Ric Forster and Zoltan Deak have the same philosophy. Entertainment and brands are a natural fit, if done well it shouldn’t distract from the story and the entertainment value and it gives producers a financial stream which they can use to bring to life all the fantastic ideas and concepts creative people have in the film industry and gives brands an inventive and versatile way to engage with their target audience. More often then not the cost of producing these concepts is less or on par with the cost of advertising spots.
There have been a few examples of ‘branded entertainment’ in Australia which missed their mark. I won’t name specifics here as that is not important. The right concept was there, the production value as well, but it ended up looking more like a long TV commercial then branded entertainment. It simply had no story and therefore didn’t engage the audience. People realise when they are being sold to, so concentrating on long sweeping shots of the product in every second shot will disengage them immediately from the story, if there is one in the first place.
In Project Schoolies we were asked to include two mentions per episode and because we thought two would be too much integration in a 5 minute episode we decided that a call to action at the end of each episode, which included a question that had something to do with the story would be a better way to integrate the brand. Bongo Operations, who are a youth focused message information service, are sponsoring the series. They also asked if we could write into the story their brand ambassador Jay from Geordie Shore who has a massive following on Twitter.
Ric came up with the idea in 2011 of shooting a series on Schoolies and we went to work looking for a brand who’s target demographic is the age group we would be producing for, after calling over a hundred companies marketing departments, we had a few interested, but none brave enough to commit. The biggest hurdle was the negative connotations that come with the Schoolies phenomenon. The drinking, sex and general debauchery. Most brands didn’t want themselves associated with it even if it meant they would have a direct connection with the audience they were targeting. In 2012 we came across Bongo, who pride themselves on being the more mischievous underground brand and therefore this concept fit their marketing strategy perfectly.
Marketing Manager Gregor Cooney said “Bongo is thrilled to be involved in this unique series. Schoolies is an important event and the biggest party of a teens life to date and we are exited to be a part of a show that documents their experience as a drama series. We were happy with the integration of our product, as it was done seamlessly to fit into the story line.”
The production went smoothly considering we had to relocate to the Gold Coast for two weeks, organise accomodation, casting and pre-production, write script and shoot for 8 days in total, then head back to Sydney, start on post-production, begin our social media campaign and start uploading episodes. We managed to put together a great cast with two actors from Sydney, Leigh Scott and Alex Fechine and 7 great up and coming actors from QLD, Adrian Giribon, Natalie Mitchell, Tahlia Ponting, Celeste Cotton, Jade Prechelt, Tamaha Caroll and Josh Ainslie. The professionalism, hard work and great skill of our cast made this a very enjoyable production.
We had great support from some fantastic artists on the Triple J Unearthedwebsite, some independent musicians, composers and agents. There is a full listof the artists whose music we used on the Project Schoolies website. Project Schoolies was also featured in the Filmink magazine, and is now available on Itunes, BlipTV and of course YouTube. The next step will be to create the show as a one half hour episode, produce an album of the soundtrack and maybe some other extension to the property.