Creative Genius, Terrible Ideas and Talking Boils - Medallion Retail
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Strategy, Creativity, Shopper Moments

Creative Genius, Terrible Ideas and Talking Boils

POSTED ON: 09/29/16 Marketing Movies

The binge watching, mostly of movies, continues as I convalesce.

But make no mistake. Studying films is work. Serious work. It is so totally and officially work that this collection of screening days now has a name: The Inspired-By-Film Festival.

Never mind who named it.

I am always delighted at how much one can learn from hours and hours and hours of cinema. It’s simply a matter of watching movies from the point of view of a curious retail marketer and a creator of Shopper Moments.

Last time I wrote about classic movie lines and how they can be translated into agency relationship advice for marketers. Today we look at the practice of marketing through the lens of the filmmaker. There are more than a few movies in this sub-genre. Following are those I consider “must-sees” for anyone tasked with winning shoppers’ hearts and moving merchandise.

Crazy People

It’s hard to believe that a movie starring Dudley Moore and set in an insane asylum even got produced. Turns out, it’s one of the best movies ever made about advertising. Moore plays Emory Leeson, whose “Truth in Advertising” campaign lands him in a mental institution. But when he taps into the way, way out-of-the-box creative genius of his fellow patients, astounding marketing ideas emerge.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

This caustic film takes the anxiety of the marketing biz to a queasy extreme when highly strung executive Denis Dimbleby Bagley’s crisis of conscience manifests as a creepy, sentient boil. The talking blemish ultimately grows into a mustachioed head, which is more than happy to get Bagley’s job done by whatever means necessary.

Lost in America

A personal favorite. Advertising executive David Howard, disappointed about not getting the promotion he deserves, quits spectacularly. Fed up with the dog-eat-dog world of marketing, he convinces his wife to sell everything, buy an RV and “drop out.” (He’s a huge Easy Rider fan.) When she blows their nest egg in Vegas, he taps into his ad skills to try to get the losses forgiven. (“The Desert Inn has heart.”) Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty are hysterical as the full-on midlife crisis couple in one of the best movies about advertising of all time.

Mr. Mom

A classic. Martin Mull plays the sleaziest ad exec in movie history as Terri Garr’s new boss in this film about gender, marketing and influence. Mull’s underrated talents provide a truly funny look at the underbelly of the advertising world.

Putney Swope

Written and directed by Robert Downey, Sr., Putney Swope stars Arnold Johnson as the sole African American on the board of an ad agency, who suddenly finds himself elected to the position of chairman. But when he decides that his revamped company, “Truth and Soul, Inc.,” will no longer advertise alcohol, tobacco, and weapons, they come under the watchful eye of the suspicious U.S. government. A great peek into the role of marketing in social culture, Putney Swope stands as an incomparable satire of race and corporate corruption in the ‘60s.

I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘Isname

This 1967 Orson Welles/Oliver Reed film is one of the best unknown movies about advertising. Andrew Quint (Oliver Reed) has it all; a successful job in advertising, a wife and children and two incredibly attractive mistresses (one of whom is Marianne Faithfull). We see Andrew striding purposefully across swinging London with an axe slung across his shoulder. He enters his office, hacks up his desk, and then offers his resignation to his overweight, Machiavellian and effete employer played by Orson Welles. He then returns to the job he had when he came down from Cambridge, that of a literary agent with a small magazine. But Andrew soon learns that, like the Mafia, it’s not that easy to get out of advertising.

Advertising Rules

This 2001 German independent film, also known as Viktor Vogel – Commercial Man, takes a fresh and funny look at the back-stabbing ad world. Aging advertising man Edward Kaminsky wants to exit agency life with a bundle of cash. Rosa, a young art director, wants to establish herself as a fine artist. The clumsy and honesty-challenged Viktor wants work. When he wanders into Kaminsky’s meeting with a major automobile company and says something about irony, the client demands he work on the campaign. What follows is a mix of true love, painful realizations and idea theft.

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