For all the talk of integrating Web and TV, there aren’t many commercials that end with a call to action inviting viewers to watch even more content on YouTube. So when I saw an ad for Canon’s Imagin8ion project with director Ron Howard, I took notice.
The idea goes back about a year when Canon and Howard originally teamed up for the campaign. The plan was to encourage Canon users to submit photos that Howard would then turn into a short film. The contest drew about 96,000 entries. Howard based his short off of photos from 8 finalists. The result is a pretty epic 28-minute short called “When You Find Me.”
While Howard’s film is impressive and Canon should be praised for thinking big, the real win here is that the campaign actually has legs. That’s right, Canon is doing it again this year.
Of course, this isn’t the first time a major brand has partnered with a famous Hollywood director. And it isn’t the first time that a brand has produced a short film online. In fact, we’re way beyond the novelty of such projects, aren’t we?
I’d argue that the real success of Imagin8ion isn’t the video itself, but the participation from Canon fans over the past year.
At last count, Howard’s short had just over 164,000 views. That’s good, but not great. What is great is that Canon got 96,000 people to participate.
And that brings me back to Canon’s decision to run the contest for a second year. The brand announced that decision shortly after the film went live, so it’s fair to say that the video’s metrics didn’t really drive the marketing here. And that’s a good thing! It would be easy to commission a director like Howard to make a cinematic spectacle, but the views alone probably wouldn’t deliver enough ROI for the brand. And let’s face it, the views aren’t even guaranteed, so if it was just the video there was a big chance that Howard’s short would have done nothing at all for Canon.
But for Canon it was never about the short alone. Howard’s film was the bait at the end of the hook that drove participation. This was a year-long social campaign with a low barrier to entry and a high reward — a free Ron Howard short that might actually be inspired from one of your photos!
Quite often, we see brands running social campaigns and contests with mixed results. Sometimes entry is just too complicated. Other times, the payoff just isn’t that good. But Canon put its money where it needed to go (there are no budget figures available, but that short wasn’t cheap). Canon also put its passion in the hands of fans who weren’t asked to do very much. In the end, Canon found a good balance here, and they did it in a way that connects a community of photographers, from Ron Howard down to the casual shooter.