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Netflix blows up its formula to get you to watch ‘6 Underground’

Netflix goes to The Ryan Reynolds School of Marketing for its Michael Bay action extravaganza ‘6 Underground.’

Netflix blows up its formula to get you to watch ‘6 Underground’

Ryan Reynolds is probably the greatest actor/marketer hybrid Hollywood has ever created.

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This is not hyperbole.

We know this because he’s proved it by taking Deadpool from a fringe comic-book character to the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, and then followed it up with a sequel that once again broke that record (until Joker recently surpassed it).

We also know none of that was a fluke, thanks to his work with Aviation Gin, which recently hit a cultural vein with a hilarious—and hilariously quick—response to that Peloton ad.

It all hit at a perfect time for Netflix, to have the star of its newest film nabbing international media coverage the week before the movie lands. Combined with Netflix, which is renown as a creative marketer in its own right, the two are having fun, pairing Reynolds’s tech billionaire in 6 Underground with the main character of the popular Spanish heist crime series La Casa de Papel, but the company is also letting Reynolds be Reynolds and have his instincts and appeal try to drive viewership.

The foundation of Reynolds’s School of Marketing is built on being both unabashedly meta and extremely self-aware. Witness the Deadpool 2 trailer where he steps out of the trailer to make fun of both CGI and trailers. Or the Aviation Gin spot that is just a collection of one-liners making fun of ad slogans. Advertising has long utilized the knowing wink-wink—to let you know that they know that you know that they know that ads are just something we all have to suffer through. So why not make it funny, right?

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But rarely has that come in the form of one Hollywood star so consistently.

In “Because Science Says So,” he’s anticipating the critical sneer at the Michael Bay canon that boils down to all ‘splosions, no substance. By not only embracing that but treating it like a scientific achievement on par with artificial intelligence or human cloning, Reynolds is turning a perceived weakness into a strength. By going meta on Bay’s reputation, Reynolds uses it as a selling point.

He used the same tactic leading up to Deadpool 2, when he made fun of product tie-ins via a product tie-in with Devour frozen foods. And he’s already at it for his next new film Free Guy, due out next summer, making fun of the now-familiar movie cast hangout ad and Disney merchandising.

Bay may never win a Golden Globe, but that didn’t stop Reynolds from using the occasion of the awards’ nomination announcement as a marketing opportunity.

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The real pièce de résistance, though, is last month’s ad within an ad within an ad. Here, 6 Underground is the anchor for what’s also a Samsung TV spot and an Aviation Gin ad, with Reynolds going full meta by pausing the shooting of the spot to chat with the director about what the hell is actually happening.

There will always be action-flick fans who will flock to anything with a lime-green car and some big fireballs in it, but it’ll be interesting to see what effect Reynolds’s gambit has on anyone undecided about and/or skeptical of 6 Underground. For some, it’ll be like a reassuring arm around the shoulder that says, ‘Hey buddy, I know you thought his Transformers basically ruined your childhood, but don’t worry, I’m here now. Y’know, the guy who checked for ball cancer in a super suit. The guy who may or may not have leaked the Deadpool script to get it made. The guy who dropped Game of Thrones references in Hobbs & Shaw. The guy who fake-feuded with Hugh Jackman. The guy who invented the turducken of advertising. Come with me on this explosive journey.”

Sure beats watching another actor share an anecdote from the set while Jimmy Kimmel chortles away as if it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard.

And just like that, you’ve poured yourself a glass of gin and sat down to watch a Michael Bay movie on your new Samsung TV.

UPDATE: Now in 39 languages.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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