Soy Sauce: The Movie

Kikkoman is ready for its close-up

Thanks to the invention of product placement, a brand with deep enough pockets can buy its way into any movie it wants. Now, Kikkoman soy sauce has upped the ante—by simply making the whole movie.

Directed by Lucy Walker, Make Haste Slowly covers the 600-year history of Kikkoman in 24 minutes, from its founding in feudal Japan to the cultural challenges of building its first U.S. plant—the sort of detail no :30 ad (let alone a product placement) could ever cover. “It was exciting to have the luxury of time,” said Colin McRae, creative director at Draftfcb, which oversaw the project. “Anything shorter would not have done justice to the topic.”

With introspective interviews and shots of verdant soybean fields, Make Haste Slowly does the brand plenty of justice. But who’s the audience? “I don’t think people will rush down to the corner theater to watch a Kikkoman film,” said Morgan Spurlock, whose films include product placement exposé The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. “But if you’re using this as a historical document, there could be some great storytelling to come out of it.”

And that seems to be the point. “People are avoiding advertising altogether, so you have to make content that doesn’t look or feel like an ad,” said Draftfcb vp Tony Vazquez, who hopes the Food Network or some other special-interest network will pick up the film. “Audiences want authenticity,” said director Walker. “Nobody’s going to watch 24 minutes of phony stuff.” 

@UpperEastRob Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.