Meet The Cult Turning Creative Production On Its Head
Facta Non Verba (Deeds, Not Words) adorns the crest of Cult’s production company logo. Talking to founder Constantin Bjerke, it’s clear he believes advertising is all about walking the walk, not talking the talk, when it comes to creating great brand films.
During the few short years it’s been open, the Cult team has completed a host of jaw-dropping commercials and short films that some production companies determined ‘impossible’ at pitch. They’ve spread warm feelings at intense Hilary vs Trump presidential rallies for Pedigree, they delved into the heart of a volcano in Guatemala for Burger King and they’ve found people around the world willing to change their skin permanently…
Building a Cult
A staunch believer that brands need to make the transition from campaign-driven advertising to editorially-driven, audience-first marketing, Constantin grew the Cult model out of his other intriguing venture, Crane.tv. Formed in 2010, two years prior to Cult, Crane.tv is a successful online video magazine that focusses on the topics of art, design, travel, fashion and food.
“When we started Crane.tv, we wanted to create content that wasn’t just regurgitating the big names and events that get so much coverage already. We wanted to really tap in to culture and give people an insight into a side of their interests which they couldn’t find anywhere else,” explains Constantin. “Steering clear of press launches and other impersonal events, we’ve always spent most of our time behind the scenes in the places that matter most to our subjects.”
With the growing need for engaging shareable commercial content, it wasn’t long before brands came knocking at Crane.tv’s door seeking bespoke productions.
“With a growing demand for our editorial expertise, opening Cult as a commercial venture seemed like the natural next step. Our connection to Crane.tv provides us with open doors to the entertainment world that most brands would find closed for commercial activity,” Constantin adds.
Although Cult do not currently supply any ATL strategy, their expertise in both film production and editorial strategy at Crane.tv feeds directly into Cult’s model. Their specialty? Producing content that bridges the gap between what brands want to say and what people want to hear.
“Typically, producing commercial content is a linear process that begins with what brands want. But that’s got to change. In 2020 over 80% of the internet will be video,” claims Constantin. “Every single person is bombarded with video all day long and consumers have long since had the ability to choose what they are looking at. They don’t have to watch ads anymore, so how are you going to make them want to watch them? To engage people, you have to start first with what they want to hear, what they want to read, see, eat, experience… and then work backwards.”
Faith in the Impossible
When it comes to producing content, be it in long or short form for online or TV, Cult have become the go to for achieving the impossible in production.
In November 2016, the team worked with BBDO to challenge the tensions between a divided USA during the 2016 presidential elections. A week before two pivotal presidential rallies - one Trump, one Clinton - the Cult team were tasked with shooting a brand film for Pedigree, placing a Trump supporter at a Clinton rally and vice versa. With obvious discord between the two parties, there were no good feelings to be shared with their implants - until they told them about their lost dog.
“We had an incredibly tight turnaround for this shoot. Not only as the rallies were on consecutive days in different states, which required travel for all the crew and equipment, but to find a trained dog and actor willing to put themselves in the most provocative position at short notice. Utilising our global network through Crane.tv we were able to make this a simple process,” comments Constantin.
A huge success, the film ran full length on both Fox and CNN on a number of key ad breaks during the election.
Following the job, Head of Production at BBDO, David Rolfe said: "The Cult team are so exciting because they bring a publishing mentality to all their work. They can move quickly and look at their work broadly as an ‘activation’ rather than just an execution. Their director resources are astute and nimble, and can deliver globally or locally, whichever is most fitting to your project. A very smart team."
With HQ in London and bases in LA, New York and Rio and access to Crane.tv’s collaborators in 35 cities around the world, Cult have the ability to operate and shoot in any market across the globe. Another of their incredible projects saw them utilise their unique network to find four people around the world with McDonald’s Big Mac tattoos and convince them to get them reworked into Burger King’s Flame-Grilled ‘Big King’ in Brazil.
When asked about how they sourced willing subjects from far and wide, and get them all into one place for a shoot, Constantin says, “Perhaps counter intuitively for most, finding these people was perhaps the easiest part of the process for us. We used our network at Crane.tv to hook up with tattoo artists around the world, who could then tell us who’d commissioned Big Mac tattoos. The real challenge was getting everyone together, who had varying experience of travelling around the world and getting them comfortable in front of a camera.”
The New Entertainment
Alongside their commercial work, the team are obviously a natural choice for creating branded entertainment series. In 2015, Cult worked with ALMAP BBDO (Brazil) to create a multi-episode prime time docutainment TV format based on Rio's iconic beaches. Each of the six episodes portrayed a human-interest story of the diverse and fascinating residents of Rio de Janeiro, around the iconic lifeguard stations along the beach, the 'Postos'.
Discussing the brief provided by legendary ALMAP BBDO creative director Marcello Serpa, Constantin says: “His brief was literally one line, ‘You’d like to work with Havaianas? Create a TV show for them,’ and we went off and delivered it. We were extremely humbled to be offered this project by Marcello. The story of the Rio beaches, not to mention Havaianas as a brand, are so intrinsically local to Brazil. Coming from London, it was great for them to trust us to capture that and make it interesting – especially when they could have asked anyone local to create it for them but our cultural sensitivity made us their choice.”
The Golden Rule
With agency and production models under continual pressure to change and adapt, Cult are carving the way for a new era of editorially-led production.
Constantin says: “The result of any type of marketing should be behavioural change in your audience, but how can you do that if your priority starts somewhere else. In my eyes, brands and agencies need to move from process driven models to user journey driven ones.”
Genre: Documentary , Experiential , Fashion & Beauty , In-camera effects , Luxury , People , Scenic , Storytelling , Strategy/Insight , Stunts