Example Activity: Making Noise at Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Festival Promoting

It’s the time of the year again when people start talking about Cannes…a film festival so famous and influential that, well, the fact that there’s a film festival there isn’t even mentioned…

The furore surrounding Cannes (pretty much the entirety of the world’s film press appear en masse) leads to a peculiar, almost surreal, atmosphere for the festival’s duration.

And, with so many filmmakers, film stars and film promoters kicking around as well as the press it takes something pretty special to get your film noticed.

Naturally here at Hotcow this interests us every time it comes around – partially because we’re specialists in getting noticed and have a keen professional interest in what people get up to and partially because we’ve always got an eye out for a potential client.

To that end we know what it takes to make a splash at Cannes…and what is a step too far – so if you have a film that needs promoting you now know who to approach first!

But, onward with some insights we’ve picked up having watched the whole affair over the past several years.

The first point we’d make is that it’s hugely important to properly research your intended audience first. If you do this then any activity you engage in has a much higher chance of success. However, if you gauge that audience wrongly or simply totally misread the situation, well, then things can be horrible.

If you don’t believe us then simply ask the cast and crew of 24 Hour Party People who turned up unannounced in 2001 and, in a misguided attempt at what can only be described as guerrilla promotion, proceeded to pelt each other with dead pigeons to the horror of bystanders on a private Cannes beach. The stunt was meant to recreate/represent an incident wherein one of the stars represented in the film had poisoned 3000 of Manchester’s pigeons with crack cocaine…instead it simply got everyone ejected by an unamused police force. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t even gained much publicity – reports of the incident mostly failed to mention the film.

That being said, making a public spectacle of yourself can, if done right, reap rewards. Jerry Seinfeld rather famously donned a large bee costume and abseiled down the side of a building – twice – to promote Bee Movie. To further amuse Chris Rock, who also appeared in the film, gave something of a running commentary of the event.

The sight of the film’s star engaging in a seemingly death-defying stunt and making an amusing fool of himself at the same time struck a chord with crowd and media alike and the press was awash with stories of the stunt and, crucially, the film it was promoting.

Of course, this particular stunt probably cost more than a little bit of money (think of the insurance alone…) and, in some cases, it may be more prudent and viable to go for a stunt or activity that costs considerably less.

Here the example of Jeremy Weinstein and the promotion of his short film Looking for Harvey comes into play. He spent a significant amount of time at the festival simply wandering around wearing a sandwich board with “Looking For Harvey” painted on it – a very cheap proposition. The amount of interest this alone generated was remarkable – yet not, in the final analysis, entirely unexpected. With so many accredited journalists seeking an exclusive the merest sniff of something interesting or unusual generates a lot of attention. Weinstein clearly banked on this with his campaign, and came up a winner as Looking for Harvey and its promotional activity made it into a large number of Cannes reports.

Indeed, the promotional activity itself became celebrated and ended up being dubbed “the lowest budget campaign in Cannes history” – low budget, but with huge returns in the end.

Of course, it’s not always important to have you actors and writers doing their own promotional activity – sometimes the characters they portray can have far more impact, as Dreamworks demonstrated with its promotion of Wallace & Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. They created a 30 feet tall inflatable Gromit and suspended it above an information and media point. This, of course, attracted interest from as far as the inflatable was visible. And with interest came column inches.

Each of these later examples – considering their comparable successes – demonstrate that visibility and imagination are more important (in general) than raw spend when it comes to Cannes promotion.

And, when taken with the first point the three resulting keywords can be seen as a mantra for promotional activity everywhere – never mind Cannes;

Research, Imagination, Visibility.

And that’s what we at Hotcow are in the business of providing.

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