“Let’s make a feature length documentary on the war on drugs and release it alongside the launch of the video game.” When I sit on my sofa with my laptop and write that it sounds easy.
A couple of points to note. We had never made a feature length documentary film. We knew nothing about film distribution. We had a great idea but no idea on how to translate that into something you could sit and watch on a Saturday night.
This week, Wildlands premiers on iTunes and Amazon Prime, followed by GooglePlay, and following an international film premiere at BAFTA. It’s still hard to believe we dared to achieve that.
The term branded entertainment content covers a multitude of sins. Some examples in our industry barely doing those three words justice, some genuinely making a step towards how brands can create meaningful connections to their consumer.
Ubisoft – one of our founding clients in London and one for whom has defined for me, a collaborative partnership, visionary marketeers and a true desire to innovate in a dynamic and fiercely competitive category – tasked us to launch Ghost Recon Wildlands, a video game exploring a fictional narrative of Bolivia in the grips of a drug war and on the cusp of becoming a narco state.
From this brief, we recognised the opportunity to harness global interest in a morbidly entertaining subject matter and create a companion documentary to enable real life comparisons with a fictional video game world, realised from the stories of those who shaped it in Wildlands, the documentary.
The journey to make Wildlands was like going horse riding for the first time and they hand you Desert Orchid. It bolts off at 100 miles an hour and you hope you have the courage, desire, concentration and instincts to finish the race. It turned out we won the race. Wildlands won a D&AD pencil at this years’ awards, followed by a Silver Award at the Clio awards for Branded Content. We hope many more will follow.
We travelled to the slums of Medellin, the coca fields of Bolivia, and small-town America to discover the stories of those who have shaped the war on drugs from both sides of the law. Our real-life characters mirrored to and characterised in a video game. We created branded entertainment content to accompany, celebrate and elevate our clients’ entertainment product – what we achieved was genuinely innovative and won critical acclaim from a notoriously cynical industry.
We hope you enjoy the film (and buy the game).