Is it a short or an ad?

Celtx just did a good write-up on the history of Short Film Ads that is worth a read.

Arguably, many if not most “viral video ads” fall into this category, where the line between overt advertising and simple sponsorship is blurred. In the age of short video entertainment (YouTube) and the decline of television advertising at the hands of new audience expectations cultivated by DVRs and streaming services, these types of promotional entertainment products are becoming increasingly important for marketers.

H&M’s latest holiday offering is a good example of how this works. While this short film ad features the H&M logo and a cast adorned with the latest H&M fashions, it lacks overt messaging from the retailer. Instead, it’s very much a short film with the charm and style expected from director Wes Anderson (using one of his favorite actors, Adrien Brody):

The result is entertainment, with the product and logo placements feeling more like sponsored content — H&M sponsored a Wes Anderson short film — rather than an advertising spot produced by H&M. Because it is entertaining, it is sharable via social media outlets (to the tune of almost 9 million views at the time of this blog post). People watch this and share it for its value as a clever short film rather than an intentional promotion of the H&M brand. However, the brand association is clear, even though the ad itself feels less like an overt attempt at advertising.

The comedy site Funny or Die is another content creator that is producing sponsored content that blurs the line between advertising, promotion, and entertainment. Their recent Earliest Show web series is a great example of advertising that incorporates sponsored messages into the content without seemingly overt messaging. In this case, Cap’N Crunch, the sponsor of the series, is presented as the on-screen sponsor of a fictional early morning news show. Within the show, there are fictional commercial breaks for silly fictional products, and each commercial prominently features Cap’N Crunch without Cap’N Crunch being the subject of the commercial. The entire series is clearly sponsored by and promotes Cap’N Crunch without being an overt marketing message for Cap’N Crunch.

The purpose of this strategy is clearly social sharing, as the goal of the creative content is entertainment itself rather than overtly promoting specific brand messages within the content. It’s relying on the tactics of product placement and brand association rather than specific, persuasive product promotion. In other words, the brands are working on the assumption that we share content that we like and that entertains us rather than sharing commercials.

What do you think? Have you watched the Wes Anderson H&M short or Earliest show series?


Photo Credit:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>