Ryan Reynolds – actor, platform, influencer, or marketing agency?

Ryan Reynolds’ agency, Maximum Effort has released its latest effort, for the client Match. It’s both hilarious and on point for the client’s context! The idea to showcase satan as the hero of an ad to sell that product/service is audacious, but given the highly inventive narrative of ‘matching’ satan and the personified version of the year 2020, the jokes write themselves!

“Satan?” the woman asks as they meet under a bridge.
“Hi!” Satan replies and asks, “Two zero two zero?”
“Please…” she offers, “Call me 2020”!
“Where are you from?” she asks him. Satan says, “Hell”!
“Me too”, she replies.
And we all instantly know what the hell (pun intended) is going on here!

Towards the end (the end of the ad, not the end of the world), Satan says,
“I just don’t want this year to end”. 2020 replies, “Who would?” as huge balls of fire rain down on Earth 🙂

Ryan’s tweet announcing the new ad says it perfectly: “A match made in hell is still a match”. Point; cannot argue with that.

However, there is an interesting thing happening in the background that hasn’t been discussed yet – the blending and blurring of lines between content producer and media channel/platform.

Let me present that by referring to other, contextually related efforts.

The New York Times is a media platform. They also have ‘T brand studio‘, a creative agency within The New York Times that creates “stories and experiences that spark imagination and influence the influential”.

When T brand studio creates content on behalf of a client (for a fee, of course), that content is placed inside the New York Times’ media channels, usually with a disclaimer/mention that the subscribers of the publication/media platform are watching/reading an ‘advertisement’.

Closer home, things are a lot murkier. The Times of India has a division called Brand Capital (formerly called Times Private Treaties) that picks up a stake in the company in return for discounted ads (and potentially favorable editorial coverage or “managing” unfavorable editorial coverage). Barring smaller news clippings that sometimes announce the Times investment in a company, most readers would have no idea where the journalistic and marketing lines blurred when they are seeing an ad or reading a piece of news in the Times media empire.

In both the examples above, a media channel/platform works with clients for a fee and produces output that the platform’s viewers/readers/audience would be subjected to.

Now, let’s take the example of Ryan Reynolds and Maximum Effort, his marketing agency.

Ryan and his agency work with clients for a fee and produce content to promote the clients’ products or services.

That’s not very different from an ad agency, like say, Ogilvy, working with clients for a fee and produce content to promote the clients’ products or services.

Where things differ is the kind of media vehicles where such content is promoted.

In the case of Ogilvy, the agency would work with the client to buy slots/space in other media vehicles and ‘place’ the content there to reach appropriate target audiences.

In the case of Maximum Effort? Ryan Reynolds would tweet the content from his personal Twitter handle (a reach of 16.9 million followers), his personal Instagram handle (a reach of 36 million followers) and his personal Facebook handle (a reach of 18 million followers).

The Match ad film has been viewed 6.9 million times on Twitter alone, by the way (so far).

For another advertising/marketing agency to put their client’s work (which they created) in front of about 70 million people, the client would be billed by the media agency in the scene, for roping in media channels, influencers (like Ryan Reynolds!) and others.

I can anticipate the arguments, of course. It’s Ryan’s own agency – if he doesn’t share his own agency’s work, who will? Point taken.

But what also happens in that equation is that even if the client does not spend anything on media (buying media), they get jet-propelled visibility that kickstarts interest and massive sharing of the content through the agency’s founder’s personal social media reach. Whether it comes free of charge, or if it is billed in some manner by Maximum Effort is a different question that I cannot go into due to lack of information. But that is a massive advantage over any other existing marketing agency!

In a way, when clients sign up Maximum Effort, they get 70 million people to consume the output in one go instantly! That’s not something any other agency could commit!

Is that an undue advantage? I don’t know – it’s just an evolution that I’m still mulling over.

Seen from the conventional marketing agency’s side, it seems hugely undue because Ryan built his reach by acting in movies produced by others (who bankrolled the efforts and paid Ryan a fee). And because he is now an agency owner, he can absolutely put that reach to help his agency’s client’s content too – it’s all his own, and he can do whatever he wants with them. He even clearly mentions that the effort is by his agency – so, there’s no question of lack of disclosure either!

He even gets his buddies to cross-promote his agency’s work! For example, in the case of the new Match ad, he got none other than Taylor Swift (with 87 million followers on Twitter) to share the client’s content mainly because her rerecorded song was being used in the ad! She did not share the ad on her Facebook page (76 million followers) or her Instagram page (140 million followers), though.

Because of my agency-side stints, I know how expensive and complex the process of roping in someone of Taylor Swift’s stature to cross-promote a client’s work with or without legally using her song in the ad.

As I mentioned earlier, the lines here are very, very blurred.

You may, and may not, see Ryan as a marketing agency owner, or an actor, or a platform/media, or all of that. But the fact is that he is doing a marketing agency’s job… and doing it pretty darned well, at that! The output need not be placed in any conventional sense via a media buying agency at all – it could just be tweeted by the agency head (Ryan) and the world would be talking about the client in the next 24 hours, including multiple media mentions!

Almost every piece of work by Maximum Effort follows this pattern.

Considering Ryan’s agency does a fantastic job in terms of creative storytelling and offers a way to take that story to a LOT of people thanks to the agency owner’s personal media reach online, why should a client consider another agency at all?

I don’t know, but that’s for the other agencies to figure out!

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