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The Art of Branded Film


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In today’s age it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to differentiate their products and services using traditional video advertising. An advert only has about two minutes on average to get its message across and although we have seen some companies do some brilliant things with the medium (the old “priceless” Mastercard commercials come to mind but more locally, we’ve always been fans of the Toyota Unser Ads of old) audiences have become more alert to the fact that an advert is playing, are able to see the tell-tale outlines of it early on and tend to lump them quickly into the ad box and move on to their desired content.


(classic)

Now with the migration of viewership going from regular terrestrial programming to internet based programming it’s become a lot easier to bypass commercials by either skipping them entirely like you can do on Youtube or installing ad-blocking software in the case of advertising pop-ups.

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Enter the world of short film advertising, also known as branded filming. Here, brands make use of talented directors and screenwriters who employ equally talented actors in order to put their products and services on display in a fashion that appeals to viewers, working with a running time that substantially exceeds the usual commercial airtime (we’re talking 10-15 minute length commercials).

Simply put, people appreciate clever plotlines and cool, unpredictable twists. They like to see characters evolve and go through obstacles, have their emotions challenged and brought into the light, which is why the medium works so well as a platform for planting the brands seed without being caught out doing so.

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The use of short films as an advertising mechanic isn’t a new thought although its prevalence sort of fizzled out in the course of the past few years. BMW’s brilliant short film series ‘The Hire’ somewhat radicalized the concept of branded film fourteen years ago with visionary directors like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Ang Lee, and Wong Kar Wai working alongside star talent that included the likes of Clive Owen, Forrest Whitaker, and Don Cheadle, demonstrating their artistic prowess while putting on show various BMW models as the visual focal point for a multitude of narratives.

The series which comprised of two seasons (eight episodes in total) completely pushed the envelope in terms of what a brand could do to get its name out, even going so far as to more or less destroy the vehicle being advertised for the sake pure entertainment, and it had internet navigators, general consumers, and industry players in excited discussion for months after its release.


(Check out the classic series here)

Oftentimes a well-crafted branded film deeply impacts viewers for the simple reason that it gives audiences complex, intriguing content to ponder for a good while after. What’s more is that consumers recognize when a brand has taken the time to craft something special just for them and later when they are considering which brand to pick up in the aisle they are likely to go for the one that has impressed them on an intellectual as well as on an entertainment level.

Take this more recent example in which mobile company Qualcomm released a short film directed by Academy Award Winning Birdman screenwriter Armando Bo, starring Olivia Munn and Leehom Wang entitled “Lifeline” which has its own buzz going on at the moment.

Released in May, the branded ad was posted on various social media channels in the United States and China while a nine-minute behind-the-scenes look at the film entitled “Inside Lifeline”, available on the official website, focused on the actual phones integral link to the action in the film and its various new features such as a longer battery life and advanced photographic capabilities.

There is even evidence that viewers are becoming more receptive to longer commercials with a recent study by Yahoo and Mindshare, “Creating Brand Connections across Devices”, revealing that watching long-form video over smartphones is gradually becoming the norm, with 50% of the 600 survey respondents watching videos of 10 minutes or longer.

In short, if you can wrap your product or service inside something beautiful, it’s more likely to be received with open arms. Whether that something beautiful comes in the form of an engaging short film, or a gorgeous piece of street graffiti or even, potentially, a complex and sonorous musical composition, the odds tip in favor that consumers are going to sit upright and pay attention because their inner senses are being summoned into attention, which in the end ultimately translates into perceiving said brand in a better light.

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What are some ways that your brand can employ artistic mediums like branded filming to get people talking about your products and services? Do you think short films are worth the resource expenditure?
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