Chrysler's risky move to turn over creative control of its Dodge Durango campaign to fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy is paying off–in real-world SUV sales.
Comedian Will Ferrell's campaign co-promoting the 2014 Durango and "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" drove a 36% boost in November sales over the previous year, according to Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer of Chrysler Group. Automotive News figures show that follows a 59% jump in October.
Traffic is up 80% to the Durango site since the campaign launched in early October, Mr. Francois said. Just as important, what automakers call "lower-funnel activity" (such as building a car online, finding a dealer and other moves indicating serious purchase intent) are up 100%.
The videos with Mr. Ferrell in character as a swaggering 1970s-era anchorman who can't figure out 21st century auto technology have been viewed over 15.3 million times and counting on YouTube. The most-viewed are "It Comes Standard" (3.7 million views) and "Staring Contest" (2.6 million). Mr. Ferrell worked with Wieden & Kennedy on the ads.
But is there a risk of Ron Burgundy fatigue? In recent weeks the character has been everywhere, co-anchoring a local newscast in North Dakota, covering Canada's curling trials, cutting up on "The Dan Patrick Show," participating in a journalism-school panel and mock-interviewing Peyton Manning for an ESPN The Magazine video piece. On top of that, Ben & Jerry's has released a Ron Burgundy-themed ice cream called Scotchy Scotch Scotch; Jockey has a pair of Ron Burgundy underwear and Riviera Imports is marketing a Ron Burgundy-branded scotch.
Is Mr. Francois worried Mr. Ferrell's nonstop media tour will dilute Durango's marketing message?
"I don't think so. The fact that everyone's talking about [the ads] and about the upcoming movie indicates we've found the perfect win-win," said Mr. Francois. "That's important to me. If the car was sizably overshadowing the movie, our partners would probably not be [pleased]. Or vice versa."
The in-character appearances by Mr. Ferrell -- even those that have zero to do with Durango -- have a "subliminal positive impact" for Chrysler, Mr. Francois said. "My belief is that whatever is good for Ron Burgundy's popularity and awareness is going to be good for us. We are a team."
The three-month push concludes with the film's Dec. 18 opening.