Best practice from Beatwax.
‘The Simpsons Movie’ premiered in cinemas across the UK in July 2007. Set in the fictional town of Springfield and featuring the dysfunctional working-class family from the TV series - Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie - the movie follows Homer's efforts to save his family and Springfield after he accidentally causes a radioactive leak.
With ‘The Simpsons Movie’ nearing its release date, Beatwax - a marketing ideas and execution agency that’s part of The Picture Production Company Group - was asked by Fox Theatrical to come up with some ideas to promote the film.
We wanted to do something in true Simpsons style – something to break the mould and raise controversy. So we came up with the idea of a stunt that would stick in people’s minds, and generate widespread national and regional coverage ahead of the release in the UK.
The team at Fox just loved our proposal and the idea of bringing Homer to Dorset and to the ancient site of Cerne Abbas, was born.
The famous Cerne Abbas chalk giant stands at 180ft and is said to be a symbol that can aid fertility. Carved into the side of the rolling Dorset downs since the 16th century, it’s a tradition for young women and amorous couples to visit the giant to ensure conception.
We came up with the idea of painting a giant Homer Simpson next to the famous chalk giant to mock this national landmark in a cheeky and ironic manner - epitomising what has made The Simpsons so popular over the last 17 years.
But we didn't just want to put Homer next to the giant – we wanted him to interact with the giant’s actions to create one whole image. So the idea was for the image to show the giant striking Homer with his giant club while Homer defends himself with a doughnut – and obviously Homer had to be in his pants as the giant himself is spectacularly naked.
The first hurdle to overcome was getting permission from the relevant people and organisations to go ahead with the stunt itself. We had to contact The National Trust and English Nature to get their approval, as well as getting permission from the landowners.
For the stunt to be a success we also needed dry weather, but with a summer like 2007’s it proved extremely challenging! We had to make sure that weather conditions were constantly monitored, as the task needed to go ahead without a single drop of rain - otherwise our idea wouldn’t work. Eventually a day was chosen.
To complete the stunt, we had to obtain a paint certification to make sure that the products we were going to use met environmental standards. Then it was just the area itself that needed some attention.
The recent rain meant that the grass had grown and because the area was on a slope, it was going to be difficult to cut. To get around this situation, we called on some local grass cutting experts - some nearby sheep to come and eat the grass and daisies.
To make it easier to create a large-scale image of Homer, we placed a grid on the area so that specific parts of the image could be created cell by cell. We hired creative markers to help with the grid and the painting. The giant Homer Simpson and his doughnut took over two days to complete and used more than 200 litres of white water-based biodegradable paint.
On Sunday 15 July 2007, the arrival of a 70m x 50m Homer Simpson in his underpants mirroring the chalk giant and brandishing his very own magical symbol, a doughnut, caused quite a stir.
The stunt met the objectives set: to create a memorable stunt ahead of the film’s release and get lots of free media coverage.
Many of the national newspapers including The Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times, and The Daily Star featured the story and many readers gave their views on the stunt through online feedback forums – it really did get the whole nation talking.
Regionally, ITV WEST filmed a special news feature for the 6pm and 10pm news. BBC South, BBC Spotlight and BBC Exeter also ran news stories. Interviews with the landowner featured on Radio 4’s The Today programme, BBC World Service and Drive Time on LBC 1152.
National and international TV coverage included SKY News in the UK and US, GMTV in the UK, and further coverage as far reaching as Sweden, America, Australia, Pakistan and India.
The stunt was one of the most memorable of 2008 and helped The Simpsons Movie – shown in 499 cinemas across the UK – gross £13.5 million in its opening weekend.
What a triumph for the little yellow, D'oh!nut-eating man!
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