News & Views

Get your hands on a Durango

by Contagious I/O

Car brand Dodge’s new Durango campaign, starring Will Ferrell in his Anchorman role as Ron Burgundy, has been doing more than just making people laugh. According to recently released numbers, the campaign has also been encouraging people to buy Dodge Durango trucks. The Chrysler imprint has announced that sales of the crossover SUV were up 59% in October, part of a year-long upswing that has seen the auto brand sell 50% more units in 2013 than it did in 2012. According to the brand, visits to its website increased 80% following the launch of the Anchorman ads, and ‘shopping activity’ (looking for a dealership or building and pricing vehicles) is up 100%.

Now, another section of the campaign is putting up big numbers. The Hands On Ron Burgundy contest invited people to reach out and touch the Anchorman himself, in a digital version of the popular American ‘Hands on a Hard Body’ contest wherein participants must keep their hands on a car and outlast other competitors to win the vehicle. Players could place their finger or mouse on Ron Burgundy’s face, with the longest to hold on winning prizes including trips to New York for the Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues premiere and, of course, a Dodge Durango. One second of ‘touching’ Burgundy equaled one point in the contest. Players could also earn points by playing mini-games throughout the week of the contest.

The engagement numbers, shared by Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, are pretty staggering. During the campaign, people played more than 866,900 game sessions, with an average of 2 hours per contestant, meaning participants touched Ron Burgundy for a total of around 2.4 years. The winning player touched Burgundy for a whopping 41 hours, and the top four competitors somehow all spent more than 35 hours touching the anchorman.

The game was developed by Wieden + Kennedy, design studio Legwork and the creative team at Funny or Die. It was hosted on Funny or Die’s site.

‘The widespread conversation the Ron Burgundy Dodge Durango campaign is generating has significantly increased awareness of the new Durango and is transforming that conversation into consideration,’ Olivier Francois, Chrysler’s CMO, said in a release. ‘The Hands on Ron Burgundy endurance challenge is Dodge’s latest example of creating innovative and humorous ways for fans to engage with our brand, learn more about our vehicles and turn that interest into shopping for a new Durango.’

Lee Anne Stables, executive vice president of worldwide marketing partnerships at Paramount Pictures, highlighted the importance of collaborating with the Funny or Die team, among others. ‘The total creative collaboration with our friends at Funny Or Die, the Dodge agencies and the studio creative teams, and the filmmakers themselves, is what makes this unique.’

For the initial Anchorman campaign, Ferrell and his team at Funny or Die filmed a whopping 70 different spots, ranging from short, nonsensical clips to longer, more fleshed-out pieces. Initially, the campaign was intended to consist of three to six traditional commercials, aired on television. Though nominally in charge, agency Wieden + Kennedy turned over the writing reigns to Ferrell’s creative team, which authored a dozen times more spots than expected.

The move is a new tactic for Dodge and Chrysler, which hasn’t typically created content explicitly for the web. Francois, speaking at the ANA Masters conference in October, just before the Burgundy campaign launched, noted that the brand had been emboldened by internet success on the part of its Fiat line of cars.

‘So far, our strategy has been very traditional. Commercials were bought as commercials for TV, then migrated to the web,’ said Francoise. ‘Fiat keeps creating content for the web that is so successful there that it migrates upstream to become TV.’ The Durango ads may not have been intended solely for the web, but it’s clear that the brand was happy to create content that would never air on TV – and happy to have Ferrell and the folks at Funny or Die writing that content.

Contagious Insight

This is an expertly blended campaign on the part of Dodge and Paramount, bringing together two properties at a key time in both of their sales cycles without seeming too forced or disjointed. And Dodge must be pleased with the results: this is as much a campaign for Anchorman as it is for the Durango, so it’s nice for the brand that the campaign is moving units on the sales floor, rather than just hyping up an upcoming film release.

The key to the campaign’s success, both for Dodge and for the film, lies in authenticity. By handing the keys to Ferrell to write Durango commercials and contests in Ron Burgundy’s voice, Dodge maintains the tone of voice of the character people have come to love. We’d bet that if Dodge were writing the copy, Ferrell wouldn’t be chasing dancers out of showrooms or touting the capacity of the Durango’s glove box in ads. And the somewhat low-brow Hands on a Hard Body concept is much more Ferrell than SUV brand.

It’s important to put the sales numbers in context, of course. While the increase in website visits is impressive – people looking for the ads, perhaps? – the sales increase is only somewhat attributable to the Anchorman campaign. The day before the campaign’s launch, Francois told ANA attendees that Dodge sales were up 43% on the year, making it the ‘fastest growing brand in the country’ according to him. While he didn’t break it down by model, it’s safe to say that Durango was already selling well before Burgundy started shilling.

Regardless, it’s impossible to look at this campaign as anything but a success. This is the rare tie-up of movie and product that doesn’t feel overly forced or usurious to either party. Instead, it’s a funny campaign that plays to the strengths of both the character and the brand – a slightly out of the usual take on the traditional ad, developed in an unusual take on the creative process. We’ve seen Funny or Die write commercials before for brands like Kia, New Era and Under Armour, but this set sees the writing team really hitting their mark and finding interesting ways to get consumers to engage with both content, characters and core products.

Hands on Ron Burgundy 

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O. Contagious I/O is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious I/O contact