Singaporeans love going to the movies and are big fans of Hollywood blockbusters. Disney and Marvel in particular have a strong fan base amongst women and men alike. In 2012, The Avengers grossed the highest box office ever achieved in Singapore history, followed closely by The Avengers – Age of Ultron in 2015. (Sources: SGMovies Blog, InSing, Channel News Asia)
However, even the biggest of Marvel fans in Singapore were still unaware of the smallest and most powerful characters introduced as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a character who would be making an appearance in a very big way in the next Avengers movie (Captain America 3 – to be released in 2016) – and that character is Ant-Man. While avid Marvel comic fans know Ant-Man and his peculiar strengths inside out, the average Singaporean saw him as a stranger.
Before the movie released on 16 July 2015, Mindshare was faced with the challenge of introducing Ant-Man to Singaporeans, not just as a super-hero but a Marvel super-hero. Faced with a demanding box office target, it had to get at least 12% of the country to watch the movie – so the target audience comprised not just of comic book and super-hero fans, but also their friends, partners and families.
When Ant-Man wears his suit, he gains incredible strength – quote the movie, “the suit has power.” Ants can lift objects 20 times their weight, but Ant-Man can sucker-punch creatures a thousand times his weight.
The agency wanted to educate the audience about Ant-Man’s super-strength in the most visually impactful way possible. In the movie, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is a popular figure in the thieving world and is chosen by super-scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to help him fight people with bad intentions from finding the suit.
[Spoiler Alert] After hours of training and preparation, Ant-Man masters the suit and the technique, and eventually saves the day - and the planet. But it is not evident from his title how he achieves this feat, and it was especially not evident to Singaporeans at all, because they grew up without the entrenched comic book culture that is familiar to nearly everyone in the US.
In order to display the incredible strength that Ant-Man gains upon wearing the suit, Mindshare chose a media that is used by 90% of Singapore’s population – bus shelters. It put up 6-sheet installations that deceptively showed the Ant-Man movie poster sticking out of the frame, so that one might even mistake it for a poster that was perhaps mid-installation. But as the commuter comes closer to the poster, he realises that it is popping out above the frame entirely by design: holding the poster up with one hand is Ant-Man himself, kneeling at the bottom of the frame, with the movie tag line just above him boasting – ‘heroes don’t get any bigger.’
The posters went up around the city just one week ahead of launch. They were installed overnight at bus stops with the highest footfall in the busiest parts of the central business district area.
Within a couple of days, photographs and hashtags of the execution were all over social platforms and being shared by bloggers and across several local social media platforms and forums. Singaporean people loved the humour and creativity and best of all, they were speaking up with a sense of pride and ownership about one of the most creative executions they had ever seen: not just by Marvel but in the country. The ripple effect on social was incredible and continues to date – Singaporeans loved it.
So the agency took it a step further. At one of the longest subway station interchanges in the city centre, it stuck a long trail of 2D ants along the floor teasing commuters to follow them all the way up to a giant wall mural of an Ant-Man movie poster. Mindshare installed a similar execution on the subway, where Ant-Man held up the display screens that informed commuters when the next train was due to arrive.
A local execution on a small scale became a global talking phenomenon overnight. Photographs of the execution went up across Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, 9GAG and movie blogs, generating 76,000 organic engagements (likes/comments/shares) of images / posts shared spontaneously by consumers. Best of all, Singaporeans expressed a surge of pride - and a sense of ownership.
“Ant-Man poster at a Singapore bus-stop. WOAAHHH. Marketing done right! @anthonymerciar” / “I was told that this is from my country. I am so proud. @sugary-mint” / “I was about to exclaim “YOU ONLY HAD ONE JOB”, then I looked down, and now I exclaim “PURE WIN” @zobek” / “I’m going to the premiere tonight. I hope the movie is as good as the ad haha @EST_1994” / “This is really f****** clever. The marketing for this film has been spot on so far. @TheJoshider10” / “Singapore boleh! @weegian” / “I feel like working on marketing for this movie would be super fun. @race_kerfuffle”.
The campaign started a conversation that was carried on by thousands of people. Ant-Man achieved 50% of box office target on the opening weekend. And this was the only campaign that won a Clio Key Art award from all of Asia.