As branded content matures as a medium, companies are increasingly turning to filmmakers to tell their stories.
Gathered here are some of the most poignant and innovative brand films of the year.
See the end of the article for full credits for each film.
BMW – "The Escape"
BMW’s branded film series "The Hire" debuted in 2001 and racked up more than 100 million views in the days before widespread high-speed internet. Fifteen years later, Clive Owen reprises the role of "The Driver," a stoic wheelman with a preference for German engineering. Unlike most branded content, this film doesn’t treat the merchandise with kid gloves. The 5 Series sedan gets shot up and smashed, but fear not—The Driver never becomes The Hitchhiker.
GE – "A Snowball’s Chance in Hell—Unimpossible Missions"
Time-tested aphorisms meet the scientific method in this film series from General Electric featuring actual GE employees in unconventional laboratories. Can a snowball survive hell on earth? More important, does GE take requests? Please build a dead man who does tell tales.
H&M – "Come Together"
Scene: a speeding passenger train. It is snowing. Cue forlorn conductor. It is Christmas Day, and all is not well. Adrien Brody channels a bit of Zero Moustafa in this holiday film unmistakably directed by Wes Anderson. It features a quirky ensemble cast, arrayed in the H&M Christmas 2016 collection. Hey, if you can’t be on time, at least be on trend.
Miu Miu – "That One Day—Miu Miu Women’s Tales #12"
The latest installment of Prada-owned fashion house Miu Miu’s long-running film series "Women’s Tales" follows a day in the life of female skateboarders in New York City’s Lower East Side. Aside from the stipulation that characters must wear Miu Miu clothing at some point—beautifully and incongruously incorporated here—the directors have free rein to create whatever they want. "That One Day" is the second film from Crystal Moselle, whose debut documentary "The Wolfpack" won a Grand Jury prize at Sundance.
Olympus – "The Irrational Fear of Nothing"
Poor balding, overweight Terry wanders the streets of Manhattan, trying to keep his neuroses in check with an unrelenting internal monologue. If only, he laments, he had some sort of method to capture moments in time so he could relive them again and again. Alas, only the mind is capable of that feat. Right?
Radio Flyer – "Taking Flight"
Ray "Leland Palmer" Wise voices the imaginative grandfather in this fantastical tale of multigenerational make-believe. The film is inspired by the life of Antonio Pasin, the Italian immigrant who created the beloved Radio Flyer wagon and applied mass production techniques to bring it to an entire nation’s children.
Chipotle – "A Love Story"
When it comes to fast-food preparation, it is best to keep it simple. That is what Chipotle Mexican Grill is trying to convey in its animated short film, "A Love Story." The film follows the story of Evie and Ivan, two budding entrepreneurs who start out innocently enough selling orange juice and lemonade. Their simple concepts, however, grow into something neither of them initially intended.
Kenzo – "My Mutant Brain"
Kenzo World’s first perfume film debuted this summer in the form of an insane music video directed by Spike Jonze. The film stars Margaret Qualley, who appears to become possessed after excusing herself from a stuffy event room.
Just Not Sports – #MoreThanMean Podcast
Just Not Sports launched a campaign called #MoreThanMean to shine a light on the harassment faced by female sports reporters. As part of the campaign, a powerful film was created involving "everyday guys" reading aloud the mean tweets female sportscasters receive online to Julie DiCaro from CBS’ 670 The Score and ESPN.com’s Sarah Spain. The men reading the tweets almost can’t get the words out as they repeat violent insults the women have received online. In the face of the comments, DiCaro and Spain maintain their poise and grace.
Sandy Hook Promise – "Evan"
Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit led by family members of the survivors of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, created a film that cleverly shows how easy it is to miss the warning signs that someone could be planning such a shooting.
Lyft – "June: Life is Better When You Share the Ride"
This heavily branded animated short film tells the story of a lonely widow in Chicago whose spirits are lifted after she gets a new lease on life as a Lyft driver. The film, inspired by the Lyft community, features an original song, "Movin," by former Lyft driver Sir the Baptist.
Morton Salt/OK Go – "The One Moment"
Although this action-and-color-packed music video takes place in 4.2 seconds of real time, it unfolds in slow motion to demonstrate that amazing things can happen in a moment. Creating a viral, innovative video is nothing new for rock band OK Go, but it is part of 168-year-old Morton Salt’s first masterbrand campaign. It includes the brand’s "Walk Her Walk" mantra – a call to action for people to step up and become a force for good.
