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Amazon’s New Cineplex

Cruising around Amazon looking for a book yesterday I happened on a curious little tease – a link to a little film called “Portrait”, featuring Minnie Driver as a domineering fashionista. It didn’t appear to be promoting any new bestseller (No overt references to The Devil Wears Prada) or even Karl Lagerfeld’s debut line for H&M. It was a busy day, but I couldn’t help clicking.

Cruising around Amazon looking for a book yesterday I happened on a curious little tease – a link to a little film called “Portrait”, featuring Minnie Driver as a domineering fashionista. It didn’t appear to be promoting any new bestseller (No overt references to The Devil Wears Prada) or even Karl Lagerfeld’s debut line for H&M. It was a busy day, but I couldn’t help clicking.

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After the requisite tech trouble with downloads, I managed to access the clip. It told the tale of an overweight, frizzy-haired fashion assistant, the office dishrag in a swanky workplace, who’s callously abused by her snarky, over-groomed, over-medicated co-workers. Then she gets a glamour photo done by “Bud”, a photog whose pitch has breached her spam filter. The results are hilarious. What’s even better, there are no overt product pushes. Indeed, even though I was looking hard, it was tough to figure out what all this was designed to sell… unless you wait for the credits, at which point you learn that all the make-up was provided by Sephora and the handbags by Nordstrom, etc. Interested in buying? How handy, then, that Amazon has thoughtfully provided pictures and links to all the products featured in the film on the movie’s home page.

This isn’t the first time a company has tried enticing potential buyers with such a soft sell. Astute readers will be remember those little BMW films David Lubars did when he was at Fallon. Turns out, the Amazon films are from the same guy, new client (Lubars was recently lured away to BBDO New York, where he’ll presumably work his magic for the agency’s client roster. Can a Diet Pepsi or Gillette film be far behind?) Before Christmas, Amazon will feature one new film a week, all designed around the theme “karmic balance.”

Evidently, the Amazon film is part of the company’s effort to provide free online content to its users. Reportedly, the site will soon begin featuring everything from music to fiction to indie films as a way to get folks to stop by more often, hoping that while they’re hanging around listening to a new band, they’ll be motivated to pick up a little something — the online equivalent of grabbing a Hershey bar and a copy of the Enquirer (not that I’ve ever done this) while you’re waiting in line at the supermarket.

Might just work. I, for one, was pretty tempted by that Sephora Whipped Body Shimmer. Whoops. Nearly forgot I was there looking for a book.

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About the author

Linda Tischler writes about the intersection of design and business for Fast Company.

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