George Bernhard Shaw said of the bagpipes, “At least they don’t smell.”
I wish I could lavish such praise upon the Chivas Regal “Chivas Real Friends” films, which are currently placed front and center on the company’s website.
Alas, they do smell. Bad.
Let us attempt offset some of the scandalous cost of this unbelievably embarrassing content marketing project by learning something from it.
As you can see from the trailer, Chivas marketers hired Academy Award-winning short-film director Joachim Back, first-class production company Park Pictures and four professional Hollywood actors.
What you can’t tell from the trailer is how desperately insipid these movies are.
Each one begins with the four “Real Friends” sitting in a fancy lounge, looking and talking as if they’re deep into their third glass Chivas. (Really, Chivas? You wanna show guys drunk on your sauce? Well, it’s your money.) They’re engaging in some forced Swingers-esque banter, which in each case leads to a memory and the beginning of a yarn … and then we find ourselves in the flashback.
Because you can’t spoil a plot that's rotten to begin with: In “Here’s to Twinkle,” the shorter of the two films, one of the friends was sad over losing his girlfriend and the guys tried to cheer him up by taking him to an amusement park and surfing and playing basketball. But he was inconsolable until a little dog ran onto the basketball court and he cuddled it and a supermodel came along and thanked him for saving her dog and then kissed him and they went out on a date.
Normally, a plot description doesn’t do a movie justice. In this case, the movie doesn’t do my plot description justice. If you have seven and a half minutes of your life to waste, see for yourself.
Like, Chivas content marketing duders: People will take you as seriously as you take yourself—once. If you make a 60-second TV commercial about some well-heeled, well-dressed old buds drinking Chivas and cracking wise—well, you’ve shared your brand image without really slowing me down too much. But if you’re asking me to stop what I’m doing and watch a short film—well, I expect from your film what I would expect from any film: to be made to think, or, in the case of something you call “Real Friends,” to feel a genuine emotion.
The only emotions I feel watching these films are a rancid sort of amazement at how comprehensive their witless artificiality and disgust at the money they must have cost.
The other film, “Here’s to Big Bear,” is worse than “Twinkle,” and not only because it’s twice as long. Behold this classic tale of “real” friendship:
The four high-class boozers let their marinating minds drift back to a day when, for vague reasons, they got off a train in the middle of a desert in tuxedos. When a toothless, cackling old man tells them the next train isn’t coming for days, they set off hiking across the desert while lonesome strains of “Home on the Range” irrelevantly play. Our chapped and dusty heroes stumble upon a gas station and ask the mean old proprietor for water and are charged $50 for four bottles. Then they take their pants off and go hitchhiking in their boxer shorts. They’re finally picked up by a psychotic-looking trucker, who gets on the CB and says, “Big Bear got four in the trap.” Then Big Bear puts a CD and leads the guys in singing “Together in Electric Dreams.”
If you don’t believe me, watch the film. But you’re better off believing me, believe me.
I’m trying to get into the mind of the marketer who conceived of this bullshit. Here I go!: We want people to think of Chivas Regal as cool. We want them to think of themselves as cool for drinking it. So we’ll make a film showing people who think they’re cool and who are dressed cool drinking Chivas in a cool setting and telling cool stories about uncool moments in their otherwise cool lives.
But for all the money and human time “Real Friends” films waste, they reveal nothing more than the cynical and unimaginative and contemptuous minds of their creators.
Content marketers must remember: Your customers, no matter what their demographic, are real human beings—not composite characters invented to consume your product and your advertising. And real people, when they sit down to watch real films, expect real drama. And real drama isn’t branding. Real drama is art.
You can pretend to make it, but we’re not going to pretend to like it.