How Marketers can Defeat ISIS

The Islamic State has become the box office busting sequel of Al-Qaeda, not just for it’s military conquests but for also creating one of the most effective marketing campaigns in military history. And it shows, it’s enemies have bought the hype that the Islamic State is bigger and stronger than it actually is. Not to mention a recruiting campaign that is recruiting fighters as fast as the US can bomb them. Suffice to say IS does marketing right, and it’s tactics offers the lessons to defeat it.
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What Coca-Cola can Teach about Creating Characters

Coca-Cola’s recent ad went viral (13 million views on YouTube) and watching it it’s not hard to see why. As a social experiment about the strength of prejudices based on appearance, it was wonderfully done (especially with the rising islamophobia around the world). It isn’t until the end that the free-coke-for-everybody promotion comes out, and it becomes an ad. Normally just an ad would be disappointing, but it’s not. It’s a great ad because it’s still an awesome social experiment in itself and a characterization of Coca-Cola as a can.
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Three Content Marketing Lessons from “Ant-Man” Marketing Campaign

Ant-Man is being released, and will likely to be a stunning success with no small help from it’s marketing. With an incredible (ant-sized) marketing campaign, Ant-Man has everything that content marketing should be.
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What successful celebrities can teach about brand narratives

With Jurassic World rampaging through the box office, Chris Pratt who less than two years ago was known as a goofy sidekick, is now Hollywood’s most bankable movie stars. While his acting skills is one reason for his success (and he is a good actor), Chris Pratt’s success comes from crafting a strong brand narrative to cultivate organic growth of fans.
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Can Product-Placement enhance Jurassic World?

Jurassic World is coming out, and has engaged with viral marketing, including an In-universe website and a cute publicity stunt, with Jurassic Park’s infamous transport crates conspicuously placed in a London train station. However Universal Pictures isn’t the only one advertising Jurassic World, as Samsung has signed up to have product-placement added into the movie. Interspersed between raptor taming and Dino DNA, will be Samsung tech.
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What Google Stories means for Interactive Narratives & Mobile Films

Google recently partnered up with Justin Lin (of Fast & Furious fame) to release a short film, “Help”, and is mobile exclusive. It needs to be mobile exclusive because the movie offers a 360 degree experience when watching it. If you haven’t watched it download the Google Spotlight Stories app on your phone now, then watch it.
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Colonel Sanders Feature Image

Colonel Sander’s Resurrection as a Symbolic Character

In honour of stuffing us full of Fried Chicken for 75 years, KFC recently resurrected Colonel Sanders. Only kidding, though how weird would it be for Wieden+Kennedy Portland to be able to resurrect the dead founders and embodiments of Fast Food empires.\
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Mad Max Transmedia Feature Image

Mad Max is a Marketing Warrior

Mad Max invaded Toronto, or at least decided to start a Car Wash, Mad-Max style.

Set up on a parking lot in downtown Toronto, pedestrians choked down sawdust, watching military grade hummers and commuters Hondas get tagged with Mad Max images by half-naked guys who looked like extras from the film, flaunting their Mad Max tattoos.

On its own, it’s an incredibly clever piece of marketing, encouraging people to watch the upcoming Mad Max film, and entered the twitter-verse with hashtag #dustycarwash. It’s also a perfect example of marketing films through engaging narratives.

Dusty Car Wash Promo

I’ve mentioned before about effective viral marketing in movies, as unconventional marketing techniques have taken an increasingly important part of movie marketing. Having a trailer, TV spots, is all well and nice, but with the ridiculous rising costs of marketing movies, Film Producers should be marketing movies smarter not harder.

This should involve more Engagement Marketing i.e. Guerilla or Transmedia marketing. Transmedia Marketing is effective as 91% of us would tune in to things happening in real-time. And the possibility of marketing through the creation of real-time narratives which involve potential audience members is one that has shown to be incredibly prolific.

Article Mad Max Transmedia- Ex Mahina Ava Tinder

As movies are already narratives in themselves, the marketing of said movies should involve narratives, it’s what we came for anyways. Narrative marketing is also an opportunity to reflect the  movie’s narrative, such as Ex Machina’s Tinder Marketing savviness, where the actress playing the A.I., was able to trick guys into conversing about what makes a person human and why they were attracted to her before directing them to Ex Machina website (her being hot also helped).

