When it comes to branded content, the better the content, the better the branding. And so it goes with Desire (below), a short film from ad agency The Brooklyn Brothers and Ridley Scott's production company, touting Jaguar's F-Type sports car.
Of course, Jag is a vehicle of excess, and the clip's 13-minute length, like the car's $92,000 price tag, is pretty darn excessive. I usually can't concentrate on anything for 13 minutes. Still, Desire held my attention all the way through with solid storytelling, visual panache (props to director Adam Smith) and strong performances from its three leads.
Homeland's dapper Brit, Damian Lewis, who would make a great James Bond, plays a "delivery man" tooling around the Chilean desert in search of the new owner of a red F-Type. He picks up perky, gun-toting Shannyn Sossamon, who is on the run from her psychopathic, drug-dealing husband. Jordi Molla just about steals the show as the scruffy gangster, spitting out lines like "Shut your face or I'll rip it into pieces" with just the right mix of humor and menace, and breathing into a paper bag in a fruitless attempt to keep his rage in check.
Desire is basically an extended car chase punctuated by zippy dialogue, a twisty plot and lots of gunfire. The film makes good use of its running time without overstaying its welcome.
As content, it works on par with the similar BMW Films series a decade ago. That comparison is inevitable—everyone else is making it, and I didn't want to feel left out!—but also pretty pointless. Art informs art, and ads inform ads. A more salient question is: Does Desire succeed as advertising?
I'd say it performs better than expected. The Jag appears in almost every shot, but that makes sense in the context of the story, so it never feels gratuitous—more like an extended product placement. The key test comes near the finale, when Lewis rattles off a litany of F-Type technical specs, at gunpoint, to prove he really is in the desert to deliver the car. The speech doesn't sound forced or out of place, and the scene would be amusing if this were an unsponsored action flick that just happened to feature a Jag.
I'm betting prospective Jaguar owners like to believe they're sorta special—and for 92 grand, who can blame them?! So, a long-form, cinematic blockbuster ad seems well suited to this particular audience. (Leave the jokey 30-second cable spots for those of us on Honda Civic budgets.) Viewers can sit back and enjoy the wild ride, ogling the F-Type's impressive design and road handling. It never feels like we're being taken for a spin by an advertising vehicle.
At the crossroads of content and commerce, Desire, like its enigmatic hero, delivers.