Thanks to a mix of low comedy, skimpy bikinis and a guy named Joe, beer commercials have long been one of the more popular forms of advertising in Canada. But Kokanee is now taking the commercial a step further by spinning its oddball characters into a full-length movie.
Working with Alliance Atlantis on its theatrical release, the Labatt beer brand and Toronto-based ad agency Grip Ltd. are producing a feature-length “buddy comedy” called The Movie Out Here. Set in western Canada, it stars the brand’s cast of established TV spokes-characters. The story will revolve around a reunion of friends in a ski town and has been described by Labatt as Hot Tub Time Machine meets Old School.
Cue the eye-rolling among film buffs and beer lovers alike, but this is just the latest example of how brand involvement in entertainment, from product placement to original properties, has become the new frontier for marketers. There have been successes, most notably Ikea’s comedy web series Easy to Assemble, Gatorade’s Replay series and The Creator’s Project live event and web series by Vice and Intel. Of course there have also been massive flops, like Budweiser’s ill-fated Bud.tv and the abysmal ABC sitcom based on Geico’s Cavemen characters.
“A movie is really the last bastion of paid entertainment that hasn’t really been branded to this degree,” says Grip Limited creative partner Randy Stein. “As long as people are entertained, they’re happy to communicate with a brand, and our intention is to make a movie that people are going to really want to see.”
It may be the most ambitious content marketing effort yet by a Canadian brand and agency. “I don’t think there’s any real precedent for what we’re doing,” says Kokanee marketing manager Amy Rawlinson. “We’re taking a big chance, but I think this is the brand to do it with.”
Kokanee has long involved consumers in its marketing efforts. In 2008, more than 600,000 votes were cast to decide whether the Kokanee Ranger would live or die (he died). Accordingly, the movie isn’t the sole focus here. The entire production of the movie is part of the marketing campaign. Through traditional advertising avenues—television, print and outdoor—consumers are being asked to submit ideas for props and set locations, to audition for parts, and to vote on the soundtrack at the brand’s website and Facebook page.
“The movie is a really fun thing to talk about,” says Stein. “But our job at the end of the day is to get noticed and win the hearts and minds of western Canadians, and this is an interesting vehicle to create a marketing campaign around.”
And if it all leads to a crappy movie? Labatt is banking on the fact that its interaction with consumers through online voting, auditioning and the rest will provide a ready-made audience. Failing that, the brewer could resort to the two most popular words in marketing: free beer.