Starbucks – "Upstanders—A Warrior’s Workout"
Starbucks’ 10-part original content series, "Upstanders," was created to inspire Americans to engage in acts of compassion, citizenship, and civility. "A Warrior’s Workout" has garnered the most YouTube views to date, with 182,919. The film tells the inspirational story of former pro football player David Vobora, who gave up a lucrative career in private fitness to work with wounded vets.
Did we miss any brand films that deserve recognition? Let us know in the comments below - or enter them for consideration in the Brand Film Festival.
- Go here to learn more about PRWeek and Campaign's Brand Film Festival London, or to submit your film for consideration in our second annual gala screening. The deadline for submissions is 26 January.
Title: BMW Film "The Escape"
Agency: Geisel Productions
Creative Directors: Bruce Bildsten and David Carter
Writers: Bruce Bildsten and David Carter
Executive Producer: Brian DiLorenzo
Senior Integrated Producer: Adam Davis
Producer: Patrick O’Brien
BA: TEAM Companies
Production Company: Anonymous Content
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Managing Director / Executive Producer: Eric Stern
Executive Producer: SueEllen Clair
Head of Production: Kerry Haynie
Producer: Aristides McGarry
Action Supervisor/2nd Unit Director: Guy Norris
DP: Manoel Ferreira
Production Designer: Gerald Sullivan
Production Manager: Sara D’Alessio
Production Coordinator: Jennifer Duffy
Editorial: Rock Paper Scissors
Supervising Editor: Angus Wall
Editor: Austyn Daines
Editor: Julian Clarke
Editor: Devin Maurer
Cutting Assistant: Martin Hsieh
Executive Producer: Helena Lee/ Jennifer Sofio Hall
Producer: Dina Ciccotello
Music: Kristopher Pooley
Finishing / VFX: Embassy and A52
Flame Artist: Dan Ellis
Executive Producer: Patrick Nugent
Head of Production: Kim Christensen
Post Producer: Victoria Burkhart
Post Producer: Heather Johann
VFX Supervisor: Chris Harvey
Color : CO3
Colorist: Stefan Sonnenfeld
Executive Producer: Rhubie Jovanov
Audio Mix : Formosa Group Mix
Audio Engineer: Mark Mangini
Sound Design: David Whitehead
Behind The Scenes: Drive Thru Editorial
Behind The Scenes Director / DP: Patrick Pierson
Producer: Beth Wilson
Titles, Poster Design & Art Direction: Design by MING
Chief Design Officer: Brad Blondes
Lead Designer: David Balsamello
Designer: Olga Vladova
Junior Designer: Sarah Maslechko
Website Development: Your Majesty
Technical Director - Tore Holmberg
Lead Developer - Sebastian Carlsson
Design Director - Alexander Strand Kristensen
Senior Producer - Jason Speenburgh
Engagement Director - Ashley Smith
Social Media: 247 Laundry Service
Account Manager - Matthew Carlson
Community Manager - Samantha Pillsbury
Narrative Director - Jocelyn Chang
Post-Production Supervisor - Chris Lewis
Editor - Mike Mazzotta
"A Love Story" by Chipotle
Title: "A Love Story"
Agency: CAA Marketing
Production, Animation Company: Passion Pictures
Director: Saschka Unseld
Art Director: Katy Wu
Executive Producers: Debbie Crosscup, Ryan Goodwin-Smith
Producer: Sibylle Preuss
Animation, Visual Effects: Passion Pictures
Visual Effects Supervisor: Neil Riley
Computer Graphics: Christian Mills
Animation: Wesley Coman, Chris Welsby, Aldo Gagliardi, Cath Brooks, Catherine Elvidge, Karin Matteson, Scott Bono
Texture, Shading: Ian Matthews, Katreena Erin Bowell, David Domingo Jimenez, Leigh Van Der Byl, Louise Chassain, Sara Diaz, Stuart Hall, Arkin Esfref, Alex Holman, David Watson, Leigh van der Byl, Camille Perrin, Patrick Kraft, Roxanne Martinez
