Advertising becomes entertainment as Special Group’s Smirnoff Night Project kicks off

Youtube VideoBack in November, Smirnoff and Special Group launched a campaign to get people to come up with kerrrazzeee ideas for events, with the winning concepts brought to life and the highs and lows of the lead-up and execution filmed for an unscripted reality show that would screen on FOUR. Well, that show kicks off tonight at 10.30 and Special Group creative director Tony Bradbourne is pretty damn excited about it.

Youtube VideoIn a similar fashion to the recent ANZ RWC campaign, each of the winning ideas was given $25,000 and all the help possible to pull off something incredible, but they only had one week to do it. The first show focuses on ‘The Greatest Shark Movie Ever, at Sea’, where TBWA\ creatives Tom Darlow and Beth O’Brien set about achieving the brilliantly twisted goal of showing Jaws on a big screen at night while people watched from floatation devices out at sea (disappointingly, Bradbourne wasn’t brave enough to take part).

Youtube VideoThe next shows will follow the other winning events Zombie Apocalypse, Paint the Town White and Gig in the Middle of Nowhere, with Sarah Wilson and Jessica McColl from DDB Group’s Mango also featuring prominently.

With so much pressure of booze brands to act responsibly, they can’t just promise more fun, more sex, more masculinity and more popularity anymore. As such, Bradbourne says some of the smart brands have moved away from the cliches and towards new, innovative, feelgood experiences that have a loose connection to the brand and fit into the brand’s ethos (the Steinlager Pure Futures campaign could also be placed in this category).

“Why is this interesting in a marketing sense? Well it’s kind of the holy grail of advertiser-funded programming,” he says. “It’s not an ad. It’s not product placement. It is a brand co-creating compelling content. It is the future. And it is really quite good. And what’s more it is an alcohol brand doing it in a really responsible, clever and funny way… We think it’s a really interesting space. How do you get people to want to watch your message? And to a lesser degree it’s what we tried to do with the Orcon Business Banner.”

Advertiser-funded content is often spoken of, but difficult to achieve. Commissioning editors are a tough bunch to get ideas past. They want good ratings for their channels and have so much big-budget international content to choose from, so Bradbourne says it’s an achievement just getting the “pacey, funny” local show, which is hosted by Dave Gibson and was filmed by Special Problems, on air. But adding to the achievements, the show has also been named as a TV pick of the week by Sunday Star Times reviewer Kate Meads.

While a slightly different kettle of fish, Special Group has done something similar with the recent Unitec campaign, with three educational journeys being filmed for regular TVCs screening on MediaWorks channels. This is set to culminate as an hour-long documentary set to screen later in the year. Perhaps not quite as compelling as watching a shark movie while floating in the ocean, but it’s still an innovative collaboration between agency, client and broadcaster.

Slightly ironically, the show launches on the same day MediaWorks and Special Group got a telling off from the ASA for the ‘backstabbing slut’ Top Chef billboard.

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