Ad Load ’Em Up! How ‘Deadpool’ Took Over Five Viacom Networks

DeadpoolTwentieth Century Fox’s new flick “Deadpool” shattered box office records over Valentine’s and President’s Day weekend, banking $135 million in the three days since its premiere.

Although a popular Marvel comic (and actor Ryan Reynolds) certainly inspired that turnout, a week-long multiplatform activation from Viacom preceding the film’s launch helped generate awareness.

Throughout the campaign’s duration, the network’s integrated marketing and creative team Viacom Velocity replaced traditional commercial pods with custom content tailored to “Deadpool” on five Viacom networks (MTV, Comedy Central, Spike, VH1 and Logo) across eight programs, including MTV reality show “Teen Mom, ” “@midnight with Chris Hardwick” and “Golden Girls.”

Viacom Velocity’s campaign for 20th Century Fox took several months of planning to pull off, according to Danielle Della Corna-Kupchak, SVP of integrated marketing and studio production for Viacom’s music and entertainment group.

“It was a good opportunity for us to go beyond traditional channels to orchestrate this big stunt with Fox,” she said. “We really got to push the boundaries and try some things that others would shy away from because it didn’t fit a quote-unquote demographic model they’re used to.”

Viacom Velocity created custom spots teasing the “Deadpool” takeover to drive tune-in, some featuring Ryan Reynolds doing in-character monologues designed to play up his persona as a rogue, raunchy anti-superhero.

But that was just the beginning. Some Viacom networks used their respective digital presences to extend the impact. For instance, late-night scripted comedy series “@midnight” extended its show by three and a half minutes to accommodate a “Deadpool” game integration involving emojis. 

Comedy Central ran custom film content on its Snapchat Discover channel, while VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop” supported eight full-episode takeovers on-air with digital and video roadblocks across its dotcom properties.

While some critics described the campaign as “out of control” and “in your face,” this was intentional for Viacom and Fox.

With flat or declining linear ratings and fragmented consumer attention, repetition can be key to drive tune-in. The networks avoided creative duplication by purposing content for disparate audiences, such as a Valentine’s Day-themed “Golden Girls’” takeover, later followed by Betty White’s profanity-laced video review of “Deadpool” that went viral.

“On paper, it never would have made sense for us to take over the shows we did for an R-rated movie, but we felt like creating content that speaks to many audiences was very important here,” Della Corna-Kupchak said. “We love advertisers, but as a consumer, to be able to watch special content between shows for one night without commercials, it makes a big difference.”

Coordinating commercial-free episodes for participating Viacom shows required constant communication between sales, programming and promotions teams. It’s one thing to do one episode commercial-free for one network, but it’s a tall order to sync five networks and eight programs in a week-long takeover.

Fox’s objective was reaching a wide swath of consumers through the campaign to build awareness in creative ways, but sometimes clients want to speak to a certain audience.

“Sometimes we do a specific MTV or Spike promotion because the client has audience specificities, whereas sometimes it makes sense to do a cross-channel stunt [like Deadpool],” she added. “On the social side, we pushed things out strategically. We wanted to be very specific for each channel.”

Although Viacom says it’s too early to quantify the results of the multiplatform takeover, views and engagement are its typical success metrics.

Because the “Deadpool” activation spanned network spots, digital video, dotcom roadblocks, mobile and social tie-ins, each with their own KPIs, Viacom is evaluating performance by channel.

“We need to keep this ‘folder of learnings,’” she described. “What might work on Spike’s Snapchat might not work on MTV’s.”

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