Ron Burgundy's Durango Campaign Helps Dodge Laugh All the Way to the Bank
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.