How nonstop marketing killed my buzz for Anchorman 2
You surely know that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues hit theaters yesterday. If not, Paramount's insanely relentless marketing campaign — which has made Will Ferrell's pompous news anchor Ron Burgundy the most inescapable character in recent memory — has somehow failed.
I've never felt a movie to be as pervasive as Anchorman 2. Let's review some highlights from the promotional blitz:
- Will Ferrell recorded in-character commercials for the Dodge Durango, which have since boosted sales of the car nearly 40 percent.
- There's a Ron Burgundy "autobiography" titled Let Me Off at the Top! My Classy Life and Other Musings, which has a cozy spot on Amazon's best-sellers list.
- There's a Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor called "Scotchy Scotch Scotch." (For the record: It's butterscotch-flavored, not whiskey-flavored.)
- And hard-core fans could spend $33 on a "superticket" that granted access to the film two days before its release, along with an alternate cut of the first Anchorman and a digital download of Anchorman 2, which will be redeemable sometime in the months ahead.
As the weeks have passed, the massive glut of ancillary products and tie-ins has had an unexpected effect on me: I have absolutely no interest in seeing Anchorman 2 anymore. Like pretty much everybody, I loved Anchorman, and could probably quote a dozen lines from it off the top of my head. It's become such a beloved movie that it's easy to forget now that Anchorman was a bit of an underdog when it hit theaters in 2004. It grossed a fine $85 million, but was soundly beaten at the yearly box office by all-but-forgotten comedies like 50 First Dates, Starsky & Hutch, and Dodgeball.
That quasi-underdog status, and the near decade that passed between Anchorman and its sequel, initially made Anchorman 2 feel like a genuine event. When Will Ferrell first announced Anchorman 2 during an in-character appearance on Conan, it was like seeing an old friend again. But in the months that have followed, that same old friend has worn out his welcome. Over the past month, "Ron Burgundy" has hosted a newscast in Bismarck, N.D. He has reported on curling in Manitoba. He was slated to appear on an episode of ESPN's SportsCenter, but was pulled when Heisman winner Jameis Winston was accused of sexual assault — a story that didn't exactly lend itself to Ron Burgundy's retrograde brand of humor.
It's that last one that should have given everybody a sense of pause. Maybe Ron Burgundy's antics are better off on the big screen, instead of in the world, reporting on actual news? Unfortunately, many news organizations that should know better have allowed Paramount to take over their news desks to score a buzzy brush with celebrity. Emerson College renamed its School of Communication the Ron Burgundy School of Communication for a day, and Ferrell showed up to give aspiring journalists useful advice like "make sure you condition your hair at least three times a week." Washington, D.C.'s Newseum opened an exhibit dedicated to props from the film and hosted a special early screening.
Let's be frank: This is all just a glorified commercial for a blockbuster comedy. Is this really the best use of journalistic time and resources? The Newseum's official mission statement claims that it "[educates] the public about the value of a free press in a free society and [tells] the stories of the world's important events in unique and engaging ways." How does a collection of Anchorman 2 props fit into that mission? Why would actual journalists cede their desks to Ron Burgundy for what amounts to nothing more than an advertisement for Anchorman 2?
The story of Anchorman 2 follows Burgundy and his team as they champion a style of reporting that focuses on sensationalism and celebrity at the expense of actual journalism. It's not hard to miss the irony. As I watched Ferrell's various appearances on legitimate news programs, I realized I didn't need to see Anchorman 2 after all. I'd reached the saturation point at which "a good thing" became "too much," and there's no point in seeing a movie when you're already living in it.