Blog : documentary

Content, Distribution and the Chuckle Brothers

Content, Distribution and the Chuckle Brothers

I have read the headline ‘Content is King’ many times since lockdown and I roll my eyes every time I see it. It is such a cheap, throwaway statement. Essentially, it’s only driven by the notion that right now, people have no option but to sit at home and watch it, because they have nothing better to do whilst on lockdown. A captive audience (not in the good way).

Content is like a good joke. You probably remember 1 out of a 1000. Anyone can make a respectable piece of content that has the core elements to make it digestible. But using my lockdown weight gain as a source for inspiration, who wants a dull, digestible and waistline diminishing rice cake, when you can have an enjoyable, indulgent ‘I need my fat trousers’, memorable, doughnut.

Content can appear in your social feed like getting unwanted attention from a stranger on the bus, peering over your shoulder and commenting on what you’re reading. You don’t welcome the intrusion and the contents of such an intrusion is usually arbitrary and irrelevant. So how do doughnuts and creepy people on the bus shape our thoughts on content?

For the past two years we’ve been developing a feature length documentary that started life as a pitch concept. The film is called David vs Goliath and is currently on Amazon Prime (soon to be appearing on iTunes, Google Play and others.) In the first month it was trending in the most popular movies in the UK and sustained in the top 10 documentaries for three weeks. It was brand funded. The premise of the story was: we take David Haye (David) a man who had never played a hand of poker in his life and challenge him to take on Grosvenor Casinos’ ‘Goliath’ (the biggest poker tournament outside of Vegas) and we follow his journey over 18 months, in a fly on the wall documentary. That was it. Simple.

David vs Goliath Film Poster

We protected the story and the narrative arc of the documentary like a drunken 20 year old would protect their kebab, staggering home at the end of the night. We knew that the brand would not only flourish when not forced in to the conversation, but facilitate the story and be seen by customers as a means to potentially facilitate both a perception change in their view of poker, but also the environment in which it’s played.

We live in an era where we obsess over short form content, with limited attention spans, with draconian social media platform restrictions with which we wrestle vociferously to shoehorn in key messages, etc. But there is an exciting opportunity in long form story telling. The art is finding the story, the author, the principal characters, the book and shop in which you’re going to sell it (if you follow the analogy) – but most importantly an interesting reason for existing in the first place. A lack of focus on any one part and you’ll never make it on to Richard and Judy’s illustrious book club. In the case of David vs Goliath, distribution was critical. In the case of long form content, the right distributor holds the key to unlock access to platforms to reach your consumers and create a subsequent, desired behaviour change among them.

Grosvenor Casinos, who were the client for this project, understood (here comes another analogy) that if they didn’t come across as the desperate tinder date, obsessively texting, sending selfies, and talking about themselves, but appeared as discreet, intelligent and discerning in their presence, then they would be lucky in love. Not endlessly waving their brand in the face of would be suitors (no associated analogy please note) was the way to earn respect, credibility and meaningful engagement.

If you’re a client, don’t be intoxicated by your own brand and its story. Listen to objectivity and the challenge of your agency consultants to help shape and craft your story for consumers. If you’re an agency, don’t kid your clients or waste their money on puff content that the you ‘at home in your pyjamas, eating your indulgent doughnuts’ wouldn’t give a moment’s attention. Obsess over the craft of the story.

Finally, think about distribution. Think about your content, short form or long form. Think about the journey and the emotional connection you are attempting to make and the natural role the brand can play in that equation. If a natural role does not exist, start again.

So Content isn’t King. A final analogy to leave you with. Content is ‘Barry’ to Distribution’s ‘Paul’ Chuckle. And we all know with only one chuckle brother forming the all important partnership, all you’re left with is a sad ‘to me…’

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Last week in Cannes our work received a highly coveted Cannes Lions award in the entertainment category for our factual, feature-length documentary, Wildlands. A hugely competitive sector in which we were the only BTL agency to be represented.

Cannes is undoubtedly the creative pinnacle in global marketing comm’s. It sets the benchmark and showcases the most remarkable work from around the world. To not only appear but to win among them is a phenomenal achievement.

In 2017, we premiered Wildlands at BAFTA to a global media audience. The documentary assesses the war on drugs in Bolivia and South America as told through the eyes of those from both sides of the law who have helped shape and determine that war. Narrated by NY Times
Best selling author, Rusty Young (Marching Powder, Colombiano) the film has now been distributed globally through multiple digital platforms (Amazon Prime, iTunes, GooglePlay).

We created Wildlands to promote and support the launch of our client, Ubisoft’s, new video game; Ghost Recon: Wildlands. In fact it was the idea that won us the pitch. The game depicts Bolivia as a narco-state, gripped by a drug cartel which gamers must take on and defeat.

Wildlands served as a companion documentary to the game. It asked you to ask the question; is it conceivable that a fictitious video game portrayal of a drug war could be mirrored in a factual reality? Also in a western civilisation where cocaine use is prolific, what questions must society ask ourselves to stop this insidious and destructive drug?

In a world where the likes of Narcos, Sicario, etc. captivates global audiences, we knew we could bring new gamers to Ubisoft through non-gaming platforms, providing an entertainment experience with depth, substance and integrity. Digital VOD platforms then also leveraging algorithms to serve content to those people most predisposed to consume it.

What started life as a UK marketing asset for Ubisoft, was quickly adopted as the lead global marketing asset. Our client’s belief allowing Wildlands to grow to become what we wanted it to be.

All winning work in Cannes is embossed with these three tenets; courage, vision and emotion. They make you feel, make you care, make you think and make you do something. They make you pause, reflect and react.

Wildlands was complex, challenging, riddled with issues and at any one point, we could have said enough. But we didn’t. We didn’t because Stripe, Chief Productions (our production partners) and Ubisoft knew this work was special. This work would present a landmark in video game marketing communications and this work would make you feel, make you care and make you act.

Wildlands has now scooped a D&AD pencil a Clio award and now a bronze Cannes Lion. But it’s most important function is to prove to us all that courageous, visionary and work that moves you will always win. You just need to do it.