Cannes Lions

5B Release, Distribution & Marketing

ROGERS & COWAN, Los Angeles / VERIZON / 2020

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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

Series and shows funded by brands are being sold to streamers, and are now part of the entire ecosystem for consumers. But it wasn’t always that way. Our work on 5B stands out as the rubicon that set a new standard for what brand-funded content could be and what it could do as the first and to-date highest water mark in this category. Our task was simple: break new ground by creating a cultural moment for a piece of brand-funded content. 5B’s consumer release was a game-changer for brands, content, and advertising.

Idea

We had a great film in 5B, but our distribution and marketing of that product was the game-changing creative idea. We created a new world for how brand-funded content works. We pushed our brands to the back and the story forward, which ended up generating more goodwill, return, and exposure than a traditional brand-forward effort could have. We treated 5B for what it was: an incredible documentary, and engineered a series of firsts. We found a global partner in Verizon—who had never before distributed a movie—and built a PR and marketing campaign that was unprecedented for documentaries, let alone brand-funded content. From the world’s most prestigious film festival, to the largest consumer Pride festival in America to a theatrical release on over 100 screens, everything we did scaled to the highest possible level—and set new precedents for brand-funded content that the entire industry relies on today.

Strategy

We had three audiences, with often-conflicting interests. We needed consumers to embrace, understand, and watch the film. We needed the entertainment industry to treat the film as a real, credible project and not “just” a piece of branded content. And we needed corporate America to see that authentic content, with meaningful stories people want to see from a “brand second” perspective, can do more than brand-forward messages. 5B was an incredible documentary, but getting its release to hit all three notes was the challenge—one no one had ever done before. We landed a groundbreaking distributor and focused on validating the film through entertainment stakeholders. We convinced theaters to release the film on over 100 screens, something not usually done. And we engaged consumers with a message they could embrace in a difficult and often hard-to-approach topic. And finally, we messaged all our efforts successfully back to corporate stakeholders.

Execution

With just eight weeks of lead time between deal closing and launch, pulling off our film release alone was an achievement. But what we created was also unprecedented for brand-funded content. We negotiated the distribution of the film through Verizon, who had never launched a film before, and we handled all business operations and deal structure. We leveraged our positioning and connections to become the first brand-funded film accepted into the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigious such gathering in the world. We secured campaign ambassadors Julianne Moore, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Halle Berry, among others. We premiered at the largest Pride festival in America, the first film to do so. We launched on over 100 theatrical screens nationally, with more than two dozen national partnerships, and created a global SVOD release for World AIDS Day – all generating the biggest impact for a brand-funded film in history.

Outcome

The launch of 5B opened a new way forward for brand-funded content. The film was the first piece of brand-funded content accepted into the Cannes Film Festival. It was the first film to premiere at the nation’s largest Pride festival. It launched on more than 100 theatrical screens and had a global SVOD release to support World AIDS Day. Our campaign had more than 100 public ambassadors, including Julianne Moore, Miles Teller, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. We held over 1,000 grassroots screenings, engaged more than 20 national partners, and generated over 1,000 pieces of earned media. Our work netted more than 500 million social impressions. We generated nearly $12 million in value for the film’s release in June 2019. And most importantly, we crafted a new model for the distribution and marketing of brand-funded content beyond a brand-driven narrative, one that continues to drive the industry’s movement to this day.

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