Case Study: Beyond Product Placement

I attended IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Conference this week, the oldest forum in the US for the discovery of new projects in development and new voices in the independent film scene. I was surrounded by filmmakers, industry executives and agencies, all of whom were there to celebrate this year’s crop of content creators and what it takes to get your film seen, whether it premieres at a festival, as a major theatrical release, or online.

At Big Fuel we strive to bridge the gap between brand stories and people stories, and each filmmaker at the Conference this week met a similar challenge.  Each sought a delicate balance: to identify his future audience and set effective marketing strategies, while remembering the importance of the creative voice.

This year’s panels covered a wide range of topics, but the discussion around whether you are a filmmaker or a brand persisted. What are the best ways to market yourself and the creative projects you work on?  How you can build your audience, tap into the appropriate networks and ultimately get people excited about what you are creating and promoting?  Social issue documentarians and first-time narrative filmmakers alike were jotting down notes about the newest online tools for making a film a success. As I listened to the best social strategies and distribution plans for films, I found myself thinking that the worlds of social media marketing and film-making were crossing paths quite a bit.

The Branded Content panel included an agency, a brand and a filmmaker who presented a case study of a collaborative campaign that enjoyed major success in both the ad world and the film world. Together they created a film with brand recognition that was well thought-out and developed.  The product’s core values of craftsmanship, heritage, knowledge, and dedication matched perfectly with the personalities of the subjects who were featured in the film.

The Brand: Stella Artois wanted to document a hand-painted billboard campaign that they were unveiling on the sides of buildings in New York City.  They were looking for a great way to share the process with the public as an additional component to the campaign that would last long after the billboards themselves washed off the walls.

The Agency: Mother in New York took this idea and thought about the best way to incorporate this video using the brands core values and its network of creatives.

The Filmmaker:  Independent filmmaker Malcolm Murray was brought on by Mother to create a web video for Stella Artois.  As a team they realized what was most compelling about the story were the painters of the billboards.  “Up There” pays tribute to the dying craft of large-scale hand-painted advertising and the untold stories of the painters struggling to keep it alive.

The film is a perfect balance of personal stories and product placement. Seamlessly interweaving a brand’s story and imagery of the brand’s product.  The painters feel genuine and their brief moments of confession are truly thought provoking.  The film will be reaching an even wider audience then the brand ever expected as it has been entered into more than 15 film festivals for competition. Branded content done right.



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  2. Pacey
    09/27 2010

    I live blocks away from one of the few remaining large-scale hand-painted advertisements and every time they are painting a new one I stop and wonder ‘I’d love to know how they do that’. While I was excited that this film answered so many of my questions it didn’t even occur to me that it was a branded product. But now that I think about it, if you asked me to tell you an ad from the film I would have definitely answered “Stella”. Very clever and very sneaky! I like it.


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Hello! Big Fuel is a full-service marketing and communications company based in New York that takes brands from Content To Commerce. A unique approach that bridges "people stories" to "product stories" through social media and branded content.

Big Fuel is one part marketing agency, building brands through consumer insight; one part entertainment company, creating content that people love; and one part distribution company, driving guaranteed results by delivering content to targeted audiences. We work with major brands, leading agencies, publishers and platforms to help marketers achieve true consumer engagement.

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