Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Internet Film: Pirelli's The Call Showcases Future Direction For Online Advertising

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"Many advertisers are worried that traditional ways of reaching consumers, including the 30-second television spot, are losing their power to persuade.

Television viewers have more channels and media to choose from, and digital video recorders and video on demand allow them to skip ads entirely.

To reach consumers today, you have to entertain them, marketers say, rather than approach them with a hard sell."
(Source: International Herald Tribune)

Photo credit: Ophelia Cherry

Thanks to Google AdSense ads on my own site, I just discovered a new online-only film just released by Pirelli (the Italian tire maker).

The 10-minute short movie starring former fashion model Naomi Campbell and popular actor John Malkovich is one key example of the new direction that major automotive brands are taking to further leverage the new media communication potential and distribution reach of the Internet.

Online movies.

A few years ago, in 2001, BMW itself started to produce a series of eight short films, directed by high-appeal film directors such as Guy Ritchie and distributed on the Internet. Volvo followed suit with a fake documentary about 32 people from the fictional Swedish village of Dalaro who had supposedly bought Volvo S40s all on the same day.

In this new online film release (which you can watch immediately by clicking the play button on the above still image) the American actor and the popular British model star in a 10-minute video clip commissioned by Pirelli, the Italian tire maker, as part of a new online marketing campaign.
The short film is set in the Vatican City, here in Rome, and it portrays a surreal and intense battle between good and evil, incarnated by an exorcist priest and the furious sport car with a female evil soul impersonated by Naomi. The story provides a highly visual metaphorical illustration of Pirelli's long-running tagline "Power is nothing without control."

The Call, as the short is entitled, showcases the power of Hollywood-style movie-production machinery placed at the service of the advertising industry experimenting and courting the new online media delivery channels. At the end of the short, the credit titles by themselves impress for the amount of resources and people involved in this less than 10-minutes long production.

While new grassroots, independent video makers and web publishers may be able to get interested audiences with budgets and crews orders of magnitude smaller, it is very evident that the communication impact that Hollywood-like style productions can generate is proportionally greater.

But as I write the above, I also realize that big money and heavy production skills will count less and less as advertising moves toward greater transparency, accountability and communication between the producer and the buyer, a trait characterizing the so called Cluetrain approach to corporate marketing in the new media age.

Once we get more fully beyond the idea of mass marketing as inherited by television, film and traditional print media, we will rapidly realize that the goal is not anymore one of impressing or persuading by way of showing off, but rather more one of entertaining if not altogether communicating and informing upon request.

This is why I see online entertainment approaches like The Call as being one of the most effective communication styles that advertisers could utilize in the future to extend and reinforce their marketing and branding
According to Pirelli "The Call" will be a pivotal point of Pirelli's marketing future both in traditional advertising, print, television, and new media channels. The company also said "The Call" and its associated advertising account for 60 percent of the Pirelli's marketing budget - a true Hollywood-style bet on one key marketing approach.

"The film may represent a new direction for tire advertising, but it is not entirely out of character for Pirelli, which has always relied more on image-driven advertising, trying to appeal to the would-be Ferrari driver rather than the average tire kicker.
In 1994, for example, Pirelli ran an attention-grabbing print and poster advertisement, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, in which the track and field athlete Carl Lewis crouched in a sprinter's starting stance while wearing a pair of women's red high heels.
Perhaps the most famous bit of Pirelli brand-building, however, isn't its advertising. The Pirelli calendar, which began as a collection of gasoline station pinups in 1964, has evolved into an artsy display of the work of photographers like Leibovitz - and the scantily clad bodies of some of the biggest-name models. The calendar isn't sold, only distributed to Pirelli business partners, but back copies are available on eBay.

"The Call," is directed by Antoine Fuqua, whose films include "Training Day" and "King Arthur."

The short film is freely viewable at different quality levels (low, medium and high) and for multiple video playback formats (Windows Media, QuickTime, Real) directly on The Call web site.


The one thing that escapes me is why all these online shorts have systematically no feature or facility that allows easy and immediate republication of the movie, in anyone of the versions available, on anyone site or blog.

And while in fact the tagline of Pirelli own advertising campaign is "Power is nothing without control", after having seen a few of these high-impact, high-budget shorts online I would advise the ad industry that "Too much control, leaves you alone."

Apparently Leo Burnett (the advertising agency who was behind this project) new media advisors have selected the route of highest resistance on the web, by forcing users to watch The Call only on the Pirelli institutional web site. In view of the fact that the site provides little more beyond allowing access to the different versions and formats of this online movie, I am really amazed at this extended self-inflicted penalty.

The Call, like any other online branding movie, is a perfect content vehicle that other publishers can use to drive interest and attention to their sites. The more you chain that content to the mother company site the more you keep tacitly communicating that you, Pirelli, are above us and that the movie and its right to be viewed are under your domain: wrong.

Your movie, dear Pirelli, is one thousand times more powerful, more effective and more popular when you let us, the customers, the users, the independent writers asnd reporters out there take your content and showcase on our own sites. When you, BMW, or Volvo will finally realize that the power is in the sharing, then you will truly graduate to the online marketing paradigm.

For now it is clear, that while you have a foot in the future, you have solidly left the other in the past.

N.B.: The version displayed in this article, is a lower quality Flash version of the original I have created myself. In the true spirit of a modern Robin Hood I have taken Pirelli's movie and unchained it from its institutional web site, where it was apparently locked in ways that would have discouraged most any user attempting to download the movie to her computer. If Pirelli doesn't get mad at me, The Call may truly benefit from significant extra reach and exposure as you like me will now be able to take this anywhere you want, even offline.

Can't cage content on the web, or it will bite back at you.

Readers' Comments    
2007-03-30 05:39:18

Clipland Staff

Following the success of The Call, Pirelli recently released another short shot by Kathryn Bigelow called Mission Zero

posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, May 17 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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