commentary · henry jenkins · professional role · social media

Professionals Engaging the Public through Popular Screen Media

Henry Jenkins’ TED Talk discusses ‘participatory culture’ and how social media has altered the interaction between amateurs and professionals, blurring the lines between these two domains. In particular, he highlights how younger generations are the most active online users; constantly creating content and conversing via Facebook, Twitter or any one of the various other social media platforms. Baring this in mind, and taking inspiration from Jenkins’ Spider-Man metaphor, in this post I will analyse how social media and our participatory culture were used as marketing tools to promote the 2016 film, Deadpool.

More and more, professionals across all industries are utilizing social media to promote their products or services and to engage with the public. During the months leading up to the release of Deadpool, it was clear that the marketing team (20th Century Fox) behind the film had grasped Jenkins’ theory and realized that the most effective way to advertise the film was to use the language and platforms of Web 2.0. And they literally used the language of the internet by using emojis on one of their billboards.

Deadpool took a traditional form of advertising (perhaps Jenkins’ would describe billboards as Web -5) and modernized it by using terminology that is present throughout social media. Instead of shunning this means of communication that is often considered subordinate, the marketing team took advantage of emojis, confident in the knowledge that it would appeal to the participatory culture. The result was an eye-catching and memorable advertisement.

But the Deadpool marketing campaign didn’t stop at billboards. From posting satirical Instagram photos to creating viral videos, the promotion of this film was notably hilarious and original. Breaking the fourth wall, self-referencing and filmed on what appears to be an iPhone, the video below shows just how effective but inexpensive a well-thought out social media campaign can be.


The extensive use of billboards, viral videos and even a Tinder profile throughout the promotional period perfectly illustrated how social media can be beneficial in a professional realm. The more creative and entertaining their approach became, the greater the interest in the film developed. The greater the interest, the more likely the participatory culture would pay to see the film in the cinema.

As Jenkins stated, “the ideal consumer must be active, emotionally engaged and social networked” (2008, 20). The Deadpool promotional team achieved the optimal audience; active social media users who positively responded to their popular culture promos and emotionally interacted with them by liking and sharing. This marketing method is what Jenkins refers to as ‘affective economics’, as Deadpool blurred the line between entertainment and brand messaging (2008, 20).

The campaign showed that not only can social media be an effective means of advertising, due to our interactive digital culture, but blending it with traditional forms of promotion can also produce a witty and compelling advertisement.


Works Cited:

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2008. Print.


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