Rigging: Morgan Evans, Matteo Nibbi, Giulia Dell'Armi
Visual Effects: Jamie Franks, Colin Perrett, Kwai Keung IP, Junaid Syed, Antonios Deftarios, Guillaume Zaouche, Gabriele Veronese, Matt Moyes, Robin Nordenstein, Alice Jarre
Light, Render: Christian Mills, Richard Moss, Stuart Hall, Adrian Russell, Patrick Kraftt, Alex Holman, Roxanne Martinez, David Watson, Nikolay Kulishev, Simon Maddocks, Francois Pons
Compositing: Johnny Still, Andre Bittencourt, Raphael Theolade, Valeria Romano, Javier Cid, Alex Grey
Animation Supervisor: Jay Boose
Computer Graphics Coordinators: Joost Zoetebier, Suzanne Forward
Character, Production Design: Katy Wu, Amandine Pecharman
Graphic Designer: Davide Saraceno
Postproduction: Technicolor Postworks
Colorist: Max Horton
Music Producer: Blake Mills
Music Performance: Brittany Howard, Jim James
"Come Together" for H&M
Client | Daniel Herrman, head of marketing, H&M + Erik Zetterberg, head of marketing, H&M + Boshra Sadegiani, project manager, H&M
Chief creative officer | Ben Priest
Executive creative directors | Ben Tollett + Richard Brim
Creative directors | Till Diestel + Tim Vance + Paul Knott
Agency producer | Lucie Georgeson
Managing director | Tammy Einav
Account directors | James Rowe + Olivia Chittenden
Production company | The Directors Bureau + Riff Raff
Executive producers | Lisa Margulis + Matthew Fone
Producer | Julie Sawyer
Director | Wes Anderson
D.O.P | Bruno Delbonnel
Editing company | Final Cut
Editor | Joe Guest
Post production | The Mill London
Post producer | Gemma Humphries
VFX supervisor | Jonathan Westley
Music supervisor (online film) | Randall Poster
Music supervisor (broadcast films) | Abi Leland
Audio post production | Factory
Mix & additional sound design | Anthony Moore
Audio producer | Lou Allen
Soundtrack name and composer, online film | Katherine Kennicott Davis + Little Drummer Boy, performed by Harry Simeone Choral + John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Happy Xmas (War is Over)
Broadcast films | O Christmas Tree, re-scored by Alex Baranowski
"#MoreThanMean—Women in Sports 'Face' Harassment"
"My Mutant Brain" for Kenzo World
Client: Kenzo World
Artistic Directors: Carol Lim and Humberto Leon
Director: Spike Jonze
Talent: Margaret Qualley
"June: Life is Better When You Share the Ride" for Lyft
Creative Director: Ricardo Viramontes
Director: John Kahrs
"That One Day—Miu Miu Women’s Tales #12" for Miu Miu
Director: Crystal Moselle
"The One Moment" by OK Go for Morton Salt
Directed by Damian Kulash
Produced by Park Pictures
Executive Producers: Justin Pollock & Jackie Kelman Bisbee
Producer: Pat Frazier
Director of Photography: Shawn Kim
Production Designer: Bradley Thordarson
First Assistant Director: Jonathan Watson
Executive Brainstormer: Elan Lee
First Assistant Camera: Chris Slany
Second Assistant Camera: Matt Sumney
Phantom Tech: Patrick McGraw
Behind the Scenes: Ross Harris
Stills: Daniel Goldwasser
Bolt Programmer: Simon Wakley
Bolt Assistants: Chris Toth, Leo Roberts
Gaffer: David "Blue" Thompson
Best Boy: Randy Dye
Electric: Jeff Matthews, Adan Galindo, Shaun Stallard, Louie Manzo
Key Grip: Colby Dunford
Best Boy: Joseph Messier
Grip: Curtis Brown, Randy Granger, Ray Chase
Art Director: Steve Christenson
Art Coordinator: Katy Shirey
Set Decorator: Tally Duke Floyd
Leadman: Lance Rosa
Set Dresser: Andre Price, Kevin Quinn, Silvio Scillone, Tony Alvarez, John Selmo
Prop Master: Ben Ferene
Prop Assistant: Mark White
Lead Painter: Jamie McElrath
Painter: Molly Holnick
SPFX Supervisor: Kelly Kirby
SPFX Foreman: Robert Garrigus, Doug Calli
