Media: Strategy Analysis - How to sell a global disaster movie

Brand: The Day After Tomorrow

Client: Helen Davis at 20th Century Fox

Brief: Position the launch of the film as an event and cut through one

of the busiest months in cinema history

Target audience: 15- to 24-year-old adults

Budget pounds: 3.5 million


Media: Jane Ollier and Adam Cherry at Starcom Mediavest

Creative: Creative Partnership

Digital: Substance

STRATEGY For the release of The Day After Tomorrow, 20th Century Fox faced one of the most competitive months in the history of modern cinema with Van Helsing, Troy and the third Harry Potter all released within the same four- week period.

Competition for cinema screens, editorial and audiences was going to be tough and The Day After Tomorrow had to work hard to compete.

Unlike the competition, the film couldn't rely on an all-star cast or being part of a franchise. In its favour were some of the most spectacular special effects ever seen on the big screen.

The depictions of sudden global freezing and complete devastation were both shocking and convincing. They also raised worrying questions as to whether such phenomena could actually occur.

The strategy was to make the incredible weather scenes feel as real and newsworthy as possible and this was represented across the use of media.


Outdoor: Outdoor was extremely important to the schedule as it was the only way to recreate the weather effects in their natural environment.

The campaign featured a range of artwork and employed multiple formats to communicate scale and maximise impact.

The campaign kicked off six weeks before the film's release date, with a two-week national burst of 96-sheet spreads, followed immediately by national 48-sheets. To generate maximum impact in key locations, 20 of the panels ran creative "specials", which included an image of the Statue of Liberty engulfed by floodwater, stretching three feet above the top of the regular poster panel.

A national roadside six- sheet campaign ran in the fortnight leading up to the release, to drive people into cinemas on the opening weekend.

TV: A "Survival Sunday", featuring relevant programming on five, and "end of the world" on Sky drove the realism of the plotline. The main airtime campaign started three weeks before the release, using 30-second and 20- second spots.

Press: Press activity drove the newsworthy content of the plot further.

Press sizes were intended to dominate pages and included L-shapes in the broadsheets and a complete takeover of a Daily Mirror spread.

P Magazines To ensure newssstand standout, Total Film's polybagging special engulfed the magazine in extreme-weather images from the film.

Online: This was the biggest online spend ever for Fox. It focused on key news and portal sites and used homepage hijacks to create spoof news articles, ensuring massive coverage over the period of release. On, false front covers portrayed the film's theme by spoofing weather disasters.


The film exceeded all advance targets. The box office reached £7.3 million on the opening weekend and eventually exceeded £25 million. This was the highest-ever opening for a Fox non-franchise film and at the time it was the highest opening of the year, beating both Troy and Van Helsing.

THE VERDICT - Mark Holden, Executive planning director, PHD

On the broadest of measures, this campaign was a success. Well, with me anyway. I saw the campaign, then saw the movie. However, the purpose of this review is to isolate and critique the media planning element.

What did the media thinking actually add?

Well, to start with, it led to the campaign beginning six weeks before the release date with large-format outdoor. Thinking back to when this campaign launched, this early start worked on me - the fact that I couldn't see the movie for six weeks made me feel it was going to be big.

This was followed by the 48-sheets, with special builds, then six-sheets to nudge people once the movie was out. So, solid media planning - that worked. But was there anything over and above the day-job? The answer is yes. The team negotiated with Sky and five to put out some programming on the subject of extreme weather, around which they could run the TV ad to increase stand-out. They took some interesting sizes within the press - including a fantastic site with the Daily Mirror and some added polybag action with Total Film.

Finally, online was used to great effect as an environment in which they could create spoof news articles. All good so far.

The only criticism that I could raise is that they did not leverage the nature of the content enough. The content is so striking that I feel it could have been used to create something really significant - to create something that lived within the world of editorial or the world of viral.

In these worlds, messages get passed on to consumers for free. For example, an online petition to lobby on US environmental policy that included images of the movie, or an attempt to generate word-of-mouth by introducing a charitable element - a percentage of the ticket price appropriated for Greenpeace, say.

These types of techniques would have used the content to help fuel a total communications campaign - with the aim of generating free, potentially more powerful communications in the form of editorial, viral and word-of-mouth messaging. That aside, it was a good piece of media planning - good enough to activate me and enough others to smash a few box-office records. Certainly not the end of the world.

SCORE: 3/5.

Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content