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It’s a Wrap! Big Brands are Making a Move on Hollywood

Marketers are certainly not unfamiliar with the Hollywood movie industry. Since the dawn of “Talkies”, big brands and movie producers have played off of one another in developing a big-screen story. Auto companies for years vied for roles as extras in the latest blockbuster soon to be premiered in multiplex theaters across the world. Sometimes a featured auto managed to steal the leading role and secure iconic status as a “star”.  Christine, a 50’s era Plymouth was the lead actor in a horror movie of some significant note. And who can forget General Lee, the 1969 Dodge Charger who starred in the television series Dukes of Hazard?  The General upstaged the show’s starring male duo and even managed to out-memorialize Daisy Duke’s famous shorts. Well, maybe not?

Big brands often paid to have products featured in a pivotal scene or have the brand’s name used in the movie’s dialog. Such performances often were meant to be subliminal and were occasionally just fleeting moments on camera. Either way the appearances were beneficial in that the audience didn’t identify them as an overt advertisement, something viewers have become accustomed to dislike.  After all, viewers hate advertising. Numerous studies and surveys have consistently revealed that as many as 80 percent of the public would like to avoid experiencing digital media advertisements altogether. In an entertainment world that has become intensely digital, this reality does not favor marketers’ ability to tell the story and connect with consumers. The dilemma has prompted some really big brands to once again look to Hollywood to spread the message and tell the story, this time as writers, producers and directors.

Spurred on by increasing consumer demand for more content and entertainment to stream during the COVID-19 pandemic, some famous consumer brands are forming internal production wings to take the message directly to the consumers. Neutrogena Studios, a wholly owned production company of Johnson and Johnson’s Neutrogena skin line, recently released “In the Sun”, a highly professional, 37-minute, glossy movie detailing the dangers of over-exposure to the sun. Skillfully performed and very-well scripted, actors and contributors discuss the benefits of Neutrogena products in protecting against the sun’s damaging effects on our health. In the very earliest of scenes, the viewer is aware that this is no ordinary Infomercial. “At a time when you’ve got platforms that need content, if you can actually transform yourself into a consistent content creator as a brand, that becomes something that can offset the cost of marketing,” said Noah Mallin, chief of brand strategy at IMGN Media. “From that standpoint, it’s an interesting strategy. Doing it consistently requires a lot of skill.”

Procter & Gamble has established a similar division for its Old Spice line of male grooming products and SK-II, a premium skincare brand focused on foreign markets. Not to disappoint all the beer drinkers out there, Corona Studios’ production division has arrived on the backlot and is making a short-form YouTube program called “Free Range Humans.”  Released in late 2020, Free Range Humans may be the first to spawn its very own series, in Spanish of course. (Subtitles provided for the English-speaking drinkers). Episodes One and Two are now playing.

The newest players in the Hollywood scene are not trailblazers. Marriott, the iconic hotel chain, initiated the use of in-house production studios with the release of “Two Bellman” in 1915 and its sequel “Two Bellmen Two” in 1916. More than 50 percent of multinational marketers have established some form of in-house creative agency, according to a survey conducted by the World Federation of Advertisers. The Observatory International has discovered that 94% of those units have capabilities centered around creating digital content.

“Some of the changes to iOS that Apple’s put in place are going to make it harder to target consumers and understand exactly who you’re reaching,” Mallin said. “That doesn’t mean that brands are going to stop doing advertising to reach consumers online; what it does mean is kind of a fallback on fundamentals, which is reaching large consumers with stories that resonate across many different types of content instead of trying to microtarget it.” The channel is in the experimental stage and some mega brands are finding it difficult to commit to the genre.

Many deeply entrenched brands are hesitant to move market spend out of traditional advertising processes and venues into movie production. It remains highly risky and is a very expensive adventure for those willing to embark on the journey. But as viewer-consumers continue to “tune out” traditional advertisements, David Beebe, Marriott’s vice president of global creative and content marketing, advised brands to “stop interrupting what people are interested in, and become what they’re interested in.”

Whether this new band of moviemakers achieve blockbuster success or failure remains to be determined, most likely by the consumer-viewers. Mixing Hollywood with Fifth Avenue may produce a rather peculiar offspring, but what marketer of any number of years’ experience can refute the “Love Boat’s” impact on the cruise industry or “Easy Riders’” influence on the makers of motorcycles?

It’s a wrap!