"The best films deserve to be placed where they’ll have the most impact. The distribution of great work – it’s context – is key." Jeremy Kolesar, Digital Cinema Media’s creative business director, spoke at the Brand Film Festival – Campaign and PRWeek’s inaugural celebration of branded film.
"There’s so much value in the shared experience; the medium can create cultural moments."
He explained that technology innovation has enriched and expanded cinema’s scope but the fundamentals of why a cinema audience is more receptive – why big-screen activity has such impact – remain.
As a pertinent example, he played Three and LG’s "I know what you unboxed last summer", a satirical romp through horror-film memes, using Jackson (a muppet) and the tech-nerd fetish for ‘unboxing’ videos.
"The campaign cleverly takes inspiration from the film world with nods to movies such as The Blair Witch Project but with a humorous spin and seamlessly places the phone in the story. The work won the Grand Prix at last year’s DCM Awards."
Making the unskippable, unskippable
That captive cinema audience can’t skip the commercial – nor would it want to, Kolesar explained: "What’s the point in making something that people aren’t going to see to the end? Creatives and film directors want to see their work appear in the best context where it will have the biggest impact.
"The truth is that the best stories still have a beginning, middle and end, and they are most effective when watched in undistracted environments where the viewer can see to the credits."
He said that high engagement can’t be achieved on the bus or on a screen just a few inches big. Audiences deserved the best picture, sound and experience possible and so do the creators behind the work: "In many respects, this is the last bastion of true creativity."
What cinema – and cinema audiences bring – is an emotional connection: "Brands are spending thousands and millions on their branded content projects but too often, ROI and metrics such as click rate decide their fate. The best Hollywood blockbusters weren’t written with an algorithm in mind.
"People need to be relaxed and receptive to good content in a place that feels natural. People don’t want to be harassed. Branded content should be entertaining and engaging without a hard sell at an inconvenient time in a viewer’s day."
There are experiences that cinema can create, which are beyond every other media. Kolesar played RNLI’s ‘The Breath Test’ that made an audience hold its breath, to experience collectively the limits of human lungs. "The power and impact came out of 300 people holding their breath together and audibly exhaling at the end. You can’t recreate that anywhere on the media landscape."
"These kinds of impactful moments and brand stories go beyond the big screen, filtering into conversations in pubs, homes, schools and the workplace. They tap into culture and stick with people. Think about sports: being at a live game trumps streaming the action on your mobile every time."
Kolesar showed that even if an experience is confined to the cinema, it doesn’t stop it going viral: "Another memorable cultural moment we created in recent years was a live cinema ad for smart energy with Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. The work was to promote a nationwide rollout of smart meters and aimed to show the campaign ambassadors, Gaz & Leccy, being calamitous alongside the tagline, "get Gaz & Leccy under control."
"The footage captured from the stunt went viral, viewed almost 15 million times across YouTube and Facebook. Awareness of Gaz & Leccy grew by 20% in just one month following the campaign – Smart Energy’s biggest ever month-on-month jump."
To create a true cultural moment, you need the right environment, Kolesar concluded. Cinema gives you that: "When there are so many platforms to choose from, context and how branded content is distributed, is as important as the creative."