At this point, it seems nearly impossible to imagine that there are people unaware that Will Ferrell and company are bringing back the mahogany-scented charms of “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” for a second round of news-aimed mayhem, but the marketing blitz surrounding the film has been so massive and so varied that it seems as if Paramount Pictures might be worried that not everyone knows what’s going on. In short – “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” will be hitting a theater near you come December 18, moving the idiotic and amusing exploits of the Channel 4 News Team into the eighties and the world of the twenty-four-hour news cycle. If you didn’t already know this, you must not have a television, or a computer, or eyes, or a mouth, because “Anchorman 2” has been everywhere for entire months now.
So does “Anchorman 2” have the most over-saturated movie marketing campaign ever? Well, yes – but that’s probably not a bad thing for the Channel 4 News Team, even if its most dedicated fans are growing weary of being positively bombarded with new material aimed to intrigue.
Our first clue that “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” was going to go great guns on its marketing juggernaut came care of an announcement way back in June that it would be teaming up with Washington, D.C.’s adorably named Newseum for an exhibit titled simply, “Anchorman: The Exhibit.” While the pairing of the museum and the movie didn’t quite strike the right chord with us, it did signal that the marketing team behind the film was going to do some very different things to capitalize on any and all interest. Museum-goers? Locked in.
Next up? People who know how to read. In October, it was announced that a (fictionalized, obviously) Ron Burgundy biography would be hitting shelves. “Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings” grabbed a November 19 release date, making it a perfect holiday gift for “Anchorman” fans everywhere. Written entirely in character (will we ever know who actually penned the bio? Probably not), every element of the book has been stamped with Ron’s signature wit and inflated self-esteem. “He” even wrote an author’s note that thanked his beloved dog Baxter for inspiring the material. Apparently, it’s “Anchorman 2’s” entirely fictional world, we’re just living in it.
After reaching both museum fans and book lovers, “Anchorman 2” went a bit more traditional – with a series of commercials for the Dodge Durango that, again, featured Ferrell in character. Ferrell notoriously made seventy different ads stumping for the SUV, and while television sets were flooded with standard commercials, he reportedly also made viral pieces, Vines, “skits,” and a mess of other stuff that won’t even make their way on to a television or computer screen near you.
Did you need something to snack on while enjoying all those commercials? Of course “Anchorman 2” delivered on that account, too – joining up with Ben & Jerry’s to make a scotch-themed ice cream in support of the film. The flavor, obviously known as “Scotchy Scotch Scotch,” was unveiled in October, and included a ceremony packed with Ron Burgundy lookalikes. Not content to just spread news of the creamy treat, Paramount sent out massive boxes to various members of the press for their consumption, leading plenty of people to wonder “just what do I do with eight pints of butterscotch ice cream and a coffin-sized box of dry ice?”
Not a member of the press? Why, you could still get in on the “Anchorman 2” action, as EPIX and Paramount launched a search in November for the next Ron Burgundy. The winner earned the chance to act as news anchor for the EPIX network and report from the red carpet of the film’s premiere later this month. While that might sound straightforward enough, it came with a twist – entrants had to make videos on Instagram and then use various social networks to stump for votes. Not into Instagram? The Channel 4 News set journeyed around the country on Black Friday of all days (shutter) so that various mall-goers could make their videos on (sort of) location, from New York City to Los Angeles to Dallas.
Elsewhere, the studio launched a petition to replace the heads of Mt. Rushmore with the Channel 4 News Team (it, of course, came with its own hashtag - #MakeRushmoreClassy). Late last month, Paramount even sponsored a Movember event pegged for the release of “Anchorman 2” with a moustache-grooming event held at the end of November. Not enough marketing for you? Not enough variety? The “Anchorman 2” team closed out November with the release of a new mobile game, “Scotchy Scotch Toss,” which required players to toss ice cubes into Ron’s glass in order to hang out with him (metaphorically, as it were). There’s also an “Anchorman”-branded scotch on the way, because of course there is.
