Michael Lee: why Hollywood is teaching the advertising world a lessson in marketing

I’ve been impressed recently in how Hollywood has been showing off some innovative marketing savvy and creativity when launching its latest movies. And I’m sure those launches are getting more than a few envious glances from the madmen and women of Madison Avenue.

Beyond getting the stars of the movie or director on the chat shows, the traditional way of plugging a movie was to cut a 30 sec spot showing scenes from the movie.

Now, with this latest set of launches they’re bringing the idea of the movie alive, not just showing clips, demonstrating some very innovative thinking, activating social dialogue, and really playing with media in new ways. It’ll be interesting to see how these fare in the usually ad filled award season at the end of the year.

Here’s four that have struck me as excellent examples.

The Lego Movie

Last weekend in the UK The Lego Movie promoted itself by buying an entire commercial break and filled it with well known commercials re-made entirely in Lego.

The first spot was a PSA featuring Vinnie Jones (Lock-Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) for the British Heart Foundation, this was followed by, BT and Premier Inn with spots reshot frame for frame in Lego. In between each re-worked ad were promos for The Lego Movie itself.

What a wonderful, charming, delightful way of promoting the movie, to demonstrate the humor that the movie held. I bet up till then many adults thought that this was a movie for their kids, but the wit, innovation and execution of this probably got more adults thinking about going themselves.

Obviously this is a costly media play and isn’t a stunt that can be done again and again, but it’s following the Apple 1984 tradition of do it once, make it big, make it memorable, make it talked about, and they will come.

Anchorman 2

The movie was brilliantly promoted by Will Ferrell with a series of well-timed and executed stunts and events. It started with the launch of the new Chrysler campaign, where W&K teamed up with Funny or Die to produce one of the most successful car launches in years. It was followed up with a series of new product launches: a new flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream named, elegantly, Scotchy, Scotch Scotch. You could pull on a pair of Ron Burgundy Underwear, or get a tipple of Ron’s very own brand of Scotch, Ron Burgundy Scotch.

Maybe this was the first ever self-sustaining marketing campaign. Ron co-anchored live news shows and interviewed Peyton Manning for ESPN , interestingly describing Peyton as “a succulent young lamb….” Ron Burgundy was everywhere, shaking hands, maybe even kissing babies on a brilliant whirlwind campaign….. He’ll be running for president.

Here’s Ron’s Dorango spot:

Here’s Ron interviewing Peyton Manning on ESPN


For the October 2013 launch of the Carrie remake the studios decided to create a real time telekinetic event. A simple but very effective stunt to bring alive the sheer terror and chaos Carrie brought with her. A live product demo in fact.

A normal New York coffee shop was rigged with special effects that were triggered by a Carrie-like actress who got a little upset when someone spilled her coffee. The offending coffee spiller being dragged up a wall, tables began moving around the café on Carrie’s instruction and rogue book shelves came alive.

All to the amazement, shock, fear of normal people just popping in for a low-fat skim latte. What a great way to get people sampling the new Carrie movie, give them a demo of what’s to come.

Devil’s Due

Another horror movie. This one, Devil’s Due which launched in January this year featured a devil baby that would scare the pants off of Rosemary’s offspring. An animatronic screaming youngster, puking bile, and making obscene hand gestures terrorizes a local NY neighborhood. Maybe it’s the E-Trade baby looking for new work after being fired from featuring in their commercials.

Keep it up Hollywood. Great work, more please. And Madmen and women, watch and learn, the movie guys are getting very very good at this, and it looks like they are having a lot of fun doing it.

This post first appeared in Forbes.

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