Campaigns: Entertainment - Narnia series sails back into popularity

Campaign: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Client: 20th Century Fox
PR team: Beatwax
Timescale: November 2009-March 2011
Budget: £400,000

20th Century Fox wanted to create a global campaign to promote the third Chronicles of Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

After the box office hit of the first film, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second, Prince Caspian, was panned by critics and had mixed responses from viewers. Fox wanted to ensure this was not repeated with the third film.

Objectives

- To raise awareness of the launch of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

- To restore the magic of Narnia for the third film

- To create excitement and anticipation for the film in the media.

Strategy and plan

Beatwax realised it would take time to rebuild the excitement that initially surrounded the filming of the series, so the agency planned a long campaign. The main strategy was to create a working and seaworthy replica of the Dawn Treader, a 15th-century galleon, and get an amateur crew of parents and their children to sail it in the Atlantic Ocean.

Beatwax set up partnerships with broadcasters in 12 major markets, including Nickelodeon (US), Gulli TV (France), Sky One (Germany), National Geographic (Italy) and Channel Five (UK). These partnerships were used to find international family groups that would form the crews.

The broadcasters were asked not to bury the story as a competition, but make bespoke trailers to drive interest.

When the families were selected, they were brought to the UK for sailing training. They were then sent on a voyage in the Atlantic for two weeks and set challenges inspired by the film. These included climbing the mast and raising the sail.

Each media partner sent a broadcast crew with their family group to make a fly-on-the-wall documentary for peak-time broadcast in their home markets. Footage from the voyage was uploaded daily on to Narniafans.com, a site for dedicated global Narnia fans. Finally, for the release of the DVD, the agency took the Dawn Treader on a trip up the River Thames to St Katherine Docks for the international press call.

Measurements and evaluation

The documentaries were aired at peak times in the film's 12 key markets during the release weekend of the film. Apart from the media partners, coverage was gained through an extended BBC News piece in the UK, ABC News and Fox News in the US.

Global Narnia fans watched, liked and commented on the footage on Narniafans.com. For the launch of the DVD, journalists came from the US, Japan and Australia, while the photography was featured on Thehollywoodnews.com and Entertainment-focus.com.

Results

Awareness was measured in six of the markets. After the first phase of the campaign, outside of Narnia fan groups, awareness had increased by 42 per cent, according to Fox's media agency Vizeum. The film made £2.5m in box office sales in the UK on its opening weekend, and $24m in the US.

SECOND OPINION

Laura Pettitt, Head of film and entertainment, Diffusion PR

Keeping the excitement of a film franchise alive is often a challenge. This was always going to be the case following a mixed critical response to Prince Caspian and the special place that the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe holds in the popular psyche.

Beatwax was right to choose a campaign that had longevity and international reach. While securing broadcast media partnerships provided the guarantee of coverage, arguably more could have been done to amplify the campaign online. Mummy bloggers in particular are hugely influential when it comes to family film selection and there was certainly scope to draw more on their Narnia nostalgia.

Running an online platform to give their kids the chance to meet the film talent, arrange specific voyages and screenings for mummy bloggers, and partnering with a prominent film blogger to record their own voyage webisodes, could all have worked well to support the core campaign.

Integrating traditional and digital media is now fundamental to the success of film campaigns.

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