Local ad agency wins big film award with small budget

Barrie D’Rozario Murphy

A goat, a nun and a blow-up doll walk into a bar. Sounds like a joke.

But the punch line is that this unlikely trio snagged one of the advertising world’s most prestigious awards for Minneapolis agency Barrie D’Rozario Murphy.

Last month, BD’M was one of only two U.S. agencies to receive a Gold Lion for film at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France.

They won it with a 30-minute creation (note: there’s no direct link to this film — you have to locate it at the agency website), shot in a single weekend with a minimal budget, that resembles the kind of mind-numbing surveillance video that puts late-shift security guards to sleep in industrial parks across America.

Except BD’M installed their video on the monitors in the bar of one of the Twin Cities’ swankier hotels, the Chambers in downtown Minneapolis. And they spiced up the shots of dim stairwells and empty hallways with brief, unexpected slices of life — the goat, the doll, a nude woman in a bathtub, a couple arguing in their hotel room — that had bar patrons watching to see what would happen next.

At our agency, we always say that big ideas trump big budgets, and BD’M certainly proved the truth of that creative proposition.

“I think the most fun I had during the whole thing was going to the Chambers bar and listening to the debates about whether it was real,” said David Murphy, the agency co-president.

The video created such a stir, in fact, that some hotel guests complained to the management about the lack of privacy, fearing that bar patrons might soon be peeking into their hotel rooms. Far from being worried about upsetting their guests, management at the edgy Chambers welcomed the controversy.

The Chambers bills itself as an “art hotel” and displays more than 200 pieces of art throughout the premises. With the film, the hotel became more than a venue for displaying art — in a sense, it became the artist.

“A lot of advertising is outside in,” said BD’M co-president Stuart D’Rozario. “This is inside out.”

The film is “Fellini-esque,” according to the creative team. By design, it’s boring in stretches, with 30 to 40 percent of the footage showing nothing more exciting than empty hotel rooms.

“Then you see something and you go, ‘Did I just see that?’ ” said Bob Barrie, executive creative director.

Boosting bar traffic
The concept for the film was hatched during a routine meeting with the Chambers staff on how to boost bar traffic. There was no market testing, no focus groups — just a great idea turned around quickly. Since the film began running, bar traffic is up about 30 percent, according to the agency principals.

To keep costs low, actors shared screen time with hotel employees — “and the goat worked for scale,” Murphy noted.

The film debuted last fall just before the Republican National Convention hit town, and ran throughout the winter. It’s been more or less retired from circulation now, although it still runs occasionally.

And as a Gold Lion winner, the Chambers film will be added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Founded less than three years ago, BD’M is still a relatively new agency, which makes the honor all the more exciting, D’Rozario said. But it’s more than just a case of an agency making a quirky film, Murphy added.

“This is what happens when you understand the business problem to be solved and the context in which you’re talking to customers,” he said. “Then you take a risk and swing for the fences.”

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Katherine Werner on 07/13/2009 - 12:50 pm.

    I looked everywhere on their site to see this award-winning piece and couldn’t find it. Really wanted to see it, too.

  2. Submitted by Patrick Phenow on 07/13/2009 - 01:46 pm.

    New Work> Brand Experiences> Chambers

    Short video about the film, not the actual film.

  3. Submitted by John Reinan on 07/14/2009 - 12:07 am.

    Thanks, Patrick. Yes, they didn’t post the entire piece. But enough to get the flavor of it.

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