Branded content comes in multiple forms. While traditional PR seeks to raise awareness of a brand by creating an interesting story that media report on, branded content aims to cut out that element of chance and reach the consumer directly.
Some of the most successful examples of branded content are created in film format.
At the D&AD Awards 2015, we interviewed top creatives Ted Royer, Chief Creative Officer at Droga5, Baptiste Clinet, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather France, and Rogier Schalken, Head of MediaMonks Films (and D&AD Branded Film Juror). We wove their advice on using film in advertising and marketing into this short clip that includes excerpts of their chosen examples of the most creative use of moving image:
One example cited by our experts is Assassin’s Creed Unity. Released in 2014, it played brilliantly into the hands of dedicated fans who love to share:
The concept enabled players to create their own avatars of the lead character of the popular game series, which were then incorporated into a high-octane trailer. Across two months, over two million fans visited the Unity website and created over 200,000 custom assassins, picking from over five million possible options. The 1,430 most popular avatars were animated one by one and integrated into the trailer. An interactive version of the trailer enabled online users to halt the action and find their avatar in the thick of it. A few lucky fans even got to see their avatars posted in the streets of their cities and on limited edition box art.
As Rogier Schalken, Head of MediaMonks Films and D&AD Juror, said:
[Interactive film] projects always jump out because of the interesting storytelling narrative. The reason I love Assassin’s Creed so much was because it incorporated the user, so that the user had to first make their own avatar, and then it’s incorporated into this big CGI film; and then later on they could actually check in the film where their avatar was placed.
It was a leap forward for user-generated content, which had suffered a dip in popularity in recent years. By carefully controlling the variables in the character creation, the campaign managed to ensure that quality wasn’t lost, while individuals retained a sense of ownership. The result: a campaign released on multiple media that brought the super fans into the centre of the action.
Another project cited by our branded film experts is The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made. Air New Zealand and filmmaker Curious took the opportunity to turn the one piece of content that all airlines are obliged to create – the safety announcement – into content that not only the captive audience on board but also people all over the world wanted to watch.
The carefully crafted pre-flight safety video combines a brilliant idea with a natural partnership for the brand and pulls it off it with style in all departments. It harnesses the popularity of the Hobbit franchise and its stars, bringing what could be a very boring story to life. That’s why, a year after release, it has amassed more than 15 million YouTube views and picked up a D&AD Wood Pencil along the way. You can see how it was made here:
One final interesting example of branded content creativity inspired by film is ‘The LEGO Movie’ ad break:
LEGO is essentially a toy company – it traditionally makes money through selling small plastic bricks. Over the past few years, the company has embraced branded entertainment as a way of creating new products and tapping into trends. So we’ve seen LEGO Star Wars computer games, The Simpsons LEGO toys and now The LEGO Movie. This content-led approach has been so successful that the company is making a huge profit from its brand tie-ins, challenging the primacy of toys as its main revenue generator.
To promote the 2014 film, LEGO decided to make traditional ads more entertaining. So it recreated a series of other companies’ commercials using LEGO, then it took over an entire three-and-a-half-minute ad break during a flagship ITV show. This was brilliant for a number of reasons:
It demonstrated the versatility of the core product. You could literally see what you could create with plastic bricks.
It created a huge PR buzz. Taking over an entire ad break was great, but doing it in LEGO meant the story was sure to get picked up by lots of news sources. Add into that a partnership with relentlessly commercial broadcaster ITV and you know you’re onto a winner.
It was brilliant to watch. It hit the branded content jackpot by being genuinely entertaining, funny and well crafted.
The objective of the ad break takeover was, of course, to sell tickets to the film, as well as shift more LEGO bricks. By creating a never-before-seen stunt that was highly shareable, LEGO became the talk of the Internet. Did it work? Over six million people saw the ad break, with YouGov describing it as the best they’ve ever measured. And of course it won a D&AD Wood Pencil. As for the movie, it was the highest-grossing film of 2014 at the UK box office and three sequels are currently being planned.
This article by the D&AD’s Creative and Content Manager Luc Benyon was originally published in the BOBCM Special D&AD Edition collaboration, co-edited by Justin Kirby and Greta MacFarlane.