— by Dan Wallace
Yesterday I had the good fortune of sitting in front of filmmaker Morgan Spurlock as he presented at the FUSE Brand Strategy & Design Conference in Chicago. For me, it was a standout presentation. Mr. Spurlock displayed candor, critical thinking, video story-telling, courage, and the most innovative branded content I’ve seen to date.
Spurlock’s feature films dive straight into difficult social problems using humor and loopy approaches. In his breakthrough documentary, Supersize Me, Spurlock ate McDonald’s exclusively for 30 days, gaining 25 pounds in the process. His most recent film, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, shows Spurlock selling product placements in a film that is critical of product placements.
From a marketer’s perspective, the most innovative and fascinating part of the presentation for me featured GE’s Focus Forward Films, conceived by Mr. Spurlock and GE CMO Beth Comstock. GE gave complete creative control to 30 documentary filmmakers, each of whom featured innovators or world-changing ideas in three minute films. Subsequently this project was opened to filmmakers around the world. The result has been more than 80 million views, resulting in approximately $6 million in earned media value for GE (using TV ad rates as a guide). Moreover, the brand association with the project is much more relevant than intrusive TV ads — and this film library is now an enduring brand asset for GE and free educational content for society. It's a big win for everyone Here is an example of a Focus Forward Film:
Branded content is a hot topic in marketing, leading to effluents of key-work laden content pouring online. As a result, people are using online tools such as Digg and social networks to shield themselves from the online advertorials, advertainment and ads disguised as news. The work Spurlock and Comstock did for GE is an example of fresh, courageous and relevant branded content. Kudos!
The fine line Mr. Spurlock walks is also fascinating. He’s a humorist and documentary filmmaker tackling complex social issues, a TV reporter for CNN, and a partner with corporations to create branded content. Spurlock’s motto is: “Take on as much risk as you can handle,” His actions are equal to his words.
Dan Wallace develops products and is a marketing & brand consultant. He is co-authoring a book, “The Physics of Brand,” to be published by HOW in 2016. This blog post was written for the 15th annua FUSE Conference in Chicago, hosted by IIR. You can follow Dan on Twitter @ideafood.