Did audiences at this year's US Super Bowl witness the start of a new era in short form storytelling? Mark McKenna, Executive Producer in our New York office explores the use of real stories in corporate film.
Sport creates iconic moments and narratives that perfectly mimic the dramatic nuances we aim for when we make films. It was therefore fittingly theatrical to witness the greatest comeback in US Super Bowl history (Go Patriots!) in primetime this February, sandwiched between Gaga’s drone extravaganza and a trend in short form storytelling that simply cannot be ignored.
We have been making corporate films for the better part of the last 20 years. We remember shooting to tape, cutting with 12 pounds of Avid hardware and using the magic words ‘broadcast quality’ in pitch documents to every client under the sun. We saw the start of the digital revolution and editing software moving seamlessly onto just about any personal computer available. We witnessed the rise and fall and rise again of the in-house film team, the early use of branded content, social media, user-generated video, drones, 360, VR and finally after the big game this year it looks like we saw that evolution finally reach its end. A night of underwhelming commercials tepidly hung around the political climate of Trump’s America culminated in a corporate film. It may have been disguised as a ‘live’ & ‘experiential’ commercial presentation from Hyundai, but its genesis from our world was as obvious as the resignation in the eyes of the Atlanta Falcons as Tom Brady began to crush their dreams.
We could mark the beginning of an era of authentic short form storytelling, or we could recognize the end of the one we’ve been living and working through. For years we have been telling our clients about the convergence of consumer and corporate communications. This used to be because budgets were less of a differentiator, ‘we’ were getting closer to ‘them’ in terms of production value. Corporate agencies were referencing the look and feel of commercials, fighting for crew, kit, talent and the rubber stamp of delivering dramatic content. The ultimate display of ‘creativity’.
Every advance in technology brought us closer together, digital delivering a somewhat level playing field, as access to A-list brand ambassadors seemed to be one of the few things holding ‘us’ back. But Hyundai just spent 90 seconds questioning if anyone really cares about that?
The future of storytelling in short form is people. Real people.
We’ve been doing this for years, it’s what (when done well) makes corporate film different. We don’t have license to put Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake together on a Chesterfield sofa, we can’t fabricate a blue whale with a vendetta against Melissa McCarthy or ask Lady Gaga about being a rebel. We’ve been showing the power of connections between real people and real issues all year round, not just when the issue was current and worth an eight-figure investment.
So what can our client’s learn from this?
On its biggest stage of all, with all its glitz and razzmatazz, when America is truly being the most America it can be. On the biggest sporting Sunday of the year, the tone used to speak to consumers noticeably changed. They were trying to influence the audience, rather than sell to them. And to do it they used people rather than celebrity. They used reality and they used honesty. It’s a winning combination each and every one of our clients can capitalize on, with or without a big game budget.
This year’s ads did indeed attack the idea of a wall, but it was the one separating corporate and commercial. This time ‘they’ finally mimicked ‘us’. Bravo Hyundai, for understanding the social media generation connects with real people and real stories. Thank you, Peter Berg, for ushering in the next generation of short form storytelling and cheers Tom Brady for keeping over 111m people up past bedtime to watch it happen.