Films on Marketing

Generation Like

Documentary Frontline 2014 TV-PG 53m. Author Douglas Rushkoff explores how social media is attracting teens but also exposing them to corporations who see them as young consumers. This film demonstrates a new way for persons savvy in technology and “social media” (YouTube, Facebook) to create economic opportunities that are relatively rare in this era. “Generation Like” can help persons of all ages to “get with the times” and become successful 21st century entrepreneurs. It is indeed empowering for young people, as they are learning marketing tools. There was a dream…years ago, you remember it, right? It was called the Internet and it was going to be a miracle that was going to change our lives for the better, forever. But then…the corporations got a hold of it. The marketing scum “discovered” it and now we’re all much poorer…and stupider for it. Oh what could have been! A gathering place for ideas, education, a place that would have made our lives rich and easier. A universal library that would have let to a golden age. But what did we end up with? The dreck, the absolute dung that this program is showing. Remember kids, the most important thing you do in a day is CONSUME. Oh and don’t forget to OBEY. FOLLOW. RETWEAT. LIKE. This is a quality documentary which shares some important insight into what is happening with the young generation and the media of today. This is not much fun to watch, but it can be beneficial to look at our vacuous consumer culture every once in a while.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s

Documentary 2013 PG-13 1hr33m.  This documentary peels back the curtain at Bergdorf Goodman, the iconic New York store that’s been launching design careers for more than a century.  The whole point of the movie is to celebrate the history behind two New York tailors turning their shop into a multi-million dollar company, and the story of how their store has evolved.  It tells you the history of the store and about the recruitment of designers for the store.  It also discusses things such as their personal shoppers and the designs for their Christmas window decorations.  It’s an amazing history told from the perspective of people who have worked with BG for years.  Before watching the documentary, I did not fully grasp the importance of Bergdorf’s to the city and the international Fashion world.  One of the women interviewed in the film said, “This is the American dream.” Really? For whom? Clearly not for us 99%. But I think it is a great film.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
(Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold)

Documentary 2011 PG-13 90 minutes. Intrepid filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) directs this bitingly ironic documentary, which scrutinizes the pervasive marketing, advertising and product placement practices that have become standard in the entertainment industry. Highly enjoyable. He decides to make a movie that is totally funded by product placement. He takes us through the process, and it is great to watch both the events as they happen as well as the thoughts and comments about what is going on. Following the process is enlightening even if you understand how much advertising is part of the process. The film industry has capitalized on companies’ desire to be ingrained into the pop culture for decades. Is there anyone who is shocked that companies pay to get their products in movies? But this is the first movie that has commercials within to prove a point. Who controls the content of a film? Is it the director? the corporate lawyers? or the sponsors and investors of the film? So this movie provides an inside look at the product placement, marketing, and advertising world of cinema, with hilarious results! It analyzes the ways advertisers are working day and night to get into our craniums in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. But it also lays before us just how commercialism has permeated every corner of our lives. The most interesting part was learning that Sao Paulo Brazil has banned all public print advertising from the city.

Believe  (2007)

Mockumentary 2007 PG 79 mins.  When unemployed steelworker Adam Pendon joins a multilevel marketing company akin to a pyramid scheme, he ropes his friends into joining and gets rich. But as Adam’s star rises, others who invest in the pipe dream end up with empty bank accounts.  Having been in Amway for 15 years and reaching the Ruby level, this movie is absolutely dead-on. Viewers who haven’t “succeeded” in an MLM and gotten to the “inner circle” will be unaware of the hypocrisy that exists in these companies. One sales show for the recruits, another for the somewhat believers, another for the committed, and still yet another show for the distributors who have “sold out” and have become a part of the so-called “organized crime” efforts. The laughing helped my therapy. After 10 years on the outside, I can now leave my home now without handing out cards to strangers, and am running my own successful business (not Amway). Wow, a must see!

The Persuaders

Documentary Frontline 2004 PBS’s long-running television series “Frontline” examines the inner workings of advertising and public relations and the men and women — dubbed “persuaders” — whose job it is to influence the buying habits of today’s consumers. See how they research the preferences of shoppers, pique their interest, entice them to part with their hard-earned money, and get their own messages across in an increasingly complicated and tech-savvy world.

The Century of the Self

Documentary series 2002.   Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.  To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? “Century of the Self” tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?  The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud.  Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

Episode One: Happiness Machines,  Season 1 Episode 1,  58 min.

The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.  Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticizing the motorcar. His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.  It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world.

