Samsung’s branded entertainment fail

Samsung’s foray into Baz Luhrmann the world of branded entertainment, The Shoot, proves brands still have a long way to go to prove they get how it’s done says Brooke Hemphill, in a piece that first appeared in Encore.

On a recent Thursday night members of the Australian film industry and the media attended the Sydney Opera House as guests of Samsung for the premiere of The Pilgrim Report, a short film funded and produced by Samsung. While the film itself was a remarkable achievement, the campaign overall was a lesson in how not to do branded entertainment.

Earlier this year, Samsung put out the call for up-and-coming film-makers and with the assistance of drama school the National Institute of Dramatic Art they recruited a team who had just six days to write, produce and edit a short film.

You can watch the end result here:

There is no question what they produced is pretty amazing given their experience and the time frame allotted to the project. But where the campaign fell down can best be seen in this series of ‘behind the
scenes’ videos:

The videos show how the project came together, complete with forced use of Samsung devices and the jarring inclusion of disclaimers on the bottom of the screen advising viewers that ‘data connection may be required’ for various functions. In one scene the camera lingers lovingly on a Samsung smartphone as its user writes a name and phone number on the device which magically saves into the contacts on the phone. Also gratuitous is a scene where someone is shown speaking into their Samsung watch while they can be heard in the voiceover saying: “Being able to call someone on your watch is so much easier.”

I couldn’t help but think it was too much – and I’m not even in the tech-savvy brand-aware youth demographic that Samsung is attempting to reach. I imagine the kids of today are even more likely to see through this blatant product push. It also has the unwelcome side effect of detracting from the great work produced by participants in the competition.

It is hard not to compare the campaign to the Boost Mobile Stay Living work created by The Monkeys which took out the Grand Prix at the recent Branded Content and Entertainment Awards.


The two complementary brands are clearly shooting for a similar youthful audience. One nails it while the other fails spectacularly. The biggest obvious difference is the inclusion of the brand’s products in the content. For Boost, phones played a role with the characters using their devices to share information about the whereabouts of zombies. But the inclusion was subtle – the story came first, the product second. Samsung’s blatant product shots in the ‘making- of’ videos are the polar opposite. It’s as if the brand is unwilling to get out of its own way and let the content speak for itself.

In a session at the Festival of Branded Content and Entertainment, Micah Walker from The Monkeys said of the Boost campaign: “It’s silly to call these campaigns non-traditional. They’re the new tradition.”

Walker’s comment highlights the futility of applying traditional thinking not only to the nascent world of branded entertainment but also the demographic being targeted. And it pinpoints exactly where Samsung went wrong with The Shoot.

The Samsung project called upon an established and traditional organisation to partner with – the National Institute of Dramatic Art. The figurehead of the campaign was a director well established in his field (read: old) – Baz Luhrmann. And the event was held at a venue celebrating its 40th birthday – the Sydney Opera House. The format of the launch – dry speeches from the brand manger and the director of NIDA which could best be described as having a sales undertone, delivered to an audience seated in an auditorium, followed by a swanky cocktail party attended by industry figures. It all felt very old school traditional. At the heart of the competition were young wannabe film-makers who were given permission to briefly enter the established world of the film-making elite. During her speech, NIDA director and CEO Lynne Williams said she hoped the competition winners would go on to study at NIDA. The subtext: I hope you enjoyed the visit but this is our world not yours.

Again, the comparison to the Boost campaign is stark. As The Monkey’s Walker explained of the campaign at the Festival of Branded Entertainment, the concept of young, powerful characters taking out zombies in boardrooms was all about rejecting the traditional stereotypes of another generation. In contrast, Samsung fell down by thinking its old school values applied to an entirely different generation. The brand tried to get its audience to play by its rules instead of the other way around. And that bloody watch didn’t help much either.

Brooke Hemphill is the editor of Encore.

Issue_37_devicesThis piece first appeared in EncoreDownload it now on iPad, iPhone and Android tablet devices.



Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.