5 Brilliant Ways Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Was Sold To Us

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Steve Coogan can breathe a sigh of relief this morning: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is already a critical success, with the broadsheets more or less unanimous in their praise of Norfolk’s finest son’s first foray into film.

But even if it had been panned – and let’s face it, that is the usual fate of British sitcoms that make the leap onto the big screen – the shrewd, charming, utterly un-Alan way that film has been sold to us in the months leading up to the film's release has already been, to use an Alan-ism, 'first class'.

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If Partridge was giving a PowerPoint presentation on how to tease, promote and release a successful movie – while dressed in sports casual, naturally – these are five point that might just make it into his slideshow.

STEP 1. Release a ‘meta’ teaser trailer
When the first glimpse of the Alan Partridge film appeared on YouTube in March, fans flocked to it immediately, but watched from behind their fingers. Why? Because when much-loved TV comedies try their hand at the big screen, the results are usually awful (League Of Gentleman, anyone?). What was so clever about the first trailer of Alpha Papa is that it played into those fears, as Alan sits about debating what the film its self should be called. Although watching it didn’t reassure us the film would be great, it did subtly let us know that the writers were aware of the enormity of the task at hand.
 

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STEP 2. Stay in character
Steven Coogan promoted the film – on TV, radio and in print – as Alan Partridge (see a hilarious interview in the forthcoming September issue of Esquire). Although the live appearences inevitably felt a bit staged, pushing the boundaries of the fourth wall was infinitely more exciting and fun than seeing Coogan somberly discuss how gruelling the filming schedule was or how much he respected his director.

 

 

STEP 3. Listen to the internet
Which is not the same thing as just ‘using the internet’. All film companies now tease trailers, set up social media accounts and build websites to promote their latest release. The team behind Alpha Papa actually used the internet for inspiration and a way to listen and respond to fans, particularly the "Anglia Square Not Leicester Square" Twitter and Facebook campaign from the people of Norwich, which convinced them to…

STEP 4. Have the premiere in Norwich
The move to have the premiere of Alpha Papa in the unremarkable East Anglia city Alan hails from was a masterstroke (even if it was swiftly followed by the traditional London red carpet treatment). It sent out the message loud and clear: this film is for fans, and the fan responded accordingly, decorating the streets with Alan graffiti and homemade banners like ‘RCP Parking LTD Welcomes Alan Partridge’. None of this would ever have happened in London, and is exactly the kind of ‘viral, user-generated marketing' that London media types sit around for days on end trying to plot.
 
STEP 5. Focus on the little details

At the premiere, audience members were presented with a slightly-damaged Terry’s Chocolate Orange – a lovely touch that plays on an episode from the second series. It instantly put fans (and Twitter) in a good mood as they settled down to watch the film. The gift was just the cherry on top of a whole range of neat little touches, like press releases from Alan and downloadable versions of his radio show. The whole marketing campaign for Alpha Papa was, like Alan himself, fastidious, obsessive and a little OTT - bit unlike Alan, it was also hugely effective.

After 21 years and several Partridge reincarnations, this was a writing team who understood their character, and more importantly, their audience. The result was a promotional campaign that has been a real game-changer. Coogan, Armando Iannucci and writers Neil and Rob Gibbons will be pleased to read the rave reviews, but really, they had the UK whipped into a Partridge frenzy long before Alpha Papa got its stars from the press.