Have you ever seen a short film that in reality was a commercial— a film created to generate buzz and  interest in a product?  Do you think you would be pleased or discouraged to find that a short film you’ve enjoyed was in actuality, a commercial?   I suppose that if you’re in the marketing field or any business that sells, you may view an interesting short film that successfully promotes a product  as a great idea.  I think even more that if done correctly  a short film can help to influence behaviors in ways that don’t directly involve purchasing a product.

For example have you seen any of the short films from the series sponsored by Glamour, Clinique, Channel, Suave and others called Glamour Reel Moments?  This intriguing concept lets advertisers sponsor A-list Hollywood actresses in directorial debuts.   A press release from Glamour offers the following:

In three years of the project, two of the short films have been accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and the shorts have shown in over 25 film festivals including Berlin and Toronto. Unlike any magazine marketing program in recent memory, Glamour Reel Moments transcended the trade media and was critically acclaimed by The New York TimesReel Moments, USA Today, Entertainment Tonight and the Today show. In 2006 Oprah devoted an entire show to the project’s positive impact for women in film that included Wackermann and Jennifer Aniston as guests. He then went on to introduce Glamour Reel Docs, a documentary that follows people as Glamour helps make their dreams come true.

What is encouraging about this program is that Glamour readers, actresses and  sponsors are all benefiting from this project.  Readers write in with suggestions for stories and then Glamour and its sponsors make it happen on film using the talents of female celebrities. The sponsors who support the films’ production gain brand awareness and respect from their involvement with the project.

Courtney Cox & Demi Moore

Courtney Cox & Demi Moore

This following short film is a great example of the quality that this series from Glamour inspires.  This one features Lauren Graham.  Does this film seem like a commercial to you?

Now take a look at the following short film produced for JCPenney.  This one received some flak because of the subject matter, but there are many out there who think that its just another example of political correctness gone too far.  Can you see what caused the “controversy”?

Do you think that using short films in this manner is good for a brand? What happens when a short film is not well thought out and results in creating a poor brand image?  This is what happened last year when BMW produced a film titled, “The Ramp.”  This 33 minute film was supposed to demonstrate the quality German engineering behind BMW vehicles.  Unfortuneatly the film comes across as a dull, booring, listless mockumentary that does nothing to promote the brand.  BMW was so disappointed in the film that for several months they denied having anything to do with the film.

So the moral (at least according to me)–is that short films do have a place in marketing today.  However, how effective they are is like any other form of communication.  They need to be targeting the right audience, with the right message and at the right time.  Films have the ability to offer so much more than print, radio, or direct marketing pieces.  Films can incorporate music, sound effects, visual effects and much more in order to convey a feeling orbrand  message.   If this is done well, then the film has done its job and the brand can see results.