Don't blame brand films for killing commercials

Industry experts discussed the differences between brand films and traditional commercials at a panel launching the Brand Film Festival 2018 at NAB Show New York on Wednesday night.

L-R: Andrew Goldberg, Jules Daly, Greg Hahn, PRWeek's Steve Barrett
L-R: Andrew Goldberg, Jules Daly, Greg Hahn, PRWeek's Steve Barrett

NEW YORK: More companies are sinking their teeth into branded films, but traditional commercials aren’t dead yet, according to GE’s chief creative officer. Brands are still trying to create successful 10- and 15-second ads, Andrew Goldberg said at a panel launching the 2018 Brand Film Festival at NAB Show New York on Wednesday.

"What is changing is how commercials exist and the forms they take," he said. "Thirty-second ads still exist—good 30-second ads people want to share—and they are entertaining. Bad 30-second ads are bad. It is about creating really good work that serves a purpose and [delivers a] message."

Greg Hahn, chief creative officer at BBDO New York, said advertising is a two-step process: determining what to say and how to say it. Once a brand determines its message, it can decide on the length of time it needs to deliver it.

The main difference between brand films and traditional commercials is how they are made, added Hahn.

"The way you work with creatives, directors, and producers [on a brand film] is slightly different than how a normal commercial shoot is done. It’s much more collaborative," he explained.

Hahn said that agencies and clients typically have a lot of input into the finished product in a traditional commercial shoot. However, a film is very much the director’s medium.

"In the world of film and entertainment, you have to give over a lot of control and freedom to filmmakers because you need to understand [the audience is] not here to see a Greg Hahn film; it is here to see a John Woo film," said Hahn. "You let [filmmakers] do their thing. That’s what you are paying them for. Their brand, their name on the film, and the way they do it is what is going to make people watch it."

The trick to pulling in an audience with a brand film is making sure it entertains first, then educates, he advised.

Brand films also tend to be more courageous and likely to go outside the norm, said Jules Daly, president of RSA Films.

"The root of [brand films] is always storytelling," said Daly. "If you have a little more time to tell a story, a film is a better way to support the brand and make it truly a piece of entertainment."

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