What Beats a million-dollar commercial? Mini-movies
WHEN Beats by Dr Dre wanted to promote its headphones in time for the World Cup, it did not rely on a 30-second TV spot or online banner ad. Instead, it created a mini-movie showing the pre-game rituals of soccer stars Neymar, Cesc Fabregas and Luis Suarez.
The five-minute film, called The Game Before The Game, had racked up more than 10 million views on YouTube by yesterday.
Beats is not the only brand taking a stab at long-form content. To promote its Helix Ultra motor oil, Royal Dutch Shell sent Oscar winner Adrian Brody on a driving challenge through a Malaysian jungle for a series on Discovery Channel.
The strategy, known as content marketing, and its role in capturing some of the projected US$544 billion (S$680 billion) in media ad spending, will draw attention as top advertising executives gather on the French Riviera for the Cannes Lions festival, which runs through Saturday.
As ad agencies hire producers, directors and writers to create longer content, they are increasingly looking like TV or movie studios.
"This type of advertising is more effective because it's targeting a specific audience," said Mark Eaves, a co-founder of London-based advertising agency Gravity Road. "Content spending is growing massively every year as some brands are starting to think in terms of the audience and not just the consumer anymore."
Shell's ad, Driven To Extremes, has aired in more than 70 countries since March last year, attracting 60 million TV viewers and boosting the number of hits on the Shell Helix YouTube channel to 6.8 million.
People who saw it said they were 30 per cent to 40 per cent more likely to buy the product.
"We wanted to demonstrate the effectiveness of Shell Helix without being very direct about it, and we wanted consumers to draw their own conclusions," said Americo Campos Silva, global media manager at Shell Brands International in London.
As consumers click away Internet pop-up ads and record TV shows to fast-forward through ad breaks, other brands are paying agencies such as Interpublic Group of Cos - whose R/GA unit produced The Game Before The Game - to create short films, documentaries and TV series.
While only 5 per cent to 7 per cent of the brands commit to this type of format, the number is growing because it can better target audiences and boost credibility, according to Ogilvy Entertainment.
Companies do not need a big budget for such marketing and many brands are moving away from US$1 million commercials, said Doug Scott, president of Ogilvy Entertainment, a unit of the world's biggest advertising agency.
A three- to five-minute film typically costs US$250,000 to US$300,000, and can run across different platforms, surrounded with social media and pitched by public relations, Mr Scott said.
Bacardi's Bombay Sapphire gin even won a Bafta award for British Short Film from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in February.
It was generated from the brand's "Imagination Series" competition set up with London's Gravity Road. Contestants downloaded a script penned by Oscar-winning writer Geoffrey Fletcher that lacked any stage directions and used it to create their own.
More than 170,000 people downloaded the draft and the winner was Room 8, a short feature about a prisoner who suffers the consequences from opening a box after his cellmate urged him not to. The film premiered along with four other finalists from the "Imagination Series" at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
"Brands need to have a very different relationship with consumers," said James Morris, head of Mediacom Beyond Advertising, which worked on the Shell TV shows. "There needs to be deeper engagement and the route to do that is to engage with cultural experiences."