Campaign of the Week

Contagious I/O

19 January 2021

Film festival creates cinema castaway to promote digital event 

Göteborg Film Festival strands winning fans on remote islands with nothing but movies for company to generate attention for its digital event, attracts 4,000 applicants

Taking social distancing to a whole new level, the Göteborg Film Festival is offering individuals the chance to view its entire film programme in total isolation at several remote locations across Sweden.

The Isolated Cinema initiative brings the physical spectacle of the Göteborg Film Festival to a few lucky people while raising awareness of the event, which has been forced to go digital because amid the pandemic.

Created by the agency Stendahls, Gothenburg, the atmospheric TVC invites one cinema fan to spend seven days on an isolated island, with only movies and the sea for company. The short film depicts someone arriving on the island under thunderous skies to begin a cinematic odyssey. 

The hero location for the campaign is an isolated lighthouse called Pater Noster on the edge of an island archipelago in the North Sea. One chosen participant will be there in total isolation for seven days with no phone, contact with family or friends, and only the library of films from the festival as entertainment. Each day they will provide a video diary to report on the films and their experience.

The theme of the 2021 festival is also isolation, with films examining how the pandemic has affected and changed our relationship with film.

Additional film screenings (one-person per film) will take place at two other locations during the 11-day festival, with tickets being allocated to film enthusiasts who register via the film festival’s website. The first of these venues is a prominent ice hockey rink called the Scandinavium, where an audience member will watch films from the center of the rink surrounded by empty spectator seats. The other is The Draken Cinema in Gothenburg, the anchor venue for the festival, where each film will be introduced by its creators before being viewed by one individual in a 713 seat auditorium.

Results / According to Stendahls, the campaign media reach is estimated at one billion having been picked up by over 800 media sources including CNN, The Independent, and The Hollywood Reporter. The isolated cinema experience on the remote island has also received more than 4,000 applications from over 35 countries at the time of writing.

Contagious Insight 

Drama in the theatre / According to a report by research company Omdia last December, the global cinema industry experienced, due to the pandemic, a 71.5% decline in box office revenue compared with the year previous, resulting in a loss of $32bn. This is the first time in more than two decades that the industry has fallen below $13bn in revenue.

Many live events over the last 12 months have become digital, which has been a challenge in its own right. But an arguably a greater challenge for the industry is how it plans to ensure there is enough demand to return to physical spaces after the pandemic has passed. This is especially true for the film industry, which faces increased competition from on-demand services like Netflix, which have boomed in lockdown.

The Göteborg Film Festival’s campaign advertises its digital event but also reminds viewers that the physical aspect of film premieres is sacred, too. This signals to both creators and audiences that, despite the current climate, the show must go on.

Unique experiences / The Göteborg Film Festival’s campaign also offers a few lucky audience members a totally unique experience that money cannot buy. For cinephiles who scoff at fellow audience members rustling snacks, texting on their phones, or talking loudly during the movie, the Isolated Cinema offers truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage with the big screen, completely free of distractions. This is essentially where the PR value of the idea lies, as it touches on a human tension point while offering a solution that ties into the restrictions in place due to Covid-19. Another good example of a live-in experience came from the Art Institute of Chicago back in 2016, which partnered with Airbnb to create a rental property designed to feel like the inside of a Van Gogh painting. The campaign won the creative effectiveness Grand Prix at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in 2017.

Ambiance / A negative consequence of lockdown has been increased loneliness and isolation. According the Office of National Statistics, during the first month of lockdowns in the UK, 7.4 million people (14.3% of the population) experienced feelings of loneliness. As a result, these feelings have become a significant part of many people’s lives, which is why the Göteborg Film Festival used this theme as a creative platform for its 2021 event and promotional campaign, as explained by the artistic director of the festival, Jonas Holmberg: ‘The creation of isolated film experiences […] is a way of ensuring entirely safe festival screenings, but it is also an attempt to process how the pandemic has changed people’s relationships with film’.