Cayman Went: Advertising with Entertainment Roots

By Matt Van Hoven 

To the naked eye, Cayman Went is just like any other movie. It fits into a genre, dramedy, and takes the viewer for a short ride through a group of imaginary people’s lives. It was even written by a screen writer and boasts the same production quality you’d expect for $12.50 &#151 or whatever a ticket to the movies costs these days. But the major difference between this full length feature and other films is that it was created to be an unobtrusive branding tool; one that could be yet another communication avenue for advertisers to travel.

Cayman Went is an 88 minute long full length feature about an actor who is forced to decide the fate of a small island in the Caymans. Without giving too much away, the story brings a number of serious matters to a head and just when you’d least expect it, puts the weight of the world (well, this particular island anyway) on one man’s shoulders.

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The key players in this project are Manhattan based Chowder, Inc. and their client, the Cayman Island Deportment of Tourism (CIDOT). Steve Menges, Chowder’s VP of client services and development, told us that CW is a result of his agency’s desire to be different. Not exactly a new idea, but it’s a driving factor all the same. The movie takes traditional product placement and modifies the execution; so rather than seeing a logo, we see beautiful sunsets. Scenes that in other films would be paid for by an Apple laptop sitting on a desk are replaced with sea turtles swimming through crystal clear water. Can you call it placement if they’re already swimming there?

Perception is Reality
In this rare execution, Chowder has used its client’s product as a canvas; utilizing its natural beauty as the back drop. Peppered throughout the tale are nuggets about the island, called Cayman Brac; these tidbits would entice any traveler to visit the island’s sandy-white shores.

That description is based on the perceptions I drew from watching CW. The way I watched it is important, too. I was in my home on a Saturday afternoon, just hanging out soaking up eighty-eight minutes of the Cayman Islands. And even though I knew the film is branded entertainment, I didn’t feel like I was given a spiel about why I should visit the Caymans. The same cannot be said when I spot an obviously placed product.

New Directions for Advertainment
As consumers wise to the stealthy nature of advertising, the chore of finding more effective methods of reaching them (us) becomes increasingly tricky. Chowder has, in a sense, reconciled with that fact and come at the problem from a different direction.; entertain, and unobtrusively communicate a product’s virtues. It’s subliminal messaging in a sense, but free of the devious connotation the tactic’s name implies.

Another key element: their client was wise enough to grasp the potential behind de-labeling their product. Whether it works will be seen, but CIDOT’s willingness to take the risk is impressive enough. This point is important, because without a willing subject, CW might not have happened. Well, wouldn’t have.

Ear Flipping
At least, not in exactly the same way. Films are shot on location all the time. New York is a prime example; I can’t count the number of films I’ve seen that begin with a fly-over of Central Park into Midtown. And you better believe New York City was well paid for those 15 seconds of mood setting footage.

Talent agencies are in on the deal too. These days, you’ll find corporate placement agents in most big talent shops, like Creative Artists Agency (CAA), International Creative Management (ICM) and William Morris Agency. Their job is to connect, you guessed it, brands with films, television shows and the like. The idea behind that being the talent agency can go to a client (let’s say they have GM) and say, “We have a team that represents all the major film companies, actors, actresses, production houses, writers et al in the entertainment business. So, where would you like to see your new Camaro, Corvette, Silverado and logo? How about as the huge, awesome robots in Transformers. Did we mention Michael Bay is directing? Oh and Shia LeBouf and this new girl Megan Fox are starring? Sign here.”

And now, GM and Ford’s coolest models are friggin’ robots in disguise. In that way, Chowder’s approach did the same thing for CIDOT (sans the record breaking ticket sales). But that’s not the point; the goal is to get the Cayman Island of Brac in front of our eyeballs. CW is not Transformers, but it is written by Chowder’s Jim Ritterhoff, who in our opinion did a good job of making his movie feel legitimate.

Be Seen and Absorbed
Distribution is another story. We’re not sure where you’ll be able to see Cayman Went. Whether in an independent theatre, on TBS or LifeTime or maybe via NetFlix; Menges said his agency is shopping around. But one thing is for sure; Cayman Went is a well executed story. And that should be enough to find it a moderately visible home. Not a bad thing for the client who is bored by 30 second spots and banner ads.

Learn more about Chowder at chowderinc dot com.