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Fantasy versus transparency

Fantasy versus transparency
Thursday 23 April, 2015

One of the fundamentals of public relations is honesty and transparency in communication. In this post however, we’ll be touching on a few campaigns where honesty has not been the best policy – rather, a little fantasy – or a little fiction, has been the key to their success.

You may be aware that during March this year, male models Derek Zoolander and Hansel walked the catwalk for Valentino’s ready to wear fall/winter 2015-2016 collection. Meticulously attired in trench coats and ‘blue steel’ poses, the pair’s Paris Fashion Week appearance was of course a stunt to announce the decision to develop a sequel to the 2001 film, Zoolander. 

The perfect blend of fact and fiction and their pair’s celebrity in the pop-culture zeitgeist, ensured that not only the audience was delighted by the fantasy, but that the stunt went viral.

Also during March this year, a Tinder profile in Austin was created by the marketing team for the film Ex Machina. Timed to coincide with SXSW, marketers created a profile for Ava, a character in Ex Machina, who is part human, part android. Using photos of the actor, Alicia Vikander, the Tinder ‘robot’ asked potential matches who had swiped right several questions, such as what had attracted them to her, then directed them to an Instagram account promoting the film.

From fashion to love, it seems that film characters have been infiltrating our world.

It may of course be that movie campaigns naturally lend themselves to expanding the world of fiction from the big screen and into the marketing campaign. Yet the approach is not confined to this sector, and can be seen as part of a broader trend. A 2013 report from The Future Laboratory, an international futures consultancy, discusses the rise of what they term, faction (fact+fiction) marketing.

The Future Laboratory report posits that in a world saturated by ‘authentic’ brands, a true story just may not cut it with consumers anymore.

The report cites several examples, including Nike’s 2012 campaign, in which the brand worked with well-known conceptual artist Tom Sachs to create ‘NikeCraft’, a collection based on the narrative of a mission to Mars, and the USA Network’s campaign for Suits, which launched a Facebook program in which fans were invited to apply for an internship at the show’s fictional law firm, Pearson Hardman.

We’d love to know, what are your favourite ‘faction’ campaigns, and, do you think there’s a time when fiction in marketing can go too far?

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