Why Big Companies Like DoorDash, 3M, and HP Are Making Movies

On Monday, at the posh Standard Hotel in New York City, about 100 people sat around picnic tables and chewed small bags of popcorn for a screening of a short film about restaurants in the city during the pandemic, including those they were forced to close locations.

The movie was made by DoorDash, one of several movie screenings in recent weeks that was made or sponsored by a brand.

“Branded movies” are not a new concept, but they are gaining traction as marketers increasingly look for ways to reach consumers who are trying to avoid advertising, and consumers increasingly seek out brands that seem to share their values. A recent study by Advertiser Insights found that more than half of surveyed advertisers view and treat sponsored or branded content as more important now than before the pandemic.

This type of content isn’t necessarily a glorified commercial filled with product placements. Notable examples include Patagonia’s documentary-style films on topics such as land use, or Dove’s sponsorship of the Oscar-winning animated short “Hair Love” without any stipulations on product placement.

Recent examples are many: Last week, NBCUniversal said it was working with sponsor Target and producer Will Packer on short films by emerging black filmmakers to publish on NBCU channels and digital platforms. Companies like Indeed, 3M and HP showed movies this week around the Tribeca Film Festival. On Friday, top executives from brands like Google and Walmart gathered for Tribeca X, a one-day conference on combining advertising and entertainment, including formats like brand name movies. Roku, the conference sponsor, has also just launched its own brand studio to produce creative ad formats and programming tailored for marketers.

“I think this is a huge trend,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “The main challenge for brands now is that it is very difficult to reach people. The decline in television advertising has eliminated one of the main ways brands told their story and helped people learn about their business. And as a result, brands are looking for ways to help people understand what their brand is really about. ”

DoorDash’s film, “Soul of the City,” features New York City restaurant owners. The company had identified restaurants in the city that had been closed or were struggling due to the pandemic, then worked to help them open. The company worked with partners like Interpublic Group’s The Martin Agency on the film.

Before long, DoorDash VP of Marketing Kofi Amoo-Gottfried said the marketing team was taking on all kinds of new functions.

“There are people on my team who were figuring out how to buy a smoker,” he said. “Things that are not marketing work, but became our work.”

Although DoorDash runs paid advertising behind its film on channels like YouTube, the video is low-branding and focuses much more on restaurateurs than itself.

“Brands, for all intents and purposes, are relatively selfish organisms, right?” Amoo-Gottfried said. “I think what has made us very clear at DoorDash … is that we have always said that we are in business to support local economies.”

And yes, if restaurants and communities thrive, it’s good business for DoorDash.

“If you look at the DoorDash location, that won’t encourage anyone to rush out at that point and order delivery or take out,” Calkins said. “Therefore, they do not drive actions in the short term. It’s about the long-term brand… it’s a different kind of investment. ”

But it’s an investment that brands seem to be making more and more of.

“As audiences continue to change, as there continues to be a proliferation of streaming options and choices in what people watch and how people watch, brands are looking to find innovative ways to reach audiences that feel authentic, because they know that authentic connection to the brand is more powerful than a single tactic, “said Steven Rummer, senior vice president of strategy and creative partnerships, advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal.

He said NBCUniversal research studies have found that 81% of people are more likely to buy or use brands that help others when they are most needed, and that 79% of consumers are more loyal to the brands they prioritize. the welfare of the communities about the business as usual.

“We have all this great research showing the power and impact of making these longer-form brand name movies or branded content and the connection it has to the actual results on the advertiser side,” he said.

Of course, this content has to be good, said Marcus Peterzell, CEO of the entertainment marketing agency Passion Point Collective, during a panel at Tribeca X.

“It has to be a great movie. And if any consumer… ”(he paused to grimace)“… because they have a Samsung phone stuck to their face, you lose. A good movie is a good movie. It doesn’t matter if Sony funded it or HP funded it. It’s still a great movie. ”

Peterzell used the example from 3M’s new film, “Not The Science Type,” which explores stereotypes and how they can harm STEM diversity, equity, and inclusion. He said there are a lot of great movie ideas, and if a brand is the catalytic force to bring a major movie to life, “that alone is a win for a brand.”

With so many options, a branded movie has to be something someone pushes to play on, despite the endless options.

“When you think about creating content with a brand or for a brand, how do we make sure it’s entertaining first and really content first?” Said Chris Bruss, director of Roku Brand Studio, in a panel during Tribeca X. “If not it’s entertaining, so you can’t properly live on a Roku or a Hulu channel. “

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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