Monday, December 9, 2013

Ron Burgundy marketing campaign is no game changer

Anchorman 2

By Lars Trodson

The media blitz otherwise known as the “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” marketing campaign is not the game changer that so many media outlets have proclaimed it to be.

Is it innovative? Yes. Is it entertaining? Certainly. But it is not a game changer. 

Let's look at a sample quote that's indicative of the hyperbole surrounding the launch of the movie: “The campaign is not only very 2013 but is also a model for the future of movie marketing. It encompasses native ads on The Huffington Post, including taking over the news site’s homepage logo on Dec. 16. And in an Onion-like gag, Burgundy will take to Huff Post to pontificate for several hundred words on something, well, newsy,” writes AdWeek’s Christopher Heine in an article titled “Will Ferrell’s Anchorman 2 is changing the way movies are marketed.

The HuffingtonPost wrote a article called “Marketing Lessons from Ron Burgundy." Another marketing website led with the headline: “Changing the way movies are marketed.”

One central questions has to be asked.

Can this campaign be replicated over and over? 

The answer is no. The definition of game changer is when the rules that define a specific subject — in this case, marketing a movie – are irrevocably altered. That is not the case here.

That's because very few movies will feature a character (or multiple characters) that can so easily slip into the various media outlets that the main character of "Anchorman," Ron Burgundy, finds himself in. Can an actor is playing a cop or an FBI agent do a news broadcast? No. What if the main character is a teacher? The actor can go teach a class, but then they’d have to bring the media in to film it. Those characters wouldn’t find themselves in a situation where cameras were already there, as Burgundy did when he anchored a news broadcast in North Dakota.

What if you’re playing a gangster or any sort of sociopath, would you be recruited to sell trucks or make wry statements about other actors appearing in other movies? Ferrell made a brief video congratulating an Irish actor getting a role in “50 Shades of Grey” that will be seen only in Ireland, according to AdWeek. Could Ray Liotta's character in "The Place Beyond The Pines" sell you a pickup that's suitable for the whole family?

Ron Burgundy is a news anchor, and by today’s definition that also means he is a familiar person who is willing to offer his opinion about anything or anybody. It’s a character tailor-made for any media-ready situation, including getting a building named after you, even for a day (which happened at Emerson College). That's why the "Anchorman" campaign works.

But the ancillary news broadcasts, phony media events on ESPN, fake profiles in magazines (including The New Yorker), ice cream that’s been named after the character — all of which is abetted by a media endlessly fascinated by both fame and itself, by the way — can't be applied to many other characters.

This doesn’t mean that some of extreme social media marketing being done for “Anchorman 2” can’t be repeated by other films. The AdWeek article is particularly astute in detailing the multi-platform, multi-national campaign that this movie is undertaking. Tumblr can be used to great effect, and so can Twitter and Facebook. “Anchorman 2” may simply be taking an integrated marketing campaign to a new level, but this is not new. The only thing new is its saturation. 

Of course, the question also has to be asked about how much can the public take. Every movie can’t attempt this level of exposure. The public will get sick of it. Each campaign would simply cancel each other out. There is already something of a Ron Burgundy backlash (and the movie won’t be out until Dec. 18).

So, the Ron Burgundy marketing team should be credited for coming up with one of the truly enviable marketing campaigns in modern movie history. It’s exciting to watch. I also would venture to say that the next movie that tries to get away with it might pull it off.

But a third, fourth — fifth?

Forget it.

Lars Trodson's first novel, "Eagles Fly Alone," can be found at  The sequel, "Tide Turning," will be published in March by Mainly Murder Press.