What is a branded film? It’s a bit more difficult to define than a :30 TV spot, isn’t it?
When I was part of a group that created BMW Films (way back in the days before YouTube), our aim was to create pure short films in which the product was so seamlessly integrated, you didn’t think of it as an ad at all. It was designed to be sought out, and if you did it well, people sought it out in droves.
There are still brands and agencies doing that exceedingly well.
YETI Presents: Denali’s Raven
Yeti produces beautiful documentary stories that profile the kinds of people who need and use its products: fly fisherman, bush pilots, backcountry skiers, hunters, and even pit masters. I love that world, and I seek it out, as do millions of others. This film, about a strong woman who’s a ski guide and bush pilot in Alaska, isn’t the most recent one the company has made, but it is one of my favorites.
Squarespace Make Your Next Move with John Malkovich
Squarespace’s outstanding commercials from last year’s Super Bowl were anchored by this film, which itself was anchored by a real person creating a website with Squarespace for their new passion. Except, this real person — John Malkovich — is someone you know for something completely different. So unexpected, and so perfectly executed.
Reporters Without Borders Germany Uncensored Playlist
The concept of this branded content, created for the nonprofit Reporters Without Borders Germany, began with the insight that while news content was censored in some countries, streaming services like Spotify were not. It took five journalists from five repressed countries and turned their censored articles into lyrics, which were then uploaded as pop songs. Brilliant.
Audi Quattro Candide Thovex
Audi has done a remarkable job of attaching itself to high performance from other realms and seamlessly integrating the primary feature — traction — of their trademark technology, Quattro. In this film, French extreme skier Candide Thovex skis through breathtaking landscapes that lack one critical component: snow. I could watch this over and over and over.
Rapha Outskirts 2: The Big Land
Rapha is a British cycling apparel brand that does every detail right, from its product design to its packaging. And from its birth, the company has produced documentary content that captures the soul of cycling. This isn’t Rapha’s best film by a long shot, but it is its most recent and is gorgeously made, and has substance. And, my God, it’s feature length.