In 2018, after a truly amazing rise to Hollywood A-List  stardom following his breakthrough role in Deadpool two years earlier, Canadian-born Ryan Reynolds co-founded a production-company-cum-ad-agency called Maximum Effort. According to Reynolds, it was created to support the launch of Deadpool 2.
To be fair to Reynold’s ambition, Maximum Effort (ME) is just one of his side hustles:
- Bought into Aviation Gin in February, 2018. Promoted the brand through ME in a series of ads and social media posts  with fellow actor Hugh Jackman. Sold to Diageo in August, 2020, for a reported $610M (USD).
- Bought into Mint Mobile in November, 2019. Promoted the brand through ME in a series of ads and social media posts. Reports are that Reynolds stake in Mint Mobile has been growing.
- In February, 2021, became active co-owner of Wrexham AFC. Wrexham is in the National League, 5th tier of the English football league system.
- In June, 2021, ME was purchased by MNTN. Actually, Reynolds sold an entity called Maximum Effort Marketing to MNTN. Maximum Effort Productions remains independent.
So ME is Reynold’s second overnight success, this time in the advertising and marketing world. As pictured above, this culminated in Reynolds being guest speaker at the marketing industry’s version of The Academy Awards, the 2022 Cannes Lions.
The Thing About ME
Here’s the thing about ME—Reynolds is very often his own client: all his own movies, Aviation Gin, Mint Mobile, Maximum Effort and MNTN. The third-party brands ME has worked for so far are RM Williams, Match.com, Peloton, Bolt.com and 1Password. Sometimes even with these brands, Reynolds manages to work in his own enterprises to the script . The Peloton relationship was short and particularly strange in that it flowed from a parody ad ME did for Reynolds’ Aviation Gin poking fun at a previous Peloton ad. 
The Uncomfortable Relationship
Until just now , the marketing world hasn’t said much out loud about Reynold’s spectacular success with ME. This may be because he’s new at it, has no formal marketing training, and most of all, he makes succeeding in a difficult business look incredibly easy. He also seems like a really decent human being, though we’re not convinced the marketing world cares about that so much while it’s being embarrassed.
The Client Work
ME’s first major work for a third-party was the 2020 “Match Made in Hell” TV spot for online dating service Match.com. It’s a send-up of the stereotypical dating service match-up, except the participant are Satan (clearly based on Tim Curry’s Darkness character in the 1985 film Legends) and the year 2020 (the first full year of COVID-19).
The creative is clever, timely and funny. In our opinion, the complex analogy and the out-sized Satan character hurt brand registration. The marketing world took notice and the wider world loved the spot because Ryan Reynolds made it. We don’t know about campaign results but it’s clear everyone likes to work with Reynolds. He later joined Match.com’s board of directors.
The Ryan Reynolds Work
The most entertaining ME work so far is the June, 2021 “Interview with My Twin Brother” video, ostensibly to explain the acquisition of ME by MNTN. The best moment in the 2:30 second video has to be when Gordon asks Ryan what everyone in marketing wants to know—why he’s in the marketing business, “Are you hard up for money, or are you just trying to scratch some sort of creative STD?”
The most ironic ME work is the September, 2021 video for MNTN where Reynolds addresses the company’s research results on his value as on-camera talent.
We say ironic because we think Reynolds is speaking the unintended truth here. Third-party brands should not waste their marketing funds on ads featuring Reynolds. The biggest winner in any marketing creative that Reynolds appears in (on or off-camera) is always going to be the Ryan Reynolds brand. Like Satan in “Match Made in Hell”, he’s going to steal the scene from your brand every time. It’s the Ryan Reynolds Show. You won’t be completely wasting your money, but there are more effective and efficient ways to build your brand.
What We Can Learn
Reynolds is shockingly upfront about why ME has been so successful, other than the fact that you need to be him to execute his strategy. His perspective is clearly social media driven—allowing for huge media efficiencies  and unfettered creative license . Here are the Reynolds quotes we think are most important for the rest of us:
“Speed captures the cultural moment.” (we’re paraphrasing this one a bit).
Most of ME creative is written and produced in days rather than months. ME creative is running while the cultural moment is still trending on social media. It doesn’t hurt that people like Hugh Jackman, Sarah McLachlan, Taylor Swift, Rick Moranis, and the chairman of Peloton (even after you’ve publicly embarrassed his company) will actually take your spontaneous phone call.
“Humour and emotion travel the most virally. Oftentime ads are hyper-sincere, and I think they’re noise. If you really want to punch through, you can make people laugh…Consumers and audiences know they’re being marketed to, and they can feel the tactics, they can feel the conversations the executives have had. If you can drop that artifice a little bit and speak plainly, they’re much more willing to share it.”
To Ryan Reynolds
Please keep making great entertaining movies.
Please keep riding that massive wave of celebrity you’re on, which in your case, is based on real talent. It is inspiring to watch.
- There’s no consensus on the definition of ‘A-lister’, but currently, it’s safe to say Reynolds is on it. But he wasn’t an overnight success until 2016. Like many actors, he started small in 1991 and grew his career slowly, and unlike many others, wisely. His best film before fame might be Safe House, 2012. Hard to go wrong making a movie with Denzel Washington.
- Reynolds doesn’t use traditional media nor does he need to buy social media exposure. He uses his own Twitter (20M followers) and Instagram (44M followers) accounts. These are not Top-10 celebrity followings, but massive compared to conventional media and non-celebrity influencers.
- ME creative for 1Password, 2022.
- Dec 2, 2019: Peloton is riding a pandemic-fueled resurgence and releases a :30 second ad titled, “The Gift That Gives Back”.
Dec 3, 2019: The ad is ridiculed in traditional media and goes viral (in a bad way) on social media. Peloton’s stock price drops 9% during the day. Reynolds and his ME partner see an opportunity for Aviation Gin.Dec 6, 2019: ME’s ad for Aviation goes live, using the lead actress from “The Gift That Gives Back”. It goes viral, in a good way.
Dec 9, 2021: The 2021 Sex and the City reboot airs and in the first episode, actor Chris Noth’s Big character dies of a heart attack after a Peloton workout. Peloton knew one of their bikes was to be used in the episode, but not that it would kill the character using it. 48 hours later, ME releases “Unspoiler Alert” for Peloton.
- A&W’s New Ryan Reynolds creative, 2022.
- Even in today’s world, traditional media is not okay with f-bombs,etc and people chugging Aviation Gin by the glassful.