SPFX Tech: Steve Shines
SPFX Tech: Bill McGinley
SPFX Tech: Rich Jacobs
Set Dresser FX: Aaron Ferene
Production Supervisor: Ari Chang
Second Assistant Director: Ricky Weaver
Assistant Production Supervisor: Amanda Andrews
Script: Kristy Kelly
VTR: Tom Myrick
Craft Services: Michael Backlinder
Production Assistants: Brian Lierk, David Rada, Robert Lomeli, Oscar Matute, Chris Maltauro, Morgan Pham, Melanie Cycz
Make-Up: Kristen Shaw
Wardrobe Stylist: Christina Blackaller
Assistant Stylist: Laurel Rose
Editor: Cass Vanini
Assistant Editor: Ben Foushee
Editorial Producer: Sari Resnick
VFX Supervisor/Creative Director : Steve Mottershead
Head of Production: John Skeffington
VFX Producer: Adriana Wong
Previz: Darren Chang
Titles: Ryan Hawthorne
Colorist: Shawn King
Joe Sciarrotta, Chief Creative Officer
David Hernandez, Executive Creative Director
Amy Gozalka, Creative Director
Kara Coyle, Associate Creative Director
Gayle McCormick, Executive Producer
Annie Larimer, Senior Producer
Philip Puleo, Project Manager
Paige Robinson, Management Supervisor
Katie Quinn, Assistant Account Executive
Dir. of Communications & Corporate Brand Strategy: Denise Lauer
Sr. Communications Manager: Paul Jackiewicz
Head of Sales and Marketing: Shayn Wallace
Sr. Director, Brand Marketing: Peter Sashin
"The Irrational Fear of Nothing" by Olympus
Director / Writer / Editor - Paul Trillo
Producer / Editor - Jason Smith
Executive Producer - Corwin Carroll
Production Company - Big Block
Director of Photography - Ed David
AC / Grip - John Larson
Sound - Jared Arnold
PA - Reed Penney
PA - Ian Herman
Casting Director - Olivia Lloyd
Wardrobe Manager - Angelique Pesce
Production Designer - Ben Stange
Composer - John Morgan (johnstevenmorgan.bandcamp.com/)
Sound Design - Gisela Fulla-Silvestre
Title Design - Shyama Golden
"Taking Flight" by Radio Flyer
Director: Brandon Oldenburg
Executive Producers: William Joyce, Trish Farnsworth-Smith
Producers: Robert Pasin, Lampton Enochs
Associate Producer: Wendell Riley
"Evan" for Sandy Hook Promise
Client: Sandy Hook Promise
Agency: BBDO New York
David Lubars, Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide
Greg Hahn, Chief Creative Officer, New York
Peter Alsante, Creative Director
Bryan Stokely, Copywriter
Martins Zelcs, Art Director
Julian Katz, Group Executive Producer
Lindsey Cash, Account Director
Sean Stogner, Communications Planning Director
Michael Schonfeld, Communications Planning Associate
Client: Sandy Hook Promise
Nicole Hockley, Founder & Managing Director
Tim Makris, Founder & Managing Director
Production Company: Smuggler
Henry-Alex Rubin, Director
Patrick Milling Smith, Partner
Brian Carmody, Partner
Drew Santarsiero, Executive Producer
Andrew Colon, Chief Operating Officer
Leah Allina, Producer
Ken Seng, Director of Photography
Post Production: NO6
Editor: Jason Macdonald
Additional Editor: Nick Schneider
Executive Producer: Corina Dennison
Post Producer: Malia Rose
Flame Artist: Ed Skupeen
Flame Assist: Mark Reyes
Colorist: Jason Macdonald
Audio Post: Heard City
Mixer: Stefano Campello
Mixer: Evan Mangiamele
Audio Executive Producer: Sasha Awn
Music Supervision and Clearance by Beta Petrol
Song: "Johnny Met June"
Written and Performed by Shelby Lynne
Courtesy Capitol Records, Inc. and Kobalt Music Publishing America, Inc.
"Upstanders—A Warrior’s Workout" by Starbucks
Executive Producer: Howard Schultz
Produced and written by: Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Director of photography: Joshua Trujillo
Edited by: Joshua Trujillo
Music by: Jim Greer