“Weekly World News is the Wall Street Journal of otherworldly headlines. Any cultural project that deals with what’s ‘really’ out there needs to be working with us.”
So said Neil McGinness, CEO of the Weekly World News, when brandchannel asked him about the co-promotional campaign the “newspaper” has been running with Men in Black 3, which is poised to take over as the new #1 movie from The Avengers.
As viral marketing tie-ins and product placements go, the partnership is a tremendously appropriate one. Weekly World News was, after all, with the Men in Black franchise since the beginning.[more]
In the original Men in Black film, Tommy Lee Jones’ character, Agent K, held up a copy of the Weekly World News and declared it the “best damn investigative reporting on the planet.”
Agent K is referring of course to the WWN’s penchant for outlandish stories. And while it is not the paper’s most wild tale, it is probably best known for the story of “Bat Boy.” From an issue in 1992, WWN declared that a “Bat Boy” had been found in a West Virginia cave. Several years later, the story even led to “Bat Boy: The Musical.” It was off Broadway.
For a generation of Americans who remember seeing the absurd printed headlines at the grocery checkout line, WWN is an icon. The paper has been lampooned on The Simpsons and claims to be the inspiration for music legend David Byrne’s film Stop Making Sense.
Though the print edition of WWN once surpassed a circulation of one million, it folded in 2007. A year later it was purchased by, yes, Bat Boy LLC, which intended to rejuvenate it as a website. Yet, how does a publication known for preposterousness compete on the Internet? Last year, the publication became a subscription newsletter, beginning with the story “Werewolf Sues Airline Over Flight Delay.”
Men in Black 3 marketers at Sony saw a ripe opportunity and approached WWN to create a special print edition of the classic WWN. McGinness said the paper is “a full-blown regular issue with 32 pages filled with all of our latest findings on UFOs, alien activities, weird donuts, pink surprise cakes, tattoo parlors and strange takeout from a bizarre Chinese restaurant.”
Some of those “weird donuts” come from a little shop called Dunkin’ Donuts. The special Men in Black 3 edition also has spoof ads (that are sly “real” ads) for some of the film’s other marketing partners like Baskin-Robbins.
The edition is available as a download on the MIB3 site and for free on Amazon’s Kindle. It has also been handed out at the New York City “Men in Black Tour” and can be picked up across the nation, including on university campuses and at comic book stores.
The special edition publication has been done in various forms in recent years, probably most successfully with the hit TV series Mad Men. Like much of Men in Black 3, Mad Men focuses on the very fun 1960s.
Newsweek published a “retro” edition heralding this season’s return of the show, featuring its own editorial look from the era and retro ads. The focus was less on the full magazine itself and more on turning back the clock for its advertisers. Allstate, British Airways and, yes, Dunkin’ Donuts were just a few of the participants. (Think Newsweek charged them 1965 rates?)
But none have done the Mad Men special edition tie-in as well as Ad Age itself. Back in 2008, Ad Age produced a 16-page Mad Men-themed insert that reported on fictional agency Sterling Cooper’s client “wins.” That was before the magazine was dragged through the mud in a plot point on the show, an image shellacking Ad Age chose to address, stating, in part, “We didn’t ask cute-ass questions…“
Weekly World News of course has no such reputation to worry about losing.
The Men in Black 3 special edition is more than just a one-dimensional gag. In addition to the movie’s sponsorship of the WWN website, the MIB3 edition was guest edited by a kid named “Bugeyes,” a reference to Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in the first MIB.
An online viral marketing effort put together by Sony, Bugeyes is a character who, since March, has been posting videos about how the “men in black suits are real.”
The campaign features a phone number asking users to leave messages about UFO sightings as well as a Facebook page that’s pulled in tens of thousands of “Likes.” Bugeyes even gets a background cameo in the final film.
Of course, to tie it all together, one of Bugeyes’ uploads features the sleuth digging through a dumpster and turning up, yes, a curious issue of the Weekly World News.
Bugeyes isn’t the only cameo in Men in Black 3. CEO McGinness told us the paper will also again appear in the film, so keep those eyes peeled.