- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2010

It’s easy to like Buddy, Will Ferrell’s mischievous character at the heart of the 2003 film “Elf.”

It’s just as simple to “like” Buddy the Elf on Facebook. Just ask the more than 5 million social-media users who already have.

Buddy may be imaginary, but he and other fictional characters are very much alive and well on the Web’s social-media destination of choice. It’s one way film studios can extend a character’s brand, juice DVD sales and stoke awareness should the need for a sequel or reboot arise.

Nor is Buddy alone. Among the other popular movie characters with Facebook pages is Clark Griswold, the clueless patriarch played by Chevy Chase in the four “Vacation” movies.

Buddy’s page is overseen by Warner Bros., the studio holding the rights to the comedy, but the site works in conjunction with “Elf — The Musical” for cross-promotional purposes.

**FILE** Will Ferrell stars in "Elf." (Courtesy of New Line Productions)
**FILE** Will Ferrell stars in “Elf.” (Courtesy of New Line Productions) more >

Crystal Chase, a marketing associate with “Elf — The Musical,” says linking up with Buddy’s Facebook page has meant an increase of 17,000 “fans” for the musical’s Facebook page over less than two months. Having an active Facebook page enables the musical’s backers to distribute discounts and other offers to potential show visitors.

“One of the everyday challenges when it comes to social networking is always giving fresh content to your fans,” she said. Her team makes sure visitors understand which Buddy the Elf site they’re on.

“We’ve been very sensitive to the fact that people love, love, love the movie,” she said. “We make sure they understand the musical and the movie are two entities.”

David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing & PR,” said the Buddy Facebook page is a shrewd brand extension in an increasingly cluttered media world. Creating it isn’t as easy as slapping up an official page and letting the social-media currents take it from there.

Transparency is key, Mr. Scott said. Visitors should know immediately what the page is and who is behind it.

“It’s not a good idea to do something that feels like trickery,” he said.

Mr. Scott recalls an early example of a company using social media to promote a character. The 2007 Volkswagen MySpace campaign served up a site for Helga, a statuesque blonde seen in the automaker’s commercials.

“You can clearly tell this is not a real person. It’s clearly a character,” he said.

Mr. Scott said the best way for a media company to embrace the Buddy the Elf Facebook model is to go “all the way.”

“The more complete and the more well-thought-out and intricate the profile is, the more fun it becomes and more likely to take off,” he said. If biographical facts appear in the character’s films, they had better be recorded accurately on the Facebook page.

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