Patrick Courrielche, managing director of events and publicity outfit Inform Ventures, recalls teasing DJ and producer King Britt, formerly of the Digable Planets, about making a documentary about his attempt to get a driver's license. Courrielche said he decided to take the idea to one of his clients, Toyota Motor Sales USA's Scion unit. The youth-targeted sub-brand bought into the deal for the light-hearted drama. The film was produced without a traditional screenplay—scenes were given a basic set-up, with cameras following the actors around.
Scion is the presenting sponsor of the 22-minute movie "On the D.L.," produced by Inform and directed by Andrew Gura. Scion's two models get plenty of screen time in the flick that debuts May 5 at Robert DeNiro's Manhattan film festival.
Another musician without a driver's license at the time of filming in Philadelphia, Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, a member of the Grammy-winning band the Roots, co-stars in the movie, driving Scion's boxy xB. King Britt drives the xA. Both are thirty-something sons of Philadelphia.
"We thought it was a fun way to have our vehicles in a film without the focus on us," said Brian Bolain, national sales promotion manager of Scion.
The project cost an estimated $100,000, according to one exec close to the situation. Bolain declined to reveal costs, saying only it was cheaper than a typical event sponsorship.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% While the automaker doesn't plan any vehicle displays or hoopla at Tribeca, Scion will start posting five-minute segments of the film a week after its festival debut on peer-to-peer online networks like Kaaza. The car marketer hopes visitors download the clips and pass them onto friends, true to its core viral marketing strategy. Later in May, the segments will start to appear on scion.com.
This project is another example of brands leveraging the short film platform, which often offers a more cost-effective and focused marketing platform than the typical Hollywood studio big-budget brand partnership. BMW Films is the most celebrated example, but brands like DKNY have also taken advantage of the platform.
Toyota launched Scion last June in California. Scion is now bowing in multiple markets. Bolain reports the car is selling briskly.