On the third day of the Cannes Lions 2022 advertising festival, Ryan Reynolds revealed how Deadpool propelled him to viral marketing stardom. Find out how the celebrated actor, producer, and entrepreneur ‘accidentally’ turned into an advertising genius.

Today, Reynolds is globally known for box office hits like Free Guy, Red Notice, and — of course — Deadpool.

However, the top-trending comedy actor is also a prolific figure in business. In addition to his successful tech, sports, and beverage ventures, he is widely regarded as a leading celebrity figure in the ad industry.

Wednesday, June 22, Ryan Reynolds was a guest speaker at Cannes Lions 2022, where he opened up about his attention-grabbing marketing strategies.

What high-value stories did he share, and what can business owners learn from them?

The decade-long pitch that changed Hollywood — and marketing

Firstly, Reynolds talked about how it took no less than a decade to convince Hollywood execs that Deadpool would be worth it.

“I spent 10 years trying to get the film Deadpool made and it was hell. I kept rolling this rock up the hill every single day and it just didn’t work,” he shared on stage at the advertising festival.

No matter how many unconventional marketing tactics he used, such as leaking footage, “the studio never really believed in it.”

But Reynolds believed in it for years on end and took massive action in his pursuit to make it happen. When the movie was finally approved, albeit with a minuscule budget for the genre, he made “every dollar feel like 10” and “replaced spectacle with character.”

The result? Deadpool broke at least a dozen records in Hollywood, including the highest-grossing R-rated weekend debut. It still holds the title to this day.

However, the most intriguing part of the story is that it sparked his film production and digital marketing agency, Maximum Effort — all “by accident.”

Ryan Reynolds’ viral marketing secrets

After the wild success of Deadpool, Reynolds invested his earnings into a beverage business opportunity. “I needed to market that, so we [Reynolds and his business partner, George Dewey] inadvertently became a marketing company,” he explains.

What followed were countless highly successful promotional campaigns, both for Reynolds’ film projects and for agency clients.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Ryan Reynolds and his team’s viral marketing accomplishments shared at Cannes Lions.


When struggling to promote Deadpool on a tight budget, he explains that he was “learning lessons left, right and center.”

For business owners, this translates into leveraging creativity when fewer resources are available.

What could grab and retain attention online without breaking the bank?


It’s obvious that comedy is one of Reynolds’ strong points. However, it’s a quality that any business can infuse into their marketing strategy.

“Humor and emotion travel the most virally. Oftentimes ads are hyper-sincere, and I think they’re noise. If you really want to punch through, you can make people laugh.”

What funny approaches will help audiences better relate to the product, service, or brand?


“Culture moves really fast. When a cultural conversation bubbles up in a big way and it becomes the subject of every social media platform, it’s being commented on with or without us. We try to add a production element to that. If you [do] that, it’s a whole next level,” Reynolds said about the importance of timing.

Entrepreneurs should act quickly on emerging trends in pop culture, adapting them to their business needs. As far as the “production element,” the key is to make the content as visually engaging as possible.

What top trends are relevant in this industry — right now?

To conclude, there are plenty of viral marketing lessons to learn from Ryan Reynolds’ campaigns and strategies. The biggest question now is: what will you implement to 10X your business? Drop your commitment in a comment below.

Featured image source: Dick Thompson Johnson, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

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