“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”
– Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard
Back in the 90s and 00s, with the advent of the internet and then the profusion of new social media channels, there was talk about how television would eventually fall by the wayside as a medium for advertising. Well, clearly this hasn’t happened. Like radio and other mediums, television advertising has not disappeared but rather found its place in an expanding array of options that feature in a wide ecosystem that customers and advertisers occupy.
More importantly, it’s not about the “channel” so much as it is about the continued importance of the moving (in both senses of the word “moving”) picture in different channels, which now include YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, emails, mall screens, cinema screens, TV screens, and the list goes on.
The advertising and film worlds have always had a great deal in common: from business partnerships such as product placement and cinema advertising, to the obvious fact that many of the artists who make motion pictures also make commercial advertising content.
As a famous example, the “1984” spot for Apple was directed by none other than Ridley Scott, who had released Alien in 1979 and Blade Runner in 1982 (two of my favourite films, both prominent in the ‘canon’ of most influential films of all time). What most people, myself included until recently, may not have known is that making commercials is a huge part of the business of Scott Free Films (created by Ridley and Tony Scott). A great number of commercials have been directed or produced by the Scott Brothers’ company alongside their famous theatrical release films.
In advertising, the role of “video”, which to me is just a more current way of saying “motion picture”, continues to expand and diversify in fascinating ways. Here’s a very recent example of the H&M film by Wes Anderson starring Adrien Brody, which in typical Anderson fashion creates a very twee, self-contained world in which the clothing features in a very subtle way:
Here’s another branded content film, this one for Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld, who has proven himself to be a very interesting filmmaker in his own right. Here, the clothing and accessories are featured more explicitly, and presented in a very different manner:
What these two films have in common is that they’re light on story, and strong on atmosphere and suggestion. In the H&M spot, the desired emotional effect they’re going for is: Approachable Charm, Simple Delight, with a memorable visual style – the specialty of Mr. Wes Anderson and well in keeping with H&M as a brand.
The Chanel spot is going after: Elitism, Chic, Mystery, with a heavy dose of innuendo and suggestion. It’s a spot littered with famous models and socialites (beyond the ubiquitous Cara Delevingne), and is expressly designed not to be accessible, but to speak to industry and fashion followers.
In the next post, we’ll explore other ways that the art of filmmaking has been employed to promote brand messages in different sectors.