo behind some of the most amusing, sardonic and memorable ads of the past couple of years. The spot claiming Aviation tasted so good because the Unitarian Church of Fresno blessed every bottle? That Mint Mobile segment that pulled ’80s star Rick Moranis into a field of potted mint, only to ignore him? Reynolds didn’t just star in those videos—he dreamed them up and wrote the script, too.

Reynolds’ somewhat frightening ability to read the cultural landscape and then pop out perfectly timed material that’s even drier than his gin has made him a marketing phenom. (Enough of one that liquor giant Diageo made a deal potentially worth up to $610 million for Aviation last month.)

The feat would be noteworthy alone were it not for Reynolds’ already established career as a Hollywood actor, producer, writer and social media heavyweight. These forces taken together motivated Adweek to name Reynolds as its Brand Visionary for 2020.

As a relative newcomer to marketing, Reynolds certainly has a lot to say about it—and no shortage of wisdom that, he argues, is applicable to most any brand. Earlier today, Reynolds shared some of his insights with Adweek’s creativity and innovation editor David Griner during our Brandweek virtual event, including seven lessons for anyone in the marketing business.

Less bureaucracy allows for more creativity

Though he splits creative duties with Maximum Effort president George Dewey and has built a staff of “marketeers,” as he calls them, Reynolds’ shop remains small and informal. Not having to deal with bureaucracy, hierarchy and corporate bloat, he said, gives him a competitive edge.

“I don’t know the nuances of typical ad agencies,” he admitted. “I’ve met some of them. While I respect what they do and how they do it, I get why it’s challenging. You have all this interplay between the clients and the agencies and the back-and-forth. When you’re one and the same [as we are], I will freely admit that it’s an unfair advantage.”

Since Reynolds doesn’t have to go to meetings, send memos or wait for approvals, he’s far more agile as a creative. And that’s essential when the work itself fits into larger cultural conversations that are always changing. “I can turn something around in 36 hours that another company would take weeks to figure out,” Reynolds said.

To be a good marketer, be a consumer first

Reynolds is well known for being the owner of Aviation Gin, but he only bought his stake after becoming a fan of the spirit first.

Named after the Aviation cocktail invented in New York in 1916, Aviation Gin got its start as a boutique brand 14 years ago. While shooting the first Deadpool film in Vancouver in 2015, Reynolds would occasionally wander down to the bar in his hotel and order a Negroni, which the bartender made specifically with the Aviation brand. And a Negroni or two was all it took: “I fell in love with the gin,” Reynolds said.

@UpperEastRob Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.