And yet “Anchorman 2” is still not done with marketing mayhem, shipping Ferrell to North Dakota to co-anchor a local newscast (yes, of course, in character), before he setting him up to provide some color commentary at the Canadian Olympic curling trials. And, no, that’s not all – Ferrell as Burgundy will co-host ESPN’s SportsCenter on Thursday, December 5, and he’s already interviewed Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in support of the episode. Co-star Paul Rudd is hosting this week’s “Saturday Night Live,” and we have no doubts that an “Anchorman” skit will pop up in the show. At this point, you cannot swing a dead cat (or a sleepy Baxter) without hitting some form of “Anchorman 2” marketing.
The depth and breadth of the “Anchorman 2” marketing is unprecedented – no other film campaign in recent memory has cobbled together such a massive push using so many very different elements over such a sustained period of time – though there are a few other films worth mentioning.
This summer’s “The Internship” was set at Google and was simply soaked in, yes, “Googleyness,” but the influence of the search engine was far more evident and obvious within the film itself. This was a case of product placement over marketing drive, though the opportunities were certainly present. Another summer blockbuster, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” aligned with Mazda as its official automobile tie-in, resulting in a viral video starring Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto, with the two Spocks engaged in a road race (Nimoy loses out because he’s driving a stogy old Mercedes-Benz).
Last summer, “Men in Black III” went for some very strange fast food tie-ins, like Baskin-Robbins’ Lunar Cheesecake ice cream and Dunkin’ Donuts’ Undercover Black Cocoa star-shaped donuts, which went for an eighties vibe to go along with the film, yet never seemed to attract too much attention. Even “The Dark Knight” went for a bevy of tie-ins from companies like Six Flags amusement parks, Pepsi, and NASCAR, though none of those seemed nearly as over the top as everything “Anchorman 2” has been rolling out (though Batman-themed Mountain Dew is just plain strange).
On the other side, the “Spider-Man” franchise has already returned to the viral marketing that marked the first film, but that’s a niche market that requires attention, work, and plenty of time. It’s fun, but damn if it’s not readily consumable.
What’s most striking about the many marketing angles of “Anchorman 2” is Ferrell and company’s dedication to staying in character for so many of their bits – the last time a high profile film relied on in-character selling (beyond just a one-off commercial like Mazda did for “Star Trek Into Darkness), it was last year’s “The Three Stooges” movie, which saw its leads demanding to stay in character for a fistful of interviews. The ploy wasn’t that well liked by either journalists or fans. These days, most big marketing pushes have been product-based and didn’t require their main talent to show up to actually sell them (though imagining Tommy Lee Jones stumping outside a Dunkin’ Donuts is certainly an amusing image); “Anchorman 2,” it seems, wants something different.
While so much marketing could seem like overkill, it seems as if the team behind the “Anchorman 2” campaign isn’t looking to oversaturate fans – it just wants to reach all of them. Over at AdWeek, a recent piece dove into the ramifications of such a large scale campaign, and Andrew Runyon, Paramount’s VP of Interactive Marketing, explained why the blitz is so big and so wide: “The fans, due to the nature of the Internet, are quite disparate…So we had to collect and organize these fans from channels and discussions that are already going on about the film.” The first “Anchorman” wasn’t a massive hit in theaters (it made less than $100m worldwide), it became a cult smash over time, so while it seems improbable that its many fans are not aware that a second film is arriving – after all, this is a project that was talked about for years before finally getting the greenlight – Paramount is not taking any chances with its marketing, exhausting as it may be.
Finally, if you’re not completely tapped out by the metric ton of “Anchorman 2” materials, you can purchase one of Paramount’s so-called “Supertickets” for a cool thirty-three bucks. The AMC theaters exclusive will earn you (well, purchase you) the right to see the movie on December 16 (two days before official release!), along with a poster, a $5 voucher for the concession stand, and two home-video goodies: a digital copy of the movie (you know, when it becomes available on digital) and an instant digital copy of "Anchorman: Wake Up Ron Burgundy -- The Lost Movie.”
“Anchorman 2” is in theaters on December 18, but you knew that already.