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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d be hard-pressed to have avoided the promotional carpet-bombing that surrounded the release of Anchorman 2 last month. 

In the four months that preceded the Anchorman sequel’s December release, Ron Burgundy and his ridiculous Channel 4 News Team friends were everywhere.

Ron Burgundy appeared on various local news stations, opined on the Australian elections and sold cars in a cross-promotional campaign that lead to a 40% increase in Dodge sales.

Not only that but Ron ‘released’ an autobiography, exhorted viewers to contribute filmed auditions for his news team and even had his own mobile app.

With content marketing being so hot right now – you’d think that we’d know everything there is about how to do it properly.

Turns out Anchorman 2 still has some things to teach us...

1) Content marketing is raising the quality of movie marketing


Film promotion tends to boil down to two key outputs: some trailers and a series of high-profile media interviews with the actors. By contrast, Anchorman 2 exceeded this with great examples of content marketing.

For sure there was the usual branded Tumblr and Facebook film page, but what was particularly notable was the commitment to creating original content to support the film’s release and curating fan content, not just merely slicing and dicing movie footage into new content formats (such as a trailer).

Interestingly, most movies reward fans with content after they purchase the DVD, usually through secret brand portals, extra footage or easter eggs.

By contrast, Anchorman 2 gave us all of its content, which in many ways was as high-quality as the movie itself, upfront.

2) Content marketing does not have to directly reference the product

Despite the occasional blurred lines between content marketing and advertisements, the whole point of content marketing is really quite simple: creating engaging content that attracts, engages and builds a relationship with an audience which may make a purchase in time.

Of the seventy YouTube videos featuring Will Ferrell in character as Ron Burgundy, not one of them mention that there is a new Anchorman film coming out. 

People don’t like blatant advertising, so simply having Will Ferrell going out on chatshows saying, “There’s a new Anchorman movie out soon - it’s going to be really funny please go and watch it,” won’t work.

Instead, the Anchorman 2 team created entertaining content based around the character designed to both make us laugh and indirectly remind us that there is in fact a movie coming out. 

3) You can have too much of a good thing. That includes content

There is a danger that we can fall into the trap of thinking that for our content marketing efforts to succeed we have to create lots of it.

On the contrary, consumers are suffering from a ‘content deluge’ – there is so much choice out there – adding to the morass is not the best way to cut through the noise. 

Furthermore, brands themselves are waking up from the content marketing hangover and having to now not only manage large amounts of content creation and distribution, but also having to measure and justify their content marketing efforts.

While Anchorman 2 is a brilliant case study of how to create excellent pieces of content marketing, it also serves as a warning for content marketers that are prone to excess.

Only weeks into the campaign and a backlash began from overexposure to Ron & Co., suggesting that too much marketing was undermining the final product and leading to ‘marketing fatigue’ amongst consumers.   

4) Content marketing will not save a dud product

Many of us who cheerlead in the content marketing industry (be it as an advisor, practitioner or technology provider) are in danger of implying that content marketing is the silver bullet tactic which will solve every brand’s woes. 

And at risk of seeming like a party-pooper, that’s not the case at all.

Content can do many things. 

But it can’t change how you feel about a product once you’ve bought it. Especially if that product is a dud. 

As Anchorman 2 has shown us – despite it being a masterclass in content marketing, all the in-character guest appearances in the world couldn’t save it from the acres of bad reviews.

Disappointingly, The Legend Continues…is all moustache and no trousers.

5) Content is for the long-run, not the short-term wins

The problem with short-term campaigns is that they are interruptive, repetitive and are more concerned with quick engagement spikes than fostering an enduring relationship with fans. 

The great thing about good content marketing is that each piece of content retains its value independently of the product its advertising – it isn’t only effective or of use during a brief campaign, but rather continues to build long-term efficacy. 

Hence, Anchorman 2’s director, Adam McKay, continues to tweet from the various character’s profiles “whenever he wants to share something he thinks is funny”.

The videos remain searchable and indexed for future reference – and whether you watch the movie or not – Ron’s address to Emerson College will continue to be funny for years to come whenever you need a laugh.

Best of all, thanks to a real understanding of character and storytelling, Ron Burgundy can continue to turn up in various scenarios (more newsrooms & official openings) that are completely consistent with the character – meaning the Anchorman 2 story will be prolonged well after the marketing machine around the sequel stops.

