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Deadpool: A Unicornicopia of Marketing Wins

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Insight 

Fox struck box office gold with the theatrical release of Deadpool; shocking the film industry as the highest-grossing R-rated film in history despite a small budget, no-name superhero protagonist, and unfavourable mid-winter release date. Audiences enjoyed their one-night stand with Deadpool in theatres, but how could it convince them to cuddle up on the couch with him in the comfort of their living rooms and enter that long-term relationship? Zenith had to make lightning strike again for the Home Entertainment release.  

Home Entertainment is a soft -- some might say dying -- market. Studios return fewer profits each year due to piracy and other entertainment choices.  It’s hard to get fans and newcomers excited for what Deadpool might call “sloppy seconds” – DVDs, Blu-rays and Digital HD downloads. Unlike the studio release which had months to build fan momentum, it only had a few weeks in April/May to rebuild excitement in an eroding market and an entertainment landscape cluttered with blockbusters and the in-home release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  

The brand and consumer insight came hand in hand. Part of Deadpool’s unique appeal was his fourth wall-breaking relationship with audiences, so as both a character and a marketing campaign, it lit up the exhausted superhero genre by bringing audiences in on the joke through tactically timed and contextually strong media movements. This made Deadpool more accessible than the average comic book adaptation, and therefore more successful than the average comic book adaptation. 

Strategy 

Both the film itself and its theatrical marketing campaign worked by staying true to the bizarre and inappropriate essence of the Deadpool character. So, to guide the agency in its goal of getting Deadpool flying off of both physical and digital shelves, it had to start thinking like Deadpool. This meant asking one simple question: What Would Deadpool Do? In order to deliver on WWDD the agency had to use its tactical brains, its media brawn, and above all its greatest ASS-et of all… Deadpool himself.  

Instead of making media investments based on traditional decision methods—things like targets, budgets, timing and tactics--Zenith relied on Deadpool for all of the answers. It put on its best red spandex hats- er masks- and turned the entire media campaign over to Deadpool himself…. Quite literally. Using Deadpool and his “inferior” alter ego, Ryan Reynolds, it sold Deadpool himself and therefore more than just a comic book movie. This created an entirely personalised and perfectly grossly curated Deadpool experience. It ensured every single touchpoint resonated with Deadpool’s –sometimes questionable, always authentic--particular life choices, and taking it a step further, created opportunities for Deadpool to ‘speak’ to fans directly.   

To execute this approach, all media touchpoints (Deadpool loves to be touched) were considered through the WWDD filter. If something didn’t feel authentic and true to the base, lewd, self-deprecating character of Deadpool, it didn’t end up on the media plan. It’s rare when media ideas promote bawdy bad-ass behaviour… unicorns, chimichangas, and erectile dysfunction, oh my. Digital seamlessly provided the flexibility to let Deadpool’s raunchy personality shine through; generating ample social fodder. This quickly became the backbone of the media plan. Fans and newcomers alike recognised and shared in the social fun, and Deadpool sales stimulated and grew quickly. 

Execution 

The campaign used Deadpool’s personality and sense of humour around every corner. Kicking things off on April Fool’s Day, he tapped into social foreplay gold with a ‘VHS’ faux home video release unit on Amazon.com. Deadpool leveraged cultural events, with timed custom posts covering everything from Coachella to the Game of Thrones premiere, and he humorously surrounded holidays from Tax Day, to Mother’s Day, to 4/20 and Cinco de Mayo.  

In an industry first, Deadpool took over the iTunes store, “photobombing” film pages, encouraging visitors to ditch lame-ass titles and pick him. He conquested Fandango, IMDb and movie theatres nationwide running in front of Captain America, reminding fans who wore the pants at Marvel. He even had Reddit change their logo for the first time… into his face.  

In more firsts, he convinced Fox to satiate fan desire, disrupting standardised entertainment industry release schedules, resulting in the Digital HD “coming” two weeks early. Deadpool even encouraged fans to purchase a “hard” copy of the film with a “Deadpole” social release – a parody male performance enhancement ad, promising a way to cure ED – his big ol’ D…VD 

In a coup de gras, Deadpool used Snapchat to bring fans even closer with a first ever Home Entertainment Snapchat story, giving viewers a glimpse into his life, including leg day at the gym, lotion-and-tissue “me-time,” and a run to Target to pick up Deadpool on Blu-ray. The campaign was long and hard, but as Deadpool would say, “it blew up… like yo mama!” 

Results 

Although the campaign was humorous, the results were serious. The Facebook Livestream garnered two million unique impressions upon live viewing, and an additional six million viewers via Facebook’s “Celebs and Movies” section…that’s over eight million total. Deadpool’s day on Snapchat exceeded one million impressions within 24 hours, and his lens delivered an additional 53 million impressions – dwarfing projections by over 5x. The “Deadpole” video generated a staggering 18 million online views through paid digital media and another 15 million views via Facebook, becoming the platform’s second most watched (paid) video ever and over delivering on prognostics by more than 6x. 

All told, the campaign saw over 200 million impressions across social media. This impressive level of engagement led to even more impressive sales. Fox Home Entertainment sales exceeded its goal by 50%. And for a campaign with under $1m in digital media the results were incendiary. Deadpool became the #1-selling Blu-ray/DVD in over five years, and maintained a rank atop the charts for several weeks. The Digital HD release topped sales charts (knocking off that little known Star Wars film), dethroning The Avengers and Iron Man as Marvel’s #1-selling Digital HD release ever! Could Wolverine have done that? Doubt it.

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Brand:
Deadpool The Movie
Brand Owner:
20th Century Fox
Category:
Entertainment
Region:
United States
date:
April - May 2016
Agency:
Zenith Media
Media Channel:
Digital,Mobile
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