Confession shines light on weary industry
China - A contentious short film made by advertising creatives John Benet and Doug Nichol has got McDonald's China and its agency TBWA all wound up.
Directed by Nichol of Partizan and starring American freelance producer John Benet, the documentary, Called Sunshine, was shot when the duo were working for TBWA on a McDonald's campaign in China.
In the 15 minute short, Benet speaks candidly about his disappointment towards the advertising industry, voicing how commercialism wore down his passions and creativity.
The film went further to include several phone calls from a client commenting on Benet's ideas.“When we travel we want to experience something different, but it just feels the same. It’s my job to sell that sameness," Benet said in a scene where he raised doubts if advertising is sweeping the uniqueness of a culture away.
The title Sunshine refers to a Chinese ad-industry phrase to describe the happy, attractive qualities of people sought to star in commercials (and can be viewed as an extension of propaganda terminology and imagery from chairman Mao Zedong).
"That’s why they want sunshine people. Instead of holding a hoe, they’re holding a big Mac or a spicy chicken sandwich. They’ve traded in Mao for Ronald McDonald," Benet adds.
While TBWA did not wish to comment on the story, one industry commentator said in Hong Kong, business concerns always override creativity.
"The frustration is shared by advertisers in Asia. However, it is very immature to make a fuss about it."
Maurice Chan, managing director of MK2 Communication Limited, said passion and communication help clients and agencies to create a common ground.
"It all comes down to passion. Especially when client's senior management feels your devotion, it is easier to find a mutual understanding that way," said Chan.
The film included actual footage of the making of McDonald's TVC, while McDonald's and TBWA denied any involvement in the production of Sunshine.
Sophia Luan, vice president for corporate affairs and communication at McDonald's China, told US advertising magazine Adage the film was not authorised.
"As a company we don't encourage releasing out projects without informing us or getting approval."
The film has since gone viral and tracked more than 77,000 views on Vimeo, and will be shown at several film festivals.
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- TBWA China
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