'Keep PR tactics away from brand films' and other insights from the inaugural Brand Film Festival London

'PR works like a 24-hour news channel', 'branding is virtually irrelevant' and 'traditional PR tactics should be kept away from brand films' were some of the key insights from yesterday's inaugural Brand Film Festival London.

Left to right: panellists Myers, Jedan, Glen and PRWeek's Harrington
Left to right: panellists Myers, Jedan, Glen and PRWeek's Harrington

Agency chiefs, creative directors and marketing strategists were among attendees at the east London event, which featured debate from contributors including PR firm FleishmanHillard Fishburn, tech giant Google and ad agency Lucky Generals.

Read next: Revealed - who won at PRWeek and Campaign's Brand Film Festival London?

Speaking at the event, at a session hosted by PRWeek deputy editor John Harrington on 'Creating cut-through', Barcardi-Martini head of brand PR and corporate comms Lisa Jedan said PR works like a 24-hour news channel.

Jedan said the often-months-long process of creating and releasing a brand film did not always match the PR industry's ability to work at speed.

She said: "The PR industry is nimble and quicker at understanding how the news cycle works when compared to the advertising industry, which is more focused on the creative elements of a brand film."

The brand is the message

During the same session, when asked how important it was to get branding right in a brand film, Shavaun Glen, chief comms officer at the Motor Insurers' Bureau, said branding was "virtually" irrelevant to the organisation.

She said: "For MIB, it's all about the audience. We are focused on getting the right audience and captivating them throughout the film. Essentially, the brand is the message for MIB."

Challenge your client

Responding to a question about brand film failure, James Myers, whose PR firm TVC handles comms for MIB and Barcardi-Martini, said he wished he trusted his instincts more.

He said: "Sometimes if you don't challenge your client and manage them in the right way, you end up with a film that is not fit for any purpose. Clients have to trust their agencies."

Art, not PR

Speaking during another session, called 'Hype, help or hindrance for brand film?', FleishmanHillard Fishburn creative director Kev O'Sullivan asked if and how PR can aid a brand film.

He said brand films should be treated like art, rather than part of a marketing campaign.

He also said: "Traditional PR tactics should be kept away from brand films. You should also make sure they are not in your face like an advert for a Britney Spears concert in Las Vegas."

Asked how to explain that way of thinking to a client, O'Sullivan added: "We have to identify and promote the films to specific audiences - we treat it them as art and not a PR stunt, and that's what we tell clients."

Elsewhere at the event, Digital Cinema Media creative director Jeremy Kolesar, who played a series of films including a Blair Witch-style ad for Three and LG, said: "Cinema is the last bastion of true creativity."

And finally Steven Appleyard, chief business development officer at online music platform Boiler Room, said the company can get as much engagaement on social media for its "behind-the-scenes" content, as it does for the work it promotes. He said this was because people want to see "what makes a company tick". 

Picture day at the @boilerroomtv office. Video not sponsored by Louis Vuitton. ??/??: @rajirags

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