San Andreas is a blockbuster movie about the mother of all earthquakes; it’s a dramatisation of what might happen when “the big one” hits California.
Promoting this movie in Latin America presented a clear challenge as the fact is: Latin Americans simply don’t like disaster movies. That’s because Latin America has experienced more than its own share of tragedies in recent years. It’s a region with some of the worst earthquakes in the world, where entire cities and millions of families have been ripped apart by earthquakes and other natural disasters.
The result is that, for many millions of cinema-goers, watching an “entertaining dramatisation” that might bring back traumatic memories was going to be tough.
MediaCom's challenge was to develop a campaign that promoted San Andreas in a way that also respected the personal history of Latin American victims of the natural disaster.
It needed to develop a message that didn't offend sensibilities or trivialise harrowing memories.
The story of San Andreas is the story of an everyday man, played by A-lister Dwayne Johnson, whose character embarks on a heroic quest to help others and his family in the midst of a terrible earthquake.
The agency's insight was that, in every natural disaster, regular people sacrifice so much to help others, showing true acts of courage. These everyday men and women were a cause for pride and positive sentiment. Latin America had hundreds of its own Dwayne Johnsons – people who had risked their lives to help others, often people they didn’t know.
This led to the strategy: San Andreas would not be the Hollywood story of an American earthquake, but a showcase for the heroic acts that happen around natural disasters. This would provide a platform to say thank you to Latin America’s unsung heroes, who make sacrifices every day to help others in earthquakes, floods, fires, and other natural disasters.
The “everyday” hero is especially true in South America, where all of the heroes are volunteers. While Mexico has dedicated aid organisations such as Los TOPOS, and Colombia has CINAT (National Circle of Aid Technicians), in countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile, many local fire-fighters volunteer for free to combat natural disasters, which makes their devotion even more special.
The message would not be promotional but simply grateful – embedded into content across key channels. It would identify and celebrate the very best Latin American heroes, using San Andreas as a reason to say thank you.
MediaCom embarked on a two stage promotion for San Andreas, designed to educate consumers about the power of earthquakes and the resilience of the people affected.
It teamed up with Discovery, LatAm’s biggest and most credible factual channel with a reach of 63 million households. Partnering with Discovery gave not just great factual content about earthquakes, but also empathetic credibility.
Discovery would schedule an earthquake-themed weekend prior to the release of San Andreas, as well as promoting the film and its special content via social media and its digital outlets. Discovery would make the message native, organic and unbranded across its weekend’s programme integration and become the first stage of the platform to celebrate bravery across the continent.
As well as learning about earthquakes, viewers would also be able to celebrate local heroes. Editorial-like content featuring the star of San Andreas, Dwayne Johnson, who the agency persuaded to pay tribute to the heroes of Latin America’s own natural disasters, were a regular, embedded element.
MediaCom then took the celebrations even further where first responder groups such as fire-fighters and natural disaster volunteers (along with their families) were invited to special screenings in the major Latin American capitals. The local heroes were personally thanked on screen by Dwayne Johnson, before the feature film aired.
These special screenings helped to attract huge publicity and awareness of the incredible work carried out by first responder groups, garnering earned coverage for the movie.
This unique strategy played to the sensibilities of the region, ensuring that Latin America embraced San Andreas.
The Earthquake weekend programming, built in conjunction with Discovery, attracted nearly four million users on Facebook, with a further 2.5 million watching on Discovery.
San Andreas became Warner’s third-biggest film of all time in Latin America – and the biggest-film ever in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
The film was watched by nearly 19 million people and Latin America was one of the best performing regions, contributing 23% of worldwide box office, compared to a regional average of 14%.
The cinema screenings generated hugely positive media coverage worth $4m. The personal messages from Dwayne Johnson generated plenty of positive social media responses with rescue groups also filmed thanking him in return for his kind words.
In Chile, where fire-fighters are unpaid volunteers, it has even started a national debate about paying them out of public funds.
“This was the best Latin American initiative for a WB film that I recall in the last decade. The tie-in with local heroes, plus the willingness of a huge star like Dwayne Johnson to reference them directly, made all the difference.” - Kelley Nichols, VP Latin America Marketing, Warner Bros.