Having taken part in this promotion, I can tell you that it was unlike anything that I have ever done before, or been a part of. I am still in touch with many of the people that both put this on, and went on the voyage. To be able to do something like this was a unique opportunity that I will always remember very fondly, and am proud to say that I was there. To be ungrateful for this trip, would be shoving it in the face of all those that wanted to be there, but could not. I still wear my crew jacket and vest with pride, and I always tell people that, yes, I have sailed around Cornwall on The Dawn Treader. Here’s a report of the campaign.
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.
- 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. (You can start here, and read all about it.)
Campaign: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Client: 20th Century Fox
PR team: Beatwax
Timescale: November 2009-March 2011
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.
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.
Our work is now very much about content generation in whatever format that might be. We deliver an experience that is in itself compelling enough to guarantee ROI through agreed, pre-arranged, media participation. We can then layer coverage and opportunities on top of that in order to maximise value for the client.
The film is named after the ship but it’s about the children. We needed something that immediately echoed their spirit of adventure. Not only that, but the asset had to make a statement for the release, so it needed to be big and eye-catching.
On top of that, we then needed to deliver for both the theatrical and home entertainment release months later. The concept to convert a ship, crew it with competition winners and media partners, then go sailing, ticked all of the boxes.
We found a ship, consulted shipwrights, set-builders, ports, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, tide tables, locations and insurers. We then fleshed out the media offering and presented it to 20th Century Fox.
When you go to a client and say: ‘We want to convert a ship, put children on it and sail the Atlantic – and then sail her up the Thames’, it takes a brave client to say ‘Yes’. But 20th Century Fox did just that.
What I like about this project is that it was an amazingly challenging campaign to co-ordinate, but it more than delivered the results. And I love that a lot of the Dawn Treader’s ‘crew’ are still in contact more than a year after the main event.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader grossed $415,299,267 at the global box office.
- Twelve international markets were involved in the theatrical activity.
- Awareness among non-core Narnia fans rose by 42 per cent in six markets during the theatrical campaign.
- Fourteen international markets were involved in the home entertainment junket.
- ROI was 6:1 over the cycle of the campaign.