Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

If you like documentaries, Morgan Spurlocks' experiment in creating a movie about marketing that was funded entirely by company brands, is definitely worth a view.

In Pom Wonderful's Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Spurlock calls on various national and international brands, looking for sponsorships to fund his $1.5 million movie. As you can tell by the film's title, Pom Wonderful (pomegranate juice) anted up to be the title sponsor.  Spurlock videotaped the sales pitch he gave them, some of their follow-up meetings, and his ideas for advertising Pom products during the film.

We also watch Spurlock make cold calls and sales call to several other businesses, sometimes landing the sale; sometimes not. If you've ever worked in the corporate world, you will feel right at home. If you haven't, you may shake your head in wonder at the goings-on in those company boardrooms as marketing teams promise tens of thousands of dollars with little promise of return on investment. Or so it first seems. But then Spurlock lets the audience in as he starts to receive complex contracts from these sponsoring companies, demanding specific product exclusivity, advertising slants, and quantitative bang for their buck. Spurlock gets frustrated and wonders if he'll actually have any freedom in producing his film at all.

That's where I sympathized with him completely. I have been in his shoes and know how hard it can be to try to please so many people in so many ways without losing sight of what your intent was in the first place. I know, because I used to be a fundraiser for national non-profits and sometimes felt like I was selling my do-gooder soul to the highest bidder. I had to get title sponsors, corporate sponsors, media sponsors, food sponsors, etc., and almost all of those sponsors expected exclusivity and some sort of public relations return on investment as well. Certainly understandable on their parts; they were the ones funding the project. But it was difficult at times, and Spurlock quickly learned how complicated things could get.

The movie is worth watching for all of that insight into the inner workings of branding and sponsorships. But it also included one tidbit outside of this realm that I found to be the most fascinating piece of the movie. Spurlock travels to Sao Paolo, Brazil where they have outlawed outdoor advertising completely. There are no billboards or signs promoting products. There are no advertisements painted onto the sides of the buildings, buses, or taxis. You could still see where those ads were and the city looked somehow stripped of color, but it was incredible to see. Spurlock interviewed a few retailers, too, asking them what they were doing to boost sales now that they couldn't advertise publicly. Most said they were relying on word-of-mouth and referrals.

Interesting. I cannot even imagine that happening here, and you won't be able to, either, if you watch Pom Wonderful's Greatest Movie Ever Sold and realize just how pervasive advertising is in our society. The De Bonis and Peterson marketing group, as well as the Business Journal, say the average American is exposed to 600 advertisements a day. Even more frightening, the Union of Concerned Scientists Website estimates that number to be more like 3,000 advertisements a day. Whatever number, it's too much. We're bombarded with commercial messages in one form or another. I don't think we even notice most of it. Or do we? By the end of the movie, I desperately wanted a glass of pomegranate juice.


  1. Omigosh, I had no idea Sao Paolo had done that!! How incredible. I'd love to see that myself (despite my concerns about the safety of American tourists in Sao...).

    My friend in advertising told me about this movie. How did you see it? Is it showing locally?

  2. We rented it on DVD. I'm not sure whether it aired in theaters. Maybe select theaters?

    After seeing the clips of Sao Paolo in the film, I want to go see the city for myself. Risky, schmisky. Maybe someday.

  3. Visiting this place makes your vacation full of excitement and memorable