Campaign: Homer Simpson versus The Chalk Giant
Client: Twentieth Century Fox
PR team: Beatwax
Timescale: January - July 2007
The brainchild of animator Matt Groening, this long-awaited and much-anticipated comedy followed Homer Simpson's heroic efforts to save his family - and Springfield - after accidentally causing a radioactive leak.
With high expectations from Simpsons fans, Twentieth Century Fox asked experiential marketing and entertainment specialist, Beatwax, to create a one-off event to promote the film to a mainstream audience.
To create a memorable stunt ahead of the film's release and generate media coverage. To build awareness of the movie and drive ticket sales.
STRATEGY AND PLAN
To raise controversy in a cheeky and ironic manner, Beatwax painted a huge Homer next to the 180-foot chalk giant or 'rude man' carved into the hillside at Cerne Abbas, Dorset. The giant is thought to have been carved by monks, and as well as carrying a rather obvious 'fertility symbol', it wields a 120ft knobbly club.
Beatwax wanted to create a scene on the hill with the giant appearing to strike Homer with his club, while Springfield's own 'rude man' - dressed only in his Y-fronts - defended himself with a super-sized donut.
This vision presented a number of challenges, not least gaining trade mark approval for Homer to appear as an outline rather than a solid yellow figure. The PR team also had to negotiate with The National Trust, English Nature and the landowner, meet environmental guidelines and dodge last summer's persistent rain.
Creating the large-scale image took two days and more than 200 litres of white water-based biodegradable paint. But on 15 July the stunt was unveiled to a film crew from ITV and a photographer from The Sun, who were flown over the site in a helicopter.
Beatwax then pushed out images on the PA newswire and placed a one-minute sped-up time-lapse documentary of Dorset's Homer in the making on YouTube. This was backed by video of the film's hapless hero supposedly throwing his ring donut over the giant's most virile part for Guardian Unlimited.
Interest was maintained by tongue-in-cheek reports of Pagans protesting that Homer's image was 'disrespectful' and that they intended to perform 'rain magic' to wash it away.
MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION
The Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times and the Daily Star featured the story and images, with many readers providing feedback through online forums.
Regionally, ITV West filmed a special news feature for its news bulletins. BBC South, BBC Spotlight and BBC Exeter also ran the story. Interviews with the landowner featured on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, BBC World Service and LBC 1152. National and international TV coverage included GMTV and Sky News, with the story also reaching media in Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan, Sweden and the US.
No viewing figures are available for Guardian Online, but the YouTube clip has gained 147,000 views to date.
The stunt gained the thumbs up from Mark Borkowski in his summer StuntWatch for the Media Guardian and helped The Simpsons Movie gross £13.5m in its opening weekend.
GARY WHEELDON, director of entertainment, Launch Group, works with a number of clients in the film, talent and broadcast arena. Launch has also worked with Twentieth Century Fox on past projects.
Stunt or experiential activity can so often just result in 'on the ground' localised exposure. But Beatwax did a great job of coming up with a campaign that really delivered in terms of making impact in the national and regional media, over a wide reach of sectors.
For me, the most impressive element was not necessarily the creative input, but the ability to carry out the activity in the first place. There were some obvious obstacles to overcome, such as obtaining approval from The National Trust and English Nature, tackling trade mark issues and ensuring no damage was done to the site. On paper, this idea screamed 'do not touch' and 'barge pole', and thus took some brave thinking from the client. Activity like this takes real conviction.
Beatwax added weight to the PR element of the stunt by giving media further angles with the seeding of the Pagan 'rain dance' stories. It can often be difficult to give activity like this longevity, and good creative thinking obviously paid dividends in terms of media results.
The only negative element for me is how much the stunt activity raised the profile of The Simpsons Movie as opposed to 'The Simpsons brand'. I am not entirely sure that this alone would drive ticket sales for the film.
The activity was also to promote the film of a television series that has already seen phenomenal global success - I wonder if the team would have been able to generate such a successful campaign for a lesser-known property.
And what would Homer have said to all this? 'Mmmmm, donuts...'