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Saville productions: lessons in branded long and short-form film, TV and documentaries

created on Friday 23 Jun 2017

Rupert Maconick’s suggestion for brands to make their campaigns feel less like adverts was to hire a script writer and film director who do TV and film, then you’ll be increasing the chance people will watch. If it’s a documentary, he’d advised doing research with a proper documentary research team. The subjects will be free of charge and you won’t have to pay an ad agency. 
Ultimately he explained that the processes of filming documentaries, TV and film are different to creating adverts – that’s the main difference. To balance the promo with editorial in either film or documentary, Maconick said the promo has to be authentic to the story ‘some of it’s pretty obvious’ he concluded.

Saville Productions recently produced ‘Lo and Behold’ with Werner Herzog as Director, which just won two Cannes Lions. The clients for this were brave, he said. His role in the collaboration was to answer the brief and find interesting stories (it’s a documentary). Werner had the final cut with this – ‘if you hire someone like this you have to let them run with it’ Maconick said. ‘But Werner listened and was opened to suggestions’. At the beginning they had no idea they’d get Elon Musk, a hacker or those addicted to the internet, and so on. There were 30 billion impressions in the year it was released. 

Talking about distribution Maconick said: ‘The best way to get a distributor behind your content is to get them to pay a lot of money. So Magnolia paid for ‘Lo and Behold’. There was no media buy – and the distributor sent all their money to recoup the original advance they made.’

HP Inc, the technology company have created a digital series called The Wolf. The second series launched 1st June. Dan Salzman explained how HP is reinventing itself and as this is an emotional message they decided to create a story about IT security, as it impacts everyone. The message was that you can hack in to a network through a printer, a very difficult message to get across, yet they connected to customers in an emotional way. It was a spin off with Christian Slater from The Robot because it’s popular with their target audience, given the topic.

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HP Inc. recently created an internal content studio as well. On answering why, Salzman explained that all technology companies are dealing with the same issues regarding fragmented, confusing messages about technology being circulated and misunderstood by consumers so they want to create work that solves this in an entertaining way. Their studio is a hybrid of internal and external work and they hire a director, not an ad agency. it’s a push-pull agreement with them and the filming team but that they relinquished more control with The Wolf.
It’s interesting to note that HP Inc. used data from their customer help teams in order to set content topics. Once the series launched it created even more engagement with customers as they called up to check their products were safe!

HP haven’t thought about monetizing content and are not interested in it at the moment. They create it to strengthen their brand and ultimately sell product.
Martin Campbell then joined the conversation from a director’s perspective: ‘setting up any movie is very difficult in this day and age. Feature films and short films from a director’s point of view are very attractive’.

Campbell used the Bond films as the prime example of brands being put in to movies. In Casino Royale Ford tried to give him a Ford Focus to have Daniel Craig drive in, but he had to say no. Instead he used it when Craig was driven, undercover, from the airport to the hotel (in the movie)! However, he was very positive about brands in motion picture in general he said ‘brands don’t impede on the drama as long as it’s not too obvious.’ From his experience, brands get involved from a distance.

Campbell explained how directors go after product placement as well: ‘in order for advertising purposes, it helps with your budget no question – so you really push for it.’