The Merchants of Cool

Documentary Frontline 2001 The award-winning “Frontline” television show trains its investigative lens on marketing moguls who conduct endless surveys and focus groups sampling the tastes, attitudes and aspirations of American teens to determine exactly what they want. As Hollywood and Madison Avenue craft tailored versions of teenage life in movies, TV, music and advertising, just how far will they go to reach the hearts — and wallets — of American youth? They will do anything to tap into the 150 BILLION dollars of spending power that 12 to 19 year-olds possess. They are the “Merchants of Cool”, and they will use every technique in the book just to sell to you. This Frontline special is an exploration into the marketing machine that controls nearly 90% of what we read in print, see on TV and movies, and listen to on the radio. The Merchants of Cool (2001) is slightly dated at this point, and it contains many examples that were relevant during its release but less so now. Still, it is important that teens understand that not all images they encounter are benign, but rather a calculated effort to dip into their wallets.

Burt’s Buzz

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr28m. Burt Shavitz, the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, maintains a reclusive, low-key life in rural Maine — and a complex relationship with his famous company. The film looks at the man behind the portrait on a product line that morphed from a cottage industry to an industry behemoth. Burt’s Bees is no longer his company, but is mass-produced and owned by Clorox. Burt himself is an enigma. The film isn’t about Burt’s co-founder and ex-wife Roxanne, nor the company that even Burt seems to realize was almost wholly her creation. It is about Burt, whose contribution to that company was to raise the first bees, give it a name, and pose for that famous portrait used on the products. What he is not, and never was, was a businessman. He literally fell asleep on the job before Roxanne came in and put his bearded face on the map. If he’s an icon it’s because she made him one. Burt’s perpetual lack of interest in his job is unshakable. So while the product line in the past was produced in small quantities, natural, organic, etc., it is now a mass-produced corporate product made by Clorox. But many people who meet and see him on promotional tours may feel they are supporting that small earth-conscious farmer, when in reality they are not; in fact, they aren’t even helping Burt financially with their purchases of Burt’s Bees products. The name for what is being perpetrated here is “green-washing”. Maybe this documentary will make people more aware of the reality.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Docudrama 2013 R. Martin Scorcese’s high-rolling Wall Street drama is based on the memoirs of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose giddy career — involving audacious scams and confrontations with the FBI and other agencies — ended in federal prison. See Full Review

Boiler Room

Docudrama 2000 R 120 minutes. Underground casino operator and college dropout Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) becomes too involved in a sham New York brokerage firm and decides to go straight after his stern father (Ron Rifkin) rescinds all contact with him. Eager to make an honest living, win his father’s approval and the love of kindly Abbie (Nia Long), Seth risks everything when he turns his back on his greedy, hard-partying colleagues. Ben Affleck and Vin Diesel co-star.The film is based on interviews the writer conducted with numerous brokers over a two-year period, and is inspired by the firmStratrton Oakmont and the life of Jordan Belfort, whose autobiography was later adapted into Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort.


Dramedy 2013 R 1hr54m.  When a cantankerous old boozer named Woody thinks he’s won a million dollars magazine sweepstakes prize, his son David reluctantly takes a road trip with him to claim the fortune.  This uneasy duo encounters many obstacles, some quite amusing. Along the way, we gain some empathy for Woody and the man he once was. Many of us have seen this in our grandfathers and fathers — and how many have had to deal with the grouchy grumpy old men as adult siblings. And who is not to love his equally snappy grouchy wife?  The performances are low key. Woody is played so perfectly by Bruce Dern. I never felt such heartbreak and admiration for a character. Dern is one of the shining lights of this film. Another shining light is the script, filled with dark comedy.  Nebraska itself, both people and terrain, gives this movie authenticity. Perhaps being from a small town helps, but I thought the script was right on the money. It’s challenging to get the day-to-day lingo of small town folk, but this movie succeeds there.  It was a great idea to film this story in black and white — it adds so much to the characters.  Even though it is filmed in black and white, I didn’t even notice it after a few minutes.  Be prepared for a slow-moving film, but it has a pay off that’s well worth it.  Ahhh well, don’t miss this gem.  Rating: See it.  This movie is excellent, and I only wish there were more quality films like this one!  P.S. As seen in this movie, America is filled with out-of-the-way miserable dying places where people eek out dreary forgettable lives. If you live in such a place, get up and leave NOW.

Secrets of Selfridges

Documentary 2013 TV-PG 54m. Selfridges was the brain child of an American, Mr. Harry Gordon Selfridge. He brought about a revolution in the way that Londoners shopped, in 1909 introducing a new retail model which made shopping less of a practical pursuit and more of an adventure. This is an interesting documentary about how “shopping” really became what it is today, the favorite pastime of everyone, moneyed or not. Who would have guessed it would be a man to suggest having the perfume counter in the front of the store to attract women shoppers? In the end, Selfridge was arrested for vagrancy in front of the store he created.


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