Thanks to some impressive examples of content marketing, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues really can continue…

Andrew Davies

Published 27 January, 2014 by Andrew Davies

Andrew Davies is co-founder and Director of idio and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

13 more posts from this author

Comments (11)

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Alexander Lund

Alexander Lund, Digital Marketing Manager at Study Group

Great insight here on content marketing strategies but despite all the content and fanfare Anchorman 2 a flop in the box office earning $28 million less than the original. Some other even pointing to the early marketing (including all the content strategy) working against the movie as all the fans and moviegoers had "had enough" of Will Ferrell that they didn't see a need to actually go pay to see the movie.

over 2 years ago



There's an old movie promotional strategy called "front loading" in which you blow the whole budget in the weeks leading up to the release, in an effort to maximize your opening weekend. This way, you can recoup as much of production cost as possible before word of mouth reveals that your movie sucks. There's also the strategy of minimizing preview showings and reviewer releases, always a sign of lack of confidence in the product.

The problem with Anchorman 2 is that it is a bad movie. Except for a few scenes that made me say, "Why couldn't they make the whole movie like this?" it was dreadful. And I paid full price.

over 2 years ago


Walter Vaughan

What no one seems to be realizing about Anchorman2 is that the teeter totter has tipped sides. A majority of content consumers no longer come running when someone rings the bell. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have changed the rules. No longer do we watch a show when you tell us, we binge watch when *we* want, not when some druid stares at spreadsheet and decide what week or weekday night and time will obtain the most revenue. They need to start work on Anchorman3 yesterday. Six hours of content is the sweet spot for binge watching.

over 2 years ago

Andrew Davies

Andrew Davies, Director at Idio

@Alexander - totally agreed! See point 4 :)

over 2 years ago

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd

I'm sorry but the marketing of this movie disproves #4 Content marketing will not save a dud product.

In this case it more than saved this desperately dud product, it created a totally unjustified buzz and boy I just pray there is no Anchorman 3.

But they'll wait 2 years till we have forgotten how sh1t this film was and hit us up again.

As a film goer I am constantly told the plot in advance, shown all the very best bits in the trailers where often even the ending is hard to avoid. This invariably leads to a disappointing experience. Why do they mistreat their customers so badly? Are we just one-off fodder?

over 2 years ago

Parry Malm

Parry Malm, CEO at Phrasee Ltd.

I don't think it was as awful a movie as everyone here is saying. It didn't rely on old jokes as much as many sequels do; if your expectations were unmet, well, as they say, an expectation is a resentment waiting to happen. If you view it independent of #1, it's one of the better comedies to come out in 2013.

Anchorman 1 was hardly a box office juggernaut; and yet now everyone and their speaking dog loves lamp. I'm not sure whether or not the campaign for #2 was an example of good or bad content marketing, but it's premature to measure the success of the campaign when there's only been 4 weeks of revenue opportunities. I wrote this while brushing my teeth with a live lobster.

over 2 years ago



It cost $50m to make and grossed over $120m, yeah Alexander...a real flop.

over 2 years ago


Aimee Joseph

You hit the nail on the head when you said 'Content is for the long-run, not the short-term wins'.

Another saying I like to apply is that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Although this is hard to explain to clients when they want to see value right now!

The thing about content marketing is that it's all about branding.

And creating a strong brand doesn't happen in one day.

Brands like Apple, Nike and Innocent Drinks have all invested heavily in their branding, which is one of the main reasons why they're so successful.

See my latest post on how SMEs can compete with big brands - http://www.blueclawsearch.co.uk/blog/2014/01/29/smes-how-to-make-your-marketing-as-addictive-as-coke/

over 2 years ago


Ryan Law

Point #2 is especially important. Too many brands misunderstand content marketing and create self-serving content, instead of inherently valuable content. They should be cultivating a culture of value and benefit around a brand, and not trying to directly sell to their audience - and Anchorman 2 did that beautifully.

I think they've also enamored their audience by taking such an indirect approach - no-one feels 'used' or sold-to by the promotional content -
so it's very much a win/win for everyone involved!

over 2 years ago

Harry Gardiner

Harry Gardiner, Content Marketing Executive at Koozai

You've got to love Paramount's marketing team! This was the perfect example of an incredibly successful and powerful cross-platform content marketing campaign.

The fact that 'Content marketing does not have to directly reference the product' is something sooo many more brands need to release. Dodge durango had nothing to do with Anchorman, or a news themed film in general, yet when they combined their efforts and used Ron Burgandy to sell vehicles, sales skyrocketed!

Not everything has to be about directly selling to the customer.

Thanks for the great write up.

over 2 years ago

Louis Gudema

Louis Gudema, Senior Account Exec and Digital Marketer at Louis Gudema Consulting

The real lesson is that ultimately the marketing for Anchorman 2 failed (Sorry, Harry): opening weekend receipts, which is the way movie marketing is measured, were way below the first Anchorman


over 2 years ago

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