It also has an opportunity to eclipse the actual movie itself, take the Blair Witch Project. The found-footage horror film, that was made on a budget of $22,500. It grossed $248 million dollars, and become one of the most effective viral movie marketing campaigns in modern film history. With a limited budget, they chose a incredibly low-key marketing approach in the lead up to the movie’s release, posting nuggets of information on college campuses, engaging on online forums and putting up Missing posters of the actors, played up the possibility it was real and more importantly made potential audience think they had stumbled into something genuine and worth watching.

Article Mad Max Transmedia- Blair Witch Project Marketing

Marketing is always changing, and with consumers changes varying and demanding more, one of the most consistent strengths movie marketing have is narrative marketing. Expect that #dustycarwash is just part of a growing trend of marketing that will become more narrative-focused and engaging in the future.

Why “Ex Machina” is about Search Engine Optimization

So if you are a fan of sci-fi films, watch “Ex Machina” you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a fan of sci-fi films and a digital marketing, please watch “Ex Machina” you’ll love it. You’ll love it because it’s a film about the perfect A.I. and an allegory of the perfect search engine. P.S. Massive spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t watched the movie, watch it, then come back.


Multiple references to Search Engines

The easiest way for a filmmaker to make an allegory is to refer to it. Caleb, the hero, is a programmer at BlueBook a Search Engine company, which represents Search Engines or Google. Nathan, the CEO and Larry Page stand in, even mentions using Google to collect the audiovisual data of the world’s cellphone users to create the facial expressions for his A.I. However given this movie is 20 minutes into the future, Nathan has eclipsed Google by, “taking 94% of users” and he achieved this because as paraphrased “Search Engines are not about what people think, it’s how people think.”

Article Ex Machina- Ava Brain 

He demonstrates this with Ava’s brain, a compilation of how people think. In essence, Ava is the perfect A.I. and the perfect search engine, and she proves this by not only understanding how every character’s (including hers) implicit narrative guide their actions but taking advantage of them.



Nathan, if he had to choose how his life was defined by what he searched it would be something like “Visionary” “God on Earth” or “Need some good Quotes”, after all he created Bluebook, he created the perfect A.I. He is also a middle-aged heterosexual male who lives alone. And his real searches would be “looking for submissive female” or “asian porn”. Nathan is a genius on par with Mozart, Larry Page or Gideon Graves from Scott Pilgrim. Like Gideon, Nathan wants to be recognized for his awesome intellect yet twists it to fulfill his sexual tendencies. He’s going to win because Ava will prove herself as the perfect A.I. while cuckolding Caleb while he is recognized as the genius he already is. It’s this narrative he expects to play out and this assumption ultimately leads to his downfall.

 Article Ex Machina- Nathan



Caleb’s entire persona is having a strong moral compass, doesn’t have a girlfriend, doesn’t have many meaningful connections and an experience programmer. All of this is found online by Nathan and used to play out the narrative he wants for Caleb. Caleb realizes this when he asks “did you design Eva’s face based on my porn searches?” Imagine Caleb is a typical search engine user, Nathan is the SEO expert and the invitation to his estate and Ava is the site Caleb wants. It’s almost a example of successful SEO.

Article Ex Machina- Caleb 

However Caleb is a good man, or at least the most sympathetic character besides Ava, both Nathan and Ava both worked out Caleb wants the White Saviour narrative. His imagined narrative for the film, and the one we expect as he is the protagonist, is him rescuing Ava and escaping Nathan together. While race is not A.I., he can’t help himself from following his role as a white male heterosexual hero which is brutally subverted at the end. While Caleb is the hero that Ava needs, Ava is not the site Caleb wants.

 Article Ex Machina- Caleb & Nathan



Ava wants to escape, and the only way she will be able to is by being the perfect A.I. and not just know what Caleb and Nathan want but why they want it. In the same way the perfect Search Engine will be able to provide the answers for why we want what we search for. While the perfect search engine is designed to help people, Ava is not designed to help people but herself and in this way subverts the narratives of both Caleb and Nathan to successfully escape. She dutifully follows the narratives of both Caleb and Nathan, and when they diverge, she is able to brutally subvert Nathan’s goals to the point of being “unreal” and utterly twisting Caleb’s narrative by abandoning him to die.

