Campaign Casebook: Shaun of the Dead

UIP put zombies at the heart of urban life to support its unusual romcom. Claire Murphy reports United International Pictures (UIP) used plenty of traditional media to support the release of 'zombie romcom' Shaun of the Dead, but some was decidedly unusual.

The film's theme was brought to life with 'zombie-infected' areas; actors dressed as zombies were driven around central London the Saturday before the film's release and told to break loose in areas of high traffic before being recaptured, herded into a zone and cordoned off with hazard tape.

'Staging these live events created a genuine pre-experience of the movie,' says Ollie Harwood-Matthews, head of village@zenithoptimedia, the agency that arranged the stunt. 'It has to be the most powerful way to communicate what Shaun of the Dead is all about.'

The campaign was designed to incorporate as many novelty media placings as possible to alert the attention of a young urban audience. Ads were booked in newspapers, magazines and TV, but these were the most traditional element of the campaign. Phone box activity showed zombies crowding around lead character Shaun (played by Simon Pegg), holding a phone, with the strapline 'The line is dead and so is everyone else'.

London Underground ads featured a similar visual concept, but this time Shaun and the zombies were rammed into a Tube carriage. The sites were bought in positions that would give the impression to anyone walking through the tunnels between platforms that the zombie carriages were on the tracks.

The spots were new for UIP - the company has a number of regular areas, but it was felt that the creative lent itself particularly well to the larger posters.

Places of interest

As there is a strong reliance on visiting the pub in the plot of the film, many ads were placed in drinking establishments. Glasses were printed with the slogan 'Dying for a pint' on the base and distributed to pubs.

Ads on beer mats and Hypertag posters, meanwhile, offered consumers the chance to download ringtones of zombie wailing by pointing their phones at a poster.

Space was booked on perimeter hoardings at Sweden's friendly football match against England on 31 March in Gothenburg. More relaxed laws governing outdoor advertising in Sweden meant that UIP could use hoardings incorporating flailing zombie-like arms.

A deal with radio station Xfm was a perfect fit for the film's target.

Simon Pegg (actor and writer) and Nick Frost (actor) were guest presenters on the station's drivetime show for two Fridays in the run-up to the film's release.

PR played up Pegg's involvement in popular Channel 4 comedy Spaced. Other stars Bill Nighy - fresh from winning a Best actor Bafta - and The Office's Lucy Davis were in demand by newspapers and magazines for interviews. The film's UK production team (Working Title, also behind Four Weddings and a Funeral) was emphasised, to distinguish it from the Dawn of the Dead remake.

AGENCIES

Advertising: In-house

Media: ZenithOptimedia

PR: Freud Communications

Outdoor buying: Posterscope

Outdoor planning: Meridian

MEDIA PLAN

Objectives

To make the film - a spoof of George A Romero's seminal 1978 film Dawn of the Dead - a big-screen hit, UIP deliberately released the movie on Good Friday (April 9), quickly following the box-office debut of the classic's remake. The campaign was designed to drive audiences into cinemas in the crucial two-week period after release. To do this, it had to link - yet carefully distinguish - Shaun from Dawn of the Dead.

Strategy

The campaign was concentrated during the week leading up to the Good Friday release to reach people when they were considering what to do over Easter. It leaned heavily on the zombie theme and used the analogy of commuters resembling zombies to comic effect. The campaign coined the term 'zomromcom' (from romantic comedy's romcom abbreviation) for its genre. Young men were the main target audience.

Execution

UIP planned a campaign across a diverse selection of media, including posters, press and ambient spots in pubs. Media was selected with the young male focus in mind - radio stations Xfm, Kerrang!, Virgin and talkSPORT, as well as press ads in Zoo Weekly, Nuts, Bizarre and NME. Viral emails launched two days after the premiere. This coincided with online ads on sites including thesun.co.uk and FHM.com.

Results

Distributors place a lot of emphasis on a film's first weekend takings. Box-office receipts for Shaun hit £1.6m from 367 cinemas. This didn't beat the more traditional romantic comedy out that week - 50 First Dates, which attracted £1.65m from 395 cinemas - but it performed better than the much-hyped Lost in Translation, which made £797,000 from its first weekend in January, according to Screen International.

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