Before reading about The Hire, I hadn't thought much about the short film genre as a marketing vehicle, but it seems lots of people are doing it these days.
One of the most stunning examples I was able to find is one created by Mercedes Benz in 2007 to promote the launch of its luxury SLR McLaren Roadster, which can be yours for about
George Zabrinski (Robert Seeliger) is a crack photographer attempting to get pictures of the new Roadster as the car goes through secret pre-launch road tests in the north of France. Along the way he meets up with a mysterious and sexy hotel mate Laura Ziegler (Franziska Schlattner - who turns out to be the Mercedes security chief on the road test), an inexplicably bitter waiter and a dowdy older couple on holiday, all of whom eventually figure into the plot. After several dramatic - and sometimes amusing (one involves a goat) - twists and turns, the film comes to an ending that caught me by surprise. It runs on what Mercedes calls an innovative new platform called FLOADED, with an interactive feature that enables users to stop the film at certain points and go to brand profile sites via a "brand layer."
The cinematography, editing and acting in this short is better than you'd find in most feature films. You'll rarely see a stick shift or a bumper lit and photographed this artfully! Seeliger and Schlattner develop full blown characters with a subtle sexual tension -- all in the space of 10 minutes. The film even has its own soundtrack by the up and coming band "The Kilians."
OK, cool movie. But is it really effective marketing? I guess that all depends on how you define marketing. If it's selling me the car, then the film failed. There's no way I can afford a $500,000 car -- or any Mercedes for that matter. But if marketing means building a brand, then I think the film is a success. It's, fast, it's sexy, it's good looking and well made -- all qualities Mercedes wants us to think about when we think about their cars. The campaign also invites viewers to spread the movie virally -- there's an "e-mail to a friend" icon right on the opening page. I enjoyed this movie enough that I definitely will share it.
And isn't creating "buzz" what it's all about? My colleague Elicia cited another great example that took a different tack to create buzz with a short film. In 2003, Volvo created a mockumentary about the small Swedish town of Dalaro, where 32 people all bought a Volvo S40 on the same day. The film "interviews" these people about their "motivations," and even talks to "scholars" about the psychological and sociological implications of the phenomenon. What's more, Volvo later created another mockumentary "exposing" the first as a fake! Elicia says over a million people visited Volvo's website and half watched the original film.
I do wonder, though, whether the short film is already old news as a marketing device. Over a million people watched The Hire series of films, and they've become a textbook example of innovative and creative thinking. Fast forward six years to The Illusive, and while I could find some talk about the movie in the trades and on blogs, it's nowhere near the level of buzz that The Hire recieved.
P.S. another great marketing short you should check out is The Call, a short film by Pirelli tires, starring John Malkovich. Think "The Exorcist" meets a posessed car! Thanks Dan for the heads up on that one!