A lot is expected of an ad these days: in a short span of time, it has to inform, hold attention, entertain, and become a viral sensation. When we decided to expand Viddsee’s role as a short film platform to include branded content creation a couple of years ago, we knew we had much to learn about the trade.
While we found that convincing clients to invest in branded storytelling wasn’t an easy task, we also knew that more and more brands are looking to create story-driven short films as a way to emotionally engage with audiences – which is where our audience insights, network of filmmakers and expertise in storytelling come in.
These two branded shorts regularly inspire, and remind me that given enough trust between the client and filmmakers, the delicate balance between quality storytelling and brand messaging can be found.
Two Ads I Like
Nestle Philippines – ‘Sali-salita’
Produced by Nestle Philippines in 2011 to celebrate its 100th anniversary, the 12-minute film has a simple premise: it’s about a mother who becomes too preoccupied with work that she neglects her son, only to rediscover her connection after his grandfather pays a visit. The story’s key turning point happens when the two play a game in which they have to make up a story using words drawn from an old Nestle Nido tin.
In the hands of a lesser director or an aggressive brand manager, the family drama – already a common trope – would have felt flat and preachy. What we have instead is a short film that takes its time in building audience’s empathy and relatability with the three main characters – the overworked mother, kindly grandfather, and neglected child – before the resolution comes along.
And it’s not one-note film: halfway through, we are zipped into an imaginary world of wizards, warriors and queens dreamt up by a child and his grandfather – which has shades of the charming ‘80s classic, ‘The Princess Bride’.
What makes this better is that Nestle Nido – a formulated milk powder – only makes an appearance around the five-minute mark, when the audience is already invested in the story. And even then, the actual product is never shown: only the old tin is featured, and becomes a container for possibilities, wonder, and imagination – values that also embody the brand’s role in helping a child grow to their full potential.
DBS Bank – ‘Sparks mini-series’
How do you turn a financial institution – commonly perceived as cold, calculative, profit-driven – into a brand that’s warm, human, and caring? A 30- or 60-second ad spot just wouldn’t cut it; audiences would’ve dismissed it as just another preachy video about how much bank really cares about people (and how many times have we heard that tired line?).
Instead of telling us, Singapore-based DBS Bank showed us what its “live more, bank less” tagline means. It was bold enough to develop ‘Sparks’, a 10-episode miniseries that revolves around a crack team of DBS bankers and analysts who solve tricky issues faced by prospective clients.
By basing the stories on actual cases, DBS showed its audience real examples of how it prioritizes human interests – relationships, family values, tradition, education, and culture – in its financial decisions. If you don’t have the time to watch all 10 episodes, I recommend watching Episode 6, in which the team helps Zaya Learning Labs bring education to underserved communities in India.
One I Don’t Like
IUIGA – ‘If your man can’t do it, IUIGA can’
This ad by IUIGA – a homeware brand inspired by high-end products – is a cautionary example of what we never want to do. Its “sex sells” approach in having a woman suggestively giving a blow job to promote a luggage line (what is this I don’t even …) feels like an ad made up by a bunch of FHM-reading lads in the mid-2000s.
Even if it was playful and cheeky, it goes against the brand’s pillars of thoughtful design, premium quality and transparency. Anachronistic, crude, and off-brand – what else is there to say?