I’m directing with a couple of Alexa Minis, our crew size is over 50, our budget is in the high six figures, and craft service is passing around fruit smoothies. Are we making a movie, a TV series, marketing content or a promo?
With every shoot that our company, M3 Creative, does these days, it’s becoming more and more difficult to tell. And for marketing-first production companies like us, that’s a good thing.
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For those companies that have been creating marketing materials for a while, we’ve seen the reliance on traditional promo alone decreasing in importance. Our clients today are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to promote their shows, films, commercials and brands. And with the incredible explosion of media distribution platforms these past few years – across broadcast, cable, streaming, online and mobile—the key to these new client requests is in the conception and production of original, high-production value short- and long-form content.
Today, that experience also means we’re developing and producing content that’s similar to the content we’ve long been marketing.
For companies like M3, the Content Revolution has given birth to a Creative Evolution, as we increasingly produce, direct, write, cut and deliver all those different types of materials that we’ve spent years advertising—and that includes everything from television series to major studio feature films. That transition has been a boon for our clients, as well.
We at M3 are currently celebrating our 15th year of creating successful marketing materials and campaigns for hundreds of diverse brands, so our move into also creating original content has been a logical progression. While our clients continue to seek us out for traditional promotional materials, more and more of them now come to us for our expertise in conceiving new, non-traditional ways to help drive their audiences’ eyeballs to their programming. Internally, it’s driven – and inspired – our team to create original content of our own.
Original content is not new to M3. My partners and I began our entertainment industry careers as producers, directors, editors, and writers for a number of high-profile television series. When we launched M3 in 2003 as a marketing company, our clients came to us for the traditional legacy marketing materials: promos, short interstitials, music videos, EPK elements and more. But as the industry has changed, so have the needs of our clients. The short-form content they needed became longer and, in addition to traditional spots, we started to produce more original content.
That led us to begin developing original IP, which became a first-look development deal with ITV America. While our marketing skills could help us create sales reels for shows, we began to realize those sales reels could actually become shows.
From those reality-show concepts and pitches came an even longer format production—our first feature film, 2012’s John Dies at the End, starring Paul Giamatti. Our promo mindset and workflow became the perfect film workflow as we crewed it up like a network commercial and ran a lot of the movie through our bays and graphics in-house. We won a Golden Trailer for the teaser we produced.
“M3 has created something unique in the industry—an intimate, yet full-service boutique which can provide scalable service for both simple one-off promos to massive national event-style marketing campaigns,” said director Don Coscarelli. “Most importantly, they created the award-winning trailer for my film John Dies at the End, which managed to capture the film’s unique sensibility while still selling it in an authentic way to a wide mass-market.”
After John Dies, we produced another film— 2017’s Dead Night, directed by my partner Brad Baruh. M3 cut that trailer, and we were thrilled when the movie became top rated on iTunes.
M3 also produces the hit series Elevator Pitch for Entrepreneur Media. In that case, our marketing and promo sensibility allowed us to put together a show that’s fast-paced, entertaining, and—like a promo—hard to turn away from. And the ratings prove it. Season 3 of Elevator Pitch has been seen by 25 million people with a nearly 80 percent completion rate.
Bill Shaw, president of Entrepreneur Media, said: “While we originally saw M3 as a marketing company when we first connected, a clear strength of theirs, we came to learn that they are also experts at producing focused content that sells the message in a clear and concise way. M3 tells stories – our story happens to be a reality show. They crushed it.”
And that’s the key to our success—our ability to “tell the story.” We appreciate having had all those creative directors over the years pound that mantra into us, and it’s paid off! While we’ve been winning awards for handling all forms of marketing materials, clients continue to find us because we can always tell their story.
The lines between promo and content have clearly blurred. If marketing companies like M3 can produce award-winning promo materials, we can also produce original IP. We know what audiences want to watch, and we know how to make them watch.
For shops like ours to succeed and thrive into the future, we all need to find the most entertaining and appropriate ways in which to take a 30-second spot and stretch it into a 30-minute show. It’s possible.
Andy Meyers is partner at Burbank-based M3 Creative.