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How We Got Guardians of the Galaxy Director, James Gunn, To Comment on Our Campaign

James Finlayson

James Finlayson

October 17, 2016

When James Gunn, Director of Guardians of the Galaxy, spent two hours on Twitter discussing one of our recent creative pieces, we knew it had gone viral. Following the success of Directors Cut, we’d like to share a bit about how we got there.

Made for our client,, the piece racked up some nice numbers to go along with James Gunn’s comments on Twitter and Facebook:

  • Over 48k shares in 48 hours
  • More than 437 pieces of coverage, 90% linking directly to the piece (of which, less than 5% were no-followed) and about 40% directly linking to’s life insurance product page
  • Coverage on big name sites like The Independent, NME, IGN, Entertainment Weekly and The Guardian
  • Viewing it through PR metrics – coverage on sites with a combined reach of nearly 400 million people, producing an AVE of £3.8 million.

All of the above happened within the first week of the campaign going live.

The Concept

Life insurance is a tricky subject to create content around due to the relatively serious nature of the product itself. We’re always looking to create content that covers multiple interest areas so that we can outreach in multiple verticals, so talking about fictional deaths in movies seemed to solve two problems at the same time.

We quickly came across a fan-made piece that had rounded up on-screen deaths and knew immediately that we were on to something:

Despite being a simple (maybe even ugly) graph, the above content managed to achieve some organic coverage on Business Insider, where it was viewed over 42k times. When this came out in early 2014 it clearly resonated with its audience despite the deadliest film being, unsurprisingly, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which is pretty much 3 hours of war.

We realised that by refreshing the data we would likely end up with a whole new list (there were some films since 2014 that we were just itching to add). By playing with the data we knew we could pull out new angles and by working on the design we could make it more accessible.

The Data

As much as we wanted to, binge watching movies wasn’t going to be an economical way to get the information. The original piece had pulled the information from a forum and so our original plan was to do the same. We updated the information and then ran until one of the biggest stumbling blocks of the piece – the data had hardly changed. At some point in late 2013, the forum had lost popularity and hardly any new films had been added since.

At that point we had a choice – either ditch the piece, go ahead with the information we had or find another solution. As professional maze walkers we naturally chose the latter. Through relatively extensive searching we found another option – a mixture of YouTube videos and forums that had newer counts, using the same methodology. By merging this data together, and adding in a serious chunk of validation, we now had a fresh perspective and interesting data we could use. Rising as the standout story from it was Guardians of the Galaxy in first position. Who would have thought that a film that features virtually no bloodshed – a Disney film – would be the deadliest? Not only do comic book/ Marvel movies practically have their own sub-genre (and separate list of fan sites) online, but Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is currently in production, making the campaign timely.

The Execution

At its heart the piece is a listicle; but if that’s all it became the best execution may have just been as a press release. What value could we add? We decided that, by adding information about each film in our top-ten, as well as imagery, we could do all the research for journalists, making the piece incredibly easy for journalists to write-up.

Meanwhile, we’d finished playing with the data, looking for secondary angles. We found interesting stories around years (“are films getting deadlier”), genre (“are horror films really the most deadly”) and ratings (“deadliest films aren’t necessarily R-rated”). We doubled-down on the execution to add a way to explore these secondary angles. These hooks were implicit so that we could take different angles to different journalists.

The outcome was:

  • Simple – Guardians of the Galaxy Deadliest Film Ever
  • Unexpected – it’s a family movie
  • Concrete – We tell you exactly how many deaths and death, in itself, is a pretty concrete concept; and
  • thanks to detailed supporting information we made available to journalists, Credible.

We knew that readers were likely to only read the headline, which meant that it was inevitable fiery debate would occur as to why the most deadly film wasn’t, instead, something like Star Wars where whole planets blew up. This emotional element would help to propel the campaign through social media, making it highly shareable.


We don’t waste our time with bloggers and mid-tier publications. We believe that taking our campaigns to the largest sites in the world gives them access to huge audiences, which in turn leads to secondary pick up and huge results. This was no exception. What better place for a piece that talked about Guardians of the Galaxy than The Guardian? It’d give the piece a credibility boost, access to a huge audience and is a great link to have within itself. So, as the first site to be outreached to it was also the first coverage to go live:

Guardian coverage of Directors Cut

Here’s a little secret – it also went live on NME and the Independent almost simultaneously. By making sure it appeared on multiple large sites at the same time we were hoping to begin an avalanche of coverage.

That’s when this happened:

James Gunn comments on Directors Cut

James would spend over two hours on Twitter, sending over 50 tweets, talking about our campaign. It suited his agenda for the story to blow up as much as possible because he was busy feeding the publicity machine around the new movie. Meanwhile, the story was breaking elsewhere, gaining over 900 upvotes on Reddit and the social pressure from the coverage was creating a Twitter Moment:

Directors Cut Became a Twitter Moment

Our outreach team quickly picked up James Gunn’s tweet and added it into their outreach emails – providing credibility to the piece and a further angle. In fact, James’ tweets were so noteworthy, many of the publications that had already covered the piece went back and covered it a second time. So far, within two weeks of launching, it has appeared on Yahoo a total of four times.

Soon, the piece had been covered on over 400 sites including:

Coverage Highlights

Our Outreach team kept ahead of the coverage and, because we speak 12 different languages, we were able to take it to publications all around the world; starting new fires of publicity across the globe (including in France, Finland, Russia and Brazil).

Overall, we smashed all targets set for this piece by starting with a simple concept, producing new and surprising data, executing like a boss and staying nimble with outreach, getting coverage from some of the best sites in the world.


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