The fight against the forgettable is on

Ahead of this year's Brand Film Festival London, Leo Rayman discusses making work that isn't mundanely mediocre or instantly ignorable.

Mediocrity. The single defining factor of most brand films is mediocrity. Face it, there are a few – a very few – absolutely astonishing films every year. The ones people outside the industry see. Then there are the truly shocking films. The ones so bad, so downright poorly conceived that the whole executive team go into crisis management. There are very few of those too. You have to work pretty damn hard to come up with a film that actually damages a reputation.

The majority – there are 3.8 billion Google results for the search "brand film", so let’s call it 3.4 billion – are mundanely mediocre. They’re instantly ignorable. All that energy, all those dark hours in an edit suite and still the film just flies under the radar, ignored or stopped within milliseconds. It’s saddening to think that so many people spend so much of their time producing videos that simply do not register. You can have all the metrics in the world, but none of them matters if your film just bounces around a big empty space, then drops out of popular consciousness forever.

Why is so much of the communication that surrounds us so goddam uninteresting? It is because there was "no harm of anyone using any truly insightful data in the production of this commercial". Ironically, the enemy of the transformational use of data is the enormous range of metrics available, none of which really tells you why your film was so unengaging.

There’s a creeping incrementalism at work here, grinding infinitesimal gains out of great lakes of data. It works slowly, but it’s no way to make your film soar. Frankly, if that’s your approach to data-driven insight, I’d rather replace you with robots and do it at 20% of the cost. Mediocrity guaranteed.

If you want a real breakthrough, you need to take a "whole brain" approach instead. Numbers are our friends, but so is ambiguity and the novelty that comes from it. We’re trading vanity metrics for cultural analytics; spotting the patterns that help you see what’s coming around the corner. You need killer-not-filler data, but first you need intuition.

If it does its job right, the Brand Film Festival should counteract mediocrity. The fight against the forgettable is on.

Leo Rayman is chief executive of Grey Consulting. He is a speaker at the 2019 Brand Film Festival London. Visit here for more details 

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