Cummins & Partners created latest Sia music clip as branded content for Heidi Klum lingerie

Australian adman Sean Cummins is behind the latest music video for pop star Sia which is actually a brand funded piece of content for the Heidi Klum lingerie range, Mumbrella can reveal.

Cummins & Partners New York brokered the deal, which saw supermodel Klum front the Australian singer songwriter’s video clip for the song Fire Meet Gasoline, as a cost-effective way to showcase her new range with underwear company Bendon to a global audience.

Bendon funded production of the video, which also stars actor Pedro Pascal – who played Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones – which has amassed more than 9 million views on the Vevo platform since its launch two weeks ago.

When approached by Mumbrella about the campaign Cummins said: “There was not a huge budget to spend, and then someone said ‘let’s do something that goes viral’, so we had to work out what are people going to watch. We came to the realisation there are two types of content people go back to watch again and again  – music videos and ‘how to’ videos.

“There’s not much of a ‘how to’ opportunity in lingerie, but it does lend itself to a music video. So we started to look around to find who would be the best person to collaborate with, and Sia has a big profile here, and we found out about her being a bit socially phobic when it comes to performing and not liking to appear in her own music videos.

“We had Heidi Klum so we worked out a bit of a value exchange where we also pay for the production.”

Klum launched the range in Melbourne

Klum launched the range in Melbourne

The agency, which launched the lingerie range globally in January, claims to have spent less than $250,000 on the campaign, and although it has not ruled out a tactical ad buy further down the road Cummins said it was primarily about creating brand awareness for the Bendon range internationally.

Asked whether he would prefer to win a Cannes Lions advertising award or an MTV Video Music Award for the work, Cummins replied: “I would choose a VMA because it’s from the people.

“It’s something completely different. By the same token I would love my advertising peers to give it some props for pushing it out there.”

He added: “There’s more blurred lines than a Robin Thicke song here. It’s the sort of thing that breaks all the conventions. It’s not done to excite advertising people, but to get people to watch a bit of branded content in an engaged way to the end.”

‘Lessons in restraint’

The plot of the clip charts a mysterious love affair between Klum and Pascal, including Klum discovering a bloody rock wrapped in a handkerchief and setting fire to her house.

The four minute video features about 40 seconds worth of footage of Klum in items for the range as she romps with Pascal, including one close up of a label.

heidi klum logo

There is one close up of the label in the video

Asked if the client had pushed for more obvious product placement in the video Cummins said: “The client said keep it cool, he was right on board with all that.

“At the end of the day the brand funded it, put money into it, and they want it to work for the brand as well. A logo doesn’t make an advertising piece.

“We were creating a reputation, and putting Heidi in a completely different light. She’s been a Victoria’s Secret model all her life and has some scorched earth there, so to come back with a lingerie brand of her own we had to highlight the fact her brand was tasteful, elegant, undeniably Heidi.

“There are lessons in restraint in this whole thing.”

While the deal is being supported by some point of sale creative Cummins said they were being deliberately restrained about not creating a bigger campaign using the assets.

“We had many ideas of leveraging the piece – do we wrap a bloody rock in a hankie and drop it in Union Square then seed that on Instagram?” he said.

“But what we wanted to do was make it stand on its own. It’s so counter intuitive, but we wanted it to be about the music video.”

He said the restraint had also applied to the agency, which was not going to PR the piece until approached by Mumbrella about it.

‘It was as Aussie a deal as you could ever imagine’



Cummins co-founded Cummins & Partners in 2011 in Melbourne and has since opened up offices in Adelaide, Sydney, New York and most recently Toronto. Last week global strategy head Adam Ferrier said the agency is eyeing a European office as its next stop.

Cummins told Mumbrella the deal was surprisingly easy to broker, as both Sia and Klum had mutual admiration for each others’ work.

“She [Sia] must be the most intuitive marketing person I’ve ever seen,” added Cummins.

“I sent them an email and five minutes later her manager David Russell phoned me and we were doing the deal. We approached Sia first, and when we got approval we went to Heidi and she was keen.”

He added: “There were all these superstar names involved, but it was as Aussie a deal as you could ever imagine. It was done quickly, done well and without a lot of fanfare.”

‘The drug of self importance’

Talking about the strategy behind the piece Cummins emphasised it was a brand building exercise first and foremost, adding it was too early to tell what effect it had achieved.

“It’s about the engagement, branded content should be seen like classical broadcast TV,” he said. “If it’s all ads no-one will watch it, and if it’s all entertainment it won’t work. I think 80 per cent entertainment and 20 per cent advertising, and that applies to amplifying it through social media.

Artist Sia is famously shy about appearing in her own music videos

Artist Sia is famously shy about appearing in her own music videos

“It’s got to be balanced, I think the balance is about 20 per cent to 80 per cent, that’s my mud map anyway.”

But Cummins warned brands looking to succeed in the branded content space needed to think about making content consumers would engage with.

He added: “The smaller the budget the bigger the idea needs to be. You’ve got to work out what the story is and have something interesting to say.

“It’s really about understanding what the consumer will want to watch again and again.

“Unfortunately it takes a bit of effort for brands to get off that drug of self importance and think about the consumer first.”

He said music videos lent themselves well to this kind of content as they are generally cheaper to make than other comparable form of content.

“TV production budgets are often a lot more than video budgets, we only had a small production budget by TV production standards, but it wasn’t too bad for a video clip,” said Cummins.

“We presented a few treatments and the treatment they ran away with is the one in the video. We put it all together and it was a really fantastic collaboration.”

Since launch the clip has had more than 9 million views on Vevo’s YouTube platform, with Cummins saying there had been some “amazing commentary” around it.

“Some people worked out it is an ad for a lingerie brand, but their comments said they didn’t mind that and they still liked it, which is really great,” he said.

Alex Hayes


Client: Bendon

Creative Credits: Fire Meet Gasoline
Agency: Cummins&Partners  New York

Writer: Sean Cummins

Writer:Vanessa Quincey

Creative Analyst: Hayley Evans
Strategy: Arwa Mahdawi

Art Director: Chantal Smith

Director: Francesco Carrozzini

Audio Record & Mix: Monkey Puzzle Records


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