December 24, 2013

The Backlash Against Ron Burgundy

Even if you have been living under a rock, you probably know that Anchorman 2 has recently come to a theater near you. The film’s marketing campaign has been everywhere; there is seemingly no escape from some type of paid advertisement for the movie, whether you’re walking around New York City or consuming various forms of media, both print and video. While I appreciated the silly humor and ridiculous characters in the first movie, the intense marketing campaign for this movie actually has turned me off, and I don’t want any more Ron Burgundy. Unfortunately for the movie’s producers, others feel the same way.

I came to this realization last week when I saw Ron Burgundy’s thick head of hair on the cover of ESPN The Magazine  interviewing Peyton Manning last week. This was a while after Burgundy appeared in Dodge commercials, one of which included him interviewing a horse. YouTube was filled with clips of Burgundy auditioning for a SportsCenter anchorman job, which was actually previewed by one of those Dodge ads. (So you need to see a commercial with Ron Burgundy before you see a commercial of Ron Burgundy. Got that straight?)

And if you don’t watch TV, read ESPN The Magazine, or get emails about funny YouTube videos from your friends, the promotions will still find you. Just this morning I was getting coffee at the supermarket, and I saw Burgundy’s head (again!) in the freezer section promoting Ben & Jerry’s newest flavor “Scotchy Scotch Scotch,” which is an ode to a scene in the first movie.  And if you were trying to watch the news one day in North Dakota, you were probably surprised to see Burgundy anchoring KX News there in late November.

Many other product roll-outs of late have had expensive and expansive marketing campaigns, but none rival the sheer ubiquity of Anchorman 2. Of recent memory, Microsoft spent over $190 million promoting their Surface tablet, and I still remember the multi-colored subway cars that were plastered with ads for the device. This campaign still fell short of Microsoft’s sales expectations, but what sets Anchorman 2 apart is not only the prolific nature of the ads but the cross-brand partnerships that have brought the movie to myriad audiences through numerous mediums, from magazine covers to TV commercials to the ice cream aisle.  From a PR perspective, there is a strong credibility factor partnering with Dodge, Ben & Jerry’s and ESPN. However, the movie promoters should also have taken audience fatigue into consideration, as well as their eventual return on investment.

The fatigue started last month with many culture reporters coming out with their disapproval of all the marketing exploits. Gawker wrote an article titled, “Anchorman 2 Has Overdone It With Dumb Marketing Promotions,” while The Week’s Scott Meslow wrote “there’s no point in seeing a movie when you’re already living in it,” in his piece titled “How nonstop marketing killed any buzz for Anchorman 2.” The chorus of voices so fed up with the movie’s marketing campaign prompted some to even come out in its defense. Vulture had a piece titled “In Defense of Anchorman 2’s Ad Campaign.” The fact that the conversation even got to that point is not a good sign.

The final determining factor of the movie’s marketing campaign comes down to one simple item: money. So far, the movie has grossed $40 million in the box office, but the $30 million opening would actually fall below the original’s mark when adjusting for inflation, according to Forbes. Although the movie will be a money maker, producers and Paramount Pictures executives should be asking themselves if all the money thrown at marketing was actually worth it, and if they could have received a better return on their investment with a more modest marketing campaign. Anchorman 2 should be a lesson for all publicists and promoters: there is such a thing as too much exposure.

By Ben Jaffe

Ben Jaffe is an Account Supervisor at Dukas Public Relations and holds a Master’s in Government with a Specialization in Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Studies.