Why can't the ad be as good as the film?
From Bombay Sapphire to Lego bricks, content marketing on the big screen means even bigger things, says Digital Cinema Media's CEO Simon Rees.
Native advertising, content marketing, corporate journalism or branded content - whichever buzz phrase you choose, all are pitting advertising alongside editorial, whether that's a tweet, a magazine article or, in our industry, a film.
For it to work, the content has to be of the highest quality and there is nowhere more exposed than the big screen where work is played to the same technical excellence as movies that cost $1.3 million a minute to make.
A great example of a brand setting new standards in content marketing is Bombay Sapphire, which recently held an 'Imagination Series' competition in partnership with Oscar-winning writer Geoffrey Fletcher. Entrants were encouraged to imagine their own film based on a short script stripped of any stage direction, five of which were then chosen and produced with the winners also being screened at New York's Tribeca Film Festival.
One of the winners, Room 8, recently won a prestigious BAFTA award in the British Short Film category. It was executive produced by Gravity Road and Mark Boyd, co-founder of Gravity Road, who commented: "This is a big moment. We often say the competition isn't other brands, but other content.
"It's great to see some branded work breaking through to win a major accolade. All too often, branded content is an excuse for something that wouldn't have happened otherwise. This BAFTA win says otherwise."
Content marketing is the must-have accessory for marketers, but it's crucial not to forget its purpose"
VW is another brand that has established close ties with film following the launch of its 'Seeing Film Differently' campaign in 2006. Three idents currently run in independent cinemas across the UK which take a look at iconic moments in cinema that were improvised or unscripted, and then imagines the actors' surprising inspiration behind those moments.
Memorable moments have included Hannibal Lector's 'sucking motion' in Silence of the Lambs, Robert De Niro's famous "Are you talking to me?" scene from Taxi Driver, and the line "We're gonna need a bigger boat" from Jaws.
LEGO however has arguably orchestrated the biggest content marketing triumph yet with The LEGO Movie. The Warner Bros film has already taken more than $380 million worldwide, while the marketing team even extended 'legoisation' across other brand ads for BT and Confused.com which ran before the film in cinemas and during an entire ad break on ITV during an edition of Dancing on Ice. Even the infamous Oscars selfie got 'legoised' as it exploded across social media.
As reported in The Verge, LEGO's own designers helped with the set and character design of the movie and Michael McNally, Lego's brand relations director, explained that you could pause the film at any point and build everything you see. He went on to add: "I think what we've really found is that Lego is not a toy, it's a medium for other people to tell their own stories and create their own adventures."
For YouTube's Geek Week last year, PHD used clever scheduling to make the content relevant and special for fans of Marvel's The Wolverine. All Marvel films have an additional scene at the end after the credits so in a media first, YouTube's ad was scheduled after the film had finished.
David Wilding, Head of Planning at PHD explains: "The movie had an additional scene at the end so we already knew the super fans or geeks would stay until the very end to see it. This insight opened us up to the idea of tapping into this never-used-before element of the cinema experience and targets the proud geek audience we're looking for perfectly."
The week also included superheroes, comics, science-fiction and more with over 100 YouTube creators releasing new videos over the seven-day period.
Content marketing is the must-have accessory for marketers, but it's crucial not to forget its purpose which is ultimately to attract and retain customers. While not all brands can play a starring role in a blockbuster movie, any brand can create a story that aligns and complements relevant movie content, as VW and Bombay Sapphire have proved, whilst at the same time engaging and inspiring a target audience.