 Article Ex Machina- Ava

Initial SEO experts were simply around gaming the search engine algorithm, and taking advantage of it to push shoddy sites up the rankings. However with the Penguin & Panda updates and continuous updates to Search Engine algorithms, it’s no longer about dirty or even ambiguous-but-still-works SEO tactics to game the algorithm. Just like the inevitability of human progress, SEO will have to offer not what but how people think by fulfilling their narratives i.e. creating genuine content people actually want to read, if it will be acknowledged by Search Engines.

Article- Penguin & Panda Updates

The Routine Republic is a Cheesy-bad Ad

Fast Food ads and Cheesy-bad movies taste the same

With coffee and bacon trumpeting sandwiches and steaks, for our wallets, the breakfast wars are raging. It’s a free for all, Games of Throne style, between the coffeeshops and fast food joints looking to cut a bigger slice of the pie. And the battlefield has been in the ad space, where Taco Bell recently fired a volley at McDonalds, Cold War-style by teaming up with agency Deutsch LA, to diss McDonalds. The ad, “Routine Republic” portrays McDonalds as a soviet-style regime in clown-face and Taco Bell as Disneyland centred around pseudo-Mexican food instead of cartoon mice. And it’s so blithely earnest in it’s stupidity, you should totally watch it, just to know that Hollywood has been leaking like grease over advertising.


A Greasy Tasting Plot

Cliches are the concrete shoes of any stories, but plotholes that make you think “wait how does that even make sense??”. There’s even a YouTube channel, CinemaSins, where every video is titled “Everything wrong with [insert bad movie] in X minutes or less” and is about every nitpicking a movie could have. The “Routine Republic” also has a combo-sized load of of wrongness, here are my favourites

  • “Happiness is eating the same breakfast” even the Soviet Union could think up more cheerful way to describe a gulag
  • Hey Taco Bell your hexagonal symbol looks more oppressive than a clown face.
  • Really all they had to do to escape was book it? Seriously why didn’t anyone living in the Soviet Union think of that?
  • And of course, it only took the two young white attractive people to suddenly spontaneously “inspire” a revolution. Why isn’t real social change that easy?
  • What’s with the traffic jam on the middle of the street? Did they send the inventor of the drive-thru to the back for re-education?
  • Here’s an idea, let’s arm our Hamburger mines with colourful coins to stop escapees because of logic that comes from of eating hamburgers everyday
  • Yah a ball pit barrier, cause the whole carnival theme trumps any effective defences.
Routine Republic - Ballpit fall

Yah ballpit!

There’s more, but with all the plot intricacies of a Michael Bay movie, narrative was left neglected and pulling out hair in frustration.


A Ham-Fisted message

Any good narrative has to support a theme/message, and said theme/message should not be betrayed by the plot itself or reality. Otherwise reactions would be “hey wait a second…”. Visit The Editing Room for every movie that makes you think that. Taco Bell’s analogy of McDonald’s menu and service as rigid and inflexible, is pretty clever. Not subtle, but it almost makes an effective contrast to Taco Bell as the place to be. Almost because um Taco Bell, people don’t associate you with European Hipsters living it up in a medieval castle. They think three-hour clutching a toilet. Why? You sell cheap food, that tastes good, and greases our arteries. Where are you showing that you are different then McDonalds, besides your own delusions? Because the only difference between McDonalds and Taco Bell is a clown versus a chihuahua.

Article Cheesy Ads - Taco Bell meme


Evoking some shitty pop culture

“The Hunger Games” movie trilogy was great. then again you could probably stick Jennifer Lawrence in Bad Boys 3 and even the critics would say yeah it’s another dumb cop film, but it had Jennifer Lawrence in it so it was alright. The wave of YA dystopian movie adaptations that Hollywood unleashed have been Jennifer Lawrence-less and less than great. However they have had an edible mark for young movie-goers. It’s only natural that Taco Bell would try to draw in the demographics they put up on their promotional material. So naturally the plot is a boy & girl hero pair, living in a dystopian world, escaping from it and it’s kooky oppressive value. It’s the entire YA dystopian genre of teen survival rebellion compressed into three minutes by a grease fryer and resold back to them with a side-order of fries.

Article Cheesy Ad - YA Dystopic Adaptation

For all of it’s flaws however, it still is direct in it’s message (flee to Taco Bell!) and I would still watch a movie of a Soviet-style dystopia where all the guards are clowns.