Motion Picture & Advertising – Part 2 of 3

Nothing moves the human heart like a movie – whether it’s 2 minutes or 2 hours long.

It’s easy to think that all motion picture content for brands (on YouTube, for example) features fictional narratives like the ones we’ve seen for big advertisers like H&M, John Lewis and its brilliant little Christmas films in the UK, or films by famous auteurs like Guy Ritchie for BMW or Lexus.

But documentary-style films have a power of their own. “Truth well told” is the famous phrase from McCann Erickson, and nothing in advertising does this better than a film that tells a true story well.

Here are 3 recent examples of how skilful documentary filmmaking can tell the story of a brand better than a traditional “ad”, where the voices and stories of real people make the difference. And it’s time to toot our own horn a bit, as two of these examples are recent work from our agency, followed by a third from overseas.

  1. A campaign done by our Montreal office for an unusual product: the Can Am Spyder. It’s a “handlebar” vehicle that’s a cousin to the motorcycle, but with the tremendous functional advantage of having two wheels in the front and a very stable ride. This is an important innovation for those who want to ride a motorcycle, but who feel that for whatever reason they can’t or shouldn’t. It’s a strange-looking vehicle at first glance, and can be hard to market. Check out how the team followed a group of real owners in the U.S. to create a film that showcases the spirit of the vehicle


  1. A film done by my Toronto crew for a government client on a sensitive subject to communicate: adults with developmental disabilities. This campaign is meant to create awareness of the range of adults in Ontario with “special needs” (ranging from autism to Down’s syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome), while also recruiting potential “home providers”, families who have a “place in their heart, a place in their home”, to take in someone with these needs on a long-term basis. A tough sell job, but one that I think the team handled sensitively.


  1. A wonderful campaign for the British newspaper The Guardian that sells both the paper and the entire category of investigative journalism through films that capture the unexpected character of real working journalists such as Christina Lamb. These are extraordinary individuals who put themselves in volatile, life-threatening situations in order to present the truths we need to hear. The choice of the subject (she is far more soft spoken than the stereotype of a reporter, and yet more fearless than one could have ever imagined), the use of a variety of still shots and b-roll footage, the camera work and editing, the sensitive choices around music and sound – all create an indelible imprint of how investigative journalists do their work and why their work matters to us as intelligent citizens of the world.


What all of this work demonstrates is truth can be more powerful than fiction if handled with emotional intelligence. In the next post we’ll explore the essential questions one should ask before embarking on creating film or video content for a brand.