Ron Burgundy: Half-witted newscaster, genius marketer


Ron Burgundy has been putting on a clinic — not in curling — but how to promote a movie in the modern age. (Trevor Hagan/Reuters)

Will Ferrell’s character from the “Anchorman” movies may be an intellectual lightweight on screen, but Ron Burgundy is reinventing how to promote a movie with a brilliant marketing campaign this fall.

He’s co-anchored a local news broadcast in Bismark, N.D., talked mustaches with Peyton Manning on ESPN, and had a college briefly renamed after him. Dodge Durango sales have taken off since Burgundy recorded a series of funny clips advertising the SUV. The videos have garnered millions of views on YouTube.  These stunts have all drawn loads of attention to the actor’s upcoming movie “Anchorman 2.”

Every Burgundy appearance is a case study in how to win with native advertising, in which traditional media content acts as an advertisement for a product.

Let’s say you are a resident of Bismark and DVRed the KX News broadcast. You fast-forward through the commercials and miss the ads for the latest Hollywood blockbuster. But as you watch a news segment about holiday shoplifting, there’s Ron Burgundy. He is a hilarious advertisement you can’t avoid, and actually don’t want to avoid.

Ron Burgundy appears on a local news broadcast in Bismark, N.D. (Photo by KXMB TV Bismarck via Getty Images) Ron Burgundy appears on a local news broadcast in Bismark, N.D. (Photo by KXMB TV Bismarck via Getty Images)

The campaign is about more than just people in Bismark. Every funny Burgundy appearance is likely to be shared on social media platforms. When you send your friend that Durango clip, you’re indirectly advertising for Paramount Pictures and Dodge.

In an era of skipping commercials and billions of Web pages to choose from, the people behind “Anchorman 2″ are finding a way to stand out without spending a lot. They’re cashing in on the rise of social media and the blurring lines of what is an ad, and what isn’t.

As New York Times media writer David Carr wisely once said: “Traditional ideas about what is opinion and what is news, what is advertising and what is editorial, and the separation between content makers and consumers, are evaporating each day. Those consumers will decide where the line is drawn, not those of us who are vested by belief or self-interest in the old order.”

We’re entering a new world. Ironically, an ignorant guy like Ron Burgundy is the innovator leading the way.

Related: Ferrell talks about ‘Anchorman’ and Ron Burgundy

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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