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The Power of Indirect Advertising in Film

I’m excited about blurring the line between entertainment and advertising.

I think this is the main reason I love making music videos; music videos are like stylish advertisements. They advertise the band and the music but people absolutely love them, share them, rewatch them and get excited about them. It’s funny because at the same time the music video is the most widely accepted experimental form of cinema in the world. You’ve got something avant-garde and artistic functioning commercially. I think the reason this works is that the music video isn’t selling directly; it’s hiding behind a storyline, some special effects, a good-looking actor or whatever’s hot right now. Obviously there are a lot of exceptions to this, pop music videos that sell their artist and music pretty directly, but I’m not really talking about them. By offering their audience a cinematic experience the music video enhances the power of the song, often creating an entirely new following and giving people a reason to share it online. This is the power of indirect advertising.

When you look at music videos that do this very successfully they all have something in common, they create a mood. You kind of sink into their world for 3 to 5 minutes. Cinema is the mood medium; a director has so many tools up their sleeve to create the desired mood, from costume to camerawork. I think it’s the mood that really hooks audiences and leaves them wanting more. U.K. melancholic pop artist James Blake is a good example of this. His music videos are mostly directed by Martin de Thurah and carry a similar mood, haunting and eery.

This mood becomes kind of like a signature of the artist, so that the music and the videos are intrinsically linked. It’s a form of subtle branding, capturing audiences on a deep level. It makes them crave the unique mood and feeling that only James Blake can provide. Another solid example of this are Tame Impala, who have created an entire psychedelic aesthetic/mood through their music videos and album covers.

The music industry seems to understand this; record labels spend a lot of time and money on creating the appropriate mood for their artists.  The industry where indirect advertising is yet to reach its full potential is the advertising industry itself.  In the past people simply had to see an ad for it to be successful now they have to ‘Like’ it too.  The power is back in the hands of the consumer, we control what we spread through our social networks.  Even with Facebook going increasingly commercial it is still the users that drive it, fueling it by sharing content everyday.  So it pays to be showing people what they want to see and share.  Direct advertising will rarely fit into this category.  Facebook feeds aren’t littered with Nike ads, they are full of funny videos, music videos, inspirational videos, things people identify with or are blown away by.  An outright advertisement won’t travel far on the Internet without serious financial input.

This is where the line between entertainment and advertising needs to blur and where I start to get excited.  The film industry is packed full of underachieving creatives, it’s a hard industry.  Australia basically doesn’t make any successful feature films and short films don’t make money.  There are literally thousands of great cinematic ideas in this country that never see the light of a screen.  On the other hand most of the film industry looks down their noses at advertising work because of the lack of creativity involved.

What if instead of making a clothing commercial we made a beautiful short film featuring the clothes?

This exquisite short film by clothing label Free People is just that:

By immersing us in Roshambo they’ve created a mood for their label, it’s not just a logo and some clothes but a whole style and feeling.  All it took was some creative freedom.  I actually shared this short film on my Facebook page before I knew it was an advertisement for a clothing label.

I think this has to start by small businesses working with up-and-coming filmmakers.  Small advertising budgets being turned into low-budget creative projects with the passion and ambition of a frustrated filmmaker behind them.  Acceptance of indirect advertising as a new model would simultaneously provide fulfilling work to the film industry and reach a growing online audience.  And ads would actually be cool like Roshambo or a Tame Impala music video.

In Byron Bay specifically there is a wave of online video advertising sweeping the town.  Byron Naturally and other similar projects have seen the potential of online video as a tourism tool and are using it to great effect.  But very few people are going to share a simple ‘ad’ for Byron or one of its businesses on Facebook or Twitter.  A poetic short film that shows Byron’s beauty or a documentary on a local character would have a lot better chance of capturing interest and spreading online.

My goal for the next few years is to integrate indirect advertising into the work we do here at Spring Pictures.  By encouraging businesses and marketing companies to test these waters I think we can make versatile and artistic advertisements that people really connect with.

Dylan Wiehahn grew up two doors down from the Top Shop in Byron Bay and went to Cape Byron Steiner School. He studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Film/TV) at QUT in Brisbane and fell in love with Cinematography. Dylan has just moved back home to Byron Bay with his production business, Spring Pictures.


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