Making political ads: advice for brands and directors

From TV ads to music videos and brand-funded documentaries, we talked to four directors about the rise of political films and how to create meaningful content that stands out

Childish Gambino’s This is America video was one of the most talked about moments in pop culture last year. Through arresting visuals and clever choreography, it offered a  powerful commentary on modern day America – referencing police violence, gun crime and racism – and it has since racked up more than half a billion views on YouTube alone.

It’s not just musicians who are using their platform to comment on current events: Nike has spoken out in support of Colin Kaepernick, Gillette made a film addressing toxic masculinity and soap brand Lush sparked debate with its controversial campaign on undercover police tactics.

Alongside this, a new generation of filmmakers and photographers are finding ways to explore political and social issues and give voice to under-represented communities, while brands and media platforms from Vice to Gucci and Smirnoff are investing in shorts, features and documentaries that address human rights issues, LGBT+ equality and Brexit.

So what is driving this surge in political filmmaking? “The world is fucked, and I think people want to address that,” says Joe Alexander, a director and Head of Film at Boiler Room. “The past five years, we’ve seen such polarity in politics, and we’ve seen that presented right there on our phones and laptops – politics and current affairs are no longer just the realm of Newsnight or late-night programming,” he adds.

Alexander also puts this down to a growing appetite for political commentary: “Young people especially seem very politicised, and are willing to watch stories that I don’t think I would have watched ten years ago,” he adds.