Corporate Film’s Coming of Age: What We Do Now that We Couldn’t (or Wouldn’t) do Before


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Corporate Film Making: Image by Vancouver Film School under Creative Commons License 2.0Corporate Film Making: Image by Vancouver Film School under Creative Commons License 2.0

A lot has changed in advertising over the last fifty years. The nature and style of corporate films has always been tied to technological and sociological developments dictating what was and wasn’t possible at any given moment in time.

There are loads of things that were once fine but are now considered bad taste (glamorous smoking adverts) and vice versa. Campaigns that were too expensive for the majority of companies just 30 years ago can now theoretically be achieved by just one entrepreneur, a hand-held camera and a savvy approach to the internet.

Because I thought it would be fun and kind of useful, I decided to take a look at some of the approaches and trends in corporate film-making that have become viable only within the last decade or so. These trends have more or less all been in conjunction with the rise of internet, (particularly social media), and broader changes in societal norms and ideals.

Taking it to the Streets – Using the outside world as a film set

In advertising history, the decision to take cameras outside of the comfortable and controlled environment of a studio would rarely have been made. It was considered a costly and unnecessary approach. The style of advertising was to demonstrate a product inside a studio to prove that it worked, sometimes alongside a celebrity in order to forge an association between wealth, beauty, status and whatever the product or service was.

By entering the public domain companies are in a better position to convey their organisation in a way that is more open and consumer-conscious. Take the setting of this Fanta advert – the film seems more like footage from a festival than a traditional advertisement and it associates the drink with sun, freedom and collective play.

Outdoor settings can also be useful for the demonstration of a service or idea, as shown by this advert for Life Vest Inside.

The naturalness of human interaction shown here would be difficult to replicate within a controlled studio environment.

Creative Collaboration – Teaming up to take on the world

Another recent trend in corporate film is the more visible collaboration between corporations and non-corporate organisations. This can be seen as an attempt to bridge gaps between seller and consumer as the corporation directs more of its attention towards a creative engagement with the public.
Offering something in exchange for a bit of product placement has proved incredibly successful for Red Bull.

This advert demonstrates the range of Red Bull’s sponsorship programme, which includes athletes, sportsmen and adrenaline junkies who need money to pull off big stunts and are happy to wear the Red Bull logo on their helmet while they do so.

Some other great examples: Rovio has teamed up with NASA to demonstrate the physics involved in a game of Angry Birds, and car brands are opting to sponsor and feature in music video like this one for OK Go.

The possibilities for collaboration are endless as advertisers increasingly place their efforts on creating content that is awesome and genuinely of interest.
For a corporate company, the internet provides access and means but also loads of information about competitors too. This means the name of the advertising game today can’t be “buy our product”, it has to be ‘”we know you want to be associated with our brand too, because we’re cool.”

Showing Support – When corporations push societal boundaries

For a long time advertisers were not expected to tackle big issues in society. Rather than form unique opinions, they served to reflect the current prevailing attitudes and ideals. Today, more advertisers understand that they have the power to shape popular opinion, and many have been using this power to make bold statements regarding controversial topics like same-sex marriage.

The impact of this short commercial from Amazon, is due entirely to the appearance of a same-sex married couple, prompting accolades from a variety of sources. The Amazon advert has been discussed on the news and entertainment websites across the internet. Before them, Expedia, produced this heart-warming film about a father coming to terms with his daughter’s marriage to another woman. The benefits of making a stand on such issues are obvious: the company appears progressive and highly individual. And individuality is a priceless asset when it comes to successful online marketing.

Freedom of content, accessibility and shareability are what make the internet so useful for businesses, but the sheer amount of businesses competing for recognition, coupled with the increasing use of ad blocks among users, means that successful online marketing comes down to what you say rather than how loud you say it.

Small-Fry in the Big Game – The emerging possibilities for small businesses

Finally, I wanted to comment on a movement in corporate film that is specific to smaller businesses, and can be found in abundance on Youtube and Kickstarter.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog post, many people now have the means to create a short promotional film. However, they may not have budget to get it shown on TV or high-traffic websites.

Websites such as Kickstarter work as a platform for people to promote their business and offer incentives for investment. It is well known among users that an effective appeal must include a short video that can be easily shared. This is a chance for the business to pitch directly to customers, and the most successful examples rely on small-budget creativity rather than special effects or celebrity endorsement to get their message across. This one minute video for Holster combined stop motion animation with straightforward product demonstration to achieve 400% of its funding goal.

Such methods are popular among artists and musicians who wish to bypass publishers and record labels and trade directly with fans. A famous example is the Kickstarter project set up by the singer Amanda Palmer.

The video consist of nothing more than Palmer presenting hand-written signs to the camera, accompanied by her own music, and culminating in the proclamation: THIS IS THE FUTURE OF MUSIC.

It is even possible for small businesses to hit the marketing jackpot by attaching their name to a home video that has the potential to go viral. Take this advert for the Danish dance studio Studie43, filmed during a rehearsal. The business’s name is tagged unobtrusively in the bottom right hand corner of the video, but enjoys exposure to over 19 million viewers. This is of course a hit-and-miss marketing strategy, with thousands of unsuccessful attempts for every one viral superstar. But it is an opportunity that did not exist for small businesses in the past, and will undoubtedly shape the future of marketing for everyone.

Adam Knight
I work at Aspect Film& Video which is a global specialist video marketing and production agency in Bristol (we also have offices in London). I'm passionate about the world of video and media and I'm like a small child when I think about the technological and digital developments happening all around us all the time.


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