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Consumer society under the spotlight at Ecofilms with Czech Dream

Our consumer society floods us daily with advertising messages designed to make us buy goods and services manufactured or provided by companies. But are these messages trustworthy ? Last year, Ecocinema presented an insight into the inner workings of the corporate world with The Corporation by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbot. This year Ecofilms, as the international film festival on ecology held each year in Rhodes (Greece) is now known, educates us on how we are manipulated by advertising as it presents Czech Dream by Filip Remunda and Vit Klusak.

At the end of their scholarship in a Czech filmschool, two students decided to make their last school assignment on advertising. But their project turned out to be a huge scam that would be talked about all over the Czech Republic. In a country still freshly converted into a consumer society, they wanted to prove that advertising manipulates candid consumers and that people shouldn't take its messages for gold. So they set up a real-life experiment, asking a renowned ad agency, Mark/BDDO, to invent for free a real campaign for a huge hypermarket that didn't exist, their incentive being that if they could prove they can sell something that doesn't even exist, it would be a massive selling point to their paying customers.
The documentary follows all the steps of the creation and execution of the ad campaign, from the client briefing, to the finding of the name of the hypermarket, Czech Dream, the definition of its promises in focus groups, the makeover of both students into managers, the making of a price brochure, flyers, press inserts, bus stop posters, the filming of a TV campaign, the scoring of a theme song and even the building of the front wall of the mock hypermarket. All was professionally looking and professionally made for a cost totalling 300,000 euros on a total film budget of 700,000 euros. Finally 2,000 people came to the phony opening and the camera cynically filmed those people running eagerly to the front wall, until they discovered the scam and turned their anger to both students.

The experience is original, audacious, spectacular and fun for the viewer (it is yet also obviously guilt inducing as the experience is clearly cynical). The film is quite successful in revealing the inner workings of an ad campaign, something people unfamiliar with marketing rarely see. Yet it somehow fails to convince us that ads can sell anything to unsuspecting and manipulated buyers. In fact, the campaign was apparently so well conceived that it seemed impossible not to believe it as all the codes of communication were skilfully used. Above all, the film obscures the fact that laws are here to prevent ads from making false promises, even though they can play on the fringe with ambiguity, and there is of course a difference between a blatant lie and ambiguity. So if people follow the ads, it is not because they are stupid and uneducated, it's because they trust the laws of their country, and more broadly the contracts our modern societies are built upon. The message is probably also a little confused by partisan comparisons made with the campaign for the EU vote which rolled out at the same moment in the Czech Republic. However, these legal aspects and the EU comparison do not diminish the entertaining and informative values of this energetic documentary.

Olivier Delesse

Full coverage of Ecofilms 2005 on :

Ecofilms' opening stroke a sensitive chord

A decent factory tackles corporate responsibility at Ecofilms

Ecofilms also gives room to short films

Ecofilms grants a Medwet award for the second year

A spiritual angle on ecology at Ecofilms

Ecofilms presents an experimental answer to poverty in doc

Consumer society under the spotlight at Ecofilms with Czech Dream

Rhodes Golden Deers Awards

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