Blogs & Comment

How to sell a film festival

As the Toronto International Film Festival launches a new ad campaign, we look at some other successful film festival ads.

This week, BBDO Toronto and the Toronto International Film Festival debuted the new ad campaign for this year’s celebrity-soaked, Hollywood North hootenanny that kicks off Sept. 8 with the world premiere of Davis Guggenheim’s U2 documentary, From the Sky Down.

Each spot focuses on the enigmatic Uncle Marv, that rich relative every aspiring artist wishes he or she had, who uses his power, influence and ascot-fueled charms to bring you success. But alas, most of us don’t have an Uncle Marv. Or even an uncle who wears an ascot. The spots do an entertaining job hyping RBC’s sponsorship of the festival, choosing to shift the spotlight from A-listed movies to the smaller films that really are the backbone of the festival.

Seeing this new campaign got me thinking, what are the best film festival ads we’ve ever seen? Perhaps the most interesting thing they all have in common is that none use star power to sell the festival, in contrast to the bulk of media coverage surrounding such events. Instead, they focus on the quality of story and a few even go so far as to say it’s not for everyone. So, here are my Top 5 Film Festival Ads (That I Could Find in a Relatively-Short-But-C’mon-Give-Me-a-Break-Still-Quality Web Search).

1. Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (ad agency: la comunidad, Buenos Aires): It was a tough call over this other one in the campaign but, if Tom Selleck has taught us anything, it’s that the mustache always wins. “It’s like lighting a torch.” Si.

2. Melbourne International Film Festival (agency: Clemenger BBDO, Melbourne): Truer words have never been spoken: “Nobody wants to see your dried old raisins.” But they do fancy Geoffrey Rush.

3. Vancouver International Film Festival (agency: TBWA Vancouver): This has happened to everybody at one time or another. Hasn’t it? Right? Guys? Hello?

4. Seattle International Film Festival (agency: Wongdoody): This spot combines decades worth of film references into one animated short. The festival even ran a Name that Movie contest on its Facebook page, challenging fans to name every single one. Let’s see, Mad Max, Whip It, Star Wars, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

5. Newport Beach Film Festival (agency: RPA): I’m not sure this spot really gets across that the story is making it big, as the tagline suggests, but damn if it doesn’t look good. And no wonder, considering Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds, Shutter Island, Kill Bill) and editor Hank Corwin (Natural Born Killers, JFK) worked on it.