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The Naked Brand: A Revolution That Will Be Televised

The Naked Brand is a clever new documentary about the revolution taking place within the world of advertising and the opportunities being created for brands to evolve and remain relevant to increasingly savvy consumers. Produced by advertising agency Questus, whose founding partner Jeff Rosenblum wrote and directed, The Naked Brand features interviews with some of the world’s leading brands — including Unilever, Patagonia, Pepsi and Zappos — advertising innovators such as Alex Bogusky, and Shaquille O’Neal, who comments from personal experience on the importance of authenticity in branding. The film was released digitally today on Amazon and iTunes.

I spoke to Rosenblum last week about the film’s message, the opportunities many brands are missing, and what it means now that brands are “naked.”

Q: As an advertising industry insider, what inspired you to make this film?

Jeff Rosenblum: I sincerely believe that the advertising industry can help move the planet forward one small step at a time. Advertising is the connection point between brands and consumers, and when we can influence corporations to make changes, those changes can have a profound impact on the planet.

What I see as a consumer is totally different than what I see as a professional – that was the real inspiration for this movie. As consumers, sure, we see ads, occasionally some good ones, but we also go to ratings and reviews, we speak to experts, we call our friends and family, we go to brand evangelists, we use mobile technology, social technology, dinner table conversation. In the advertising industry, that’s not the way we act — we create an ad and we think that people see the ad and decide to purchase a product. What we don’t realize is that everything about the way we communicate has gone through a revolution in the last 10 years, and advertising really hasn’t changed at all.

Q: Who is your target audience for the film?

JR: I think the core target audience is brands, and the advertising industry particularly on the brand side, not necessarily on the agency side. But it’s been exciting and fun to see a lot of consumers who love the story. 

Q: What is your goal for the film — to call brands to action?

JR: We created the film because we have an ad agency, Questus, and we’ve positioned ourselves as leaders of the revolution. We’re at the early stages of it  we’re seeing some brands make some really great changes. But if you look at most of the brands out there, they’re sort of using antiquated techniques. So more than anything, we want to fundamentally change the advertising industry, and I think a byproduct of that is fundamentally changing corporate behavior.

What we don’t want the film to be is a ‘green’ story  ‘be sustainable because it’s good for the environment.’ The story we want to tell is, when you start moving the planet forward, you as a corporation can make more money. And that doesn’t sound as nice as ‘you should behave better because it’s the right thing to do,’ but I think it’s more of a sustainable business practice. Corporations are here to make more money, not save the planet. So we really want to get that out  that this is a great path to profitability. Jeff Rosenblum

Jeff Rosenblum

Q: Do you think brands are becoming social media savvy quickly enough?

JR: I think brands in many ways have misevaluated the power and potential of social media, but they’re starting to wake up. They’ve realized that social media is a great way to reach their target audience with more interruptive messages. For example, now you can actually buy ads that sit right on your Facebook wall, and that’s extremely compelling because brands need to be where their audience goes. But that’s not the big lesson.

The big lesson is that social media makes brands completely transparent. They’re essentially naked. What that means is, if a corporation creates a crappy product  if they behave unethically  no advertising message can cover that up. Brands are spending a ton of time figuring out how they can create great content and ads for social media, but what they should be saying is, instead of facing outward, let’s turn our focus inward  let’s focus on our own behavior. When we establish excellent corporate behavior, people will carry that message on social media platforms much more effectively than we ever could with a paid advertisement.

Q: Are you seeing new, more innovative ways advertisers are engaging consumers?

JR: It’s really about focusing inward on behavior and creating a great brand platform. For example, consider my interaction with Patagonia. I’ve got a Patagonia jacket and I proselytize for Patagonia  I put it on Facebook and Twitter, I go to presentations and talk about Patagonia , because they stand for much more than just a great jacket. They’ve proven that they care more about the environment than they do about short-term profits. That’s why they have things like the Footprint Chronicles, that ad last year that said ‘Don’t buy this jacket,’ and the Common Threads Initiative. As a consumer, as someone who could be a brand evangelist, I want to spread that message for Patagonia. So it’s not about a cool trick or tool or gimmick that Patagonia put on Facebook or Twitter  it’s really about focusing on that behavior, and then it’s going to happen naturally. Because people are going to believe in that platform a lot more than they’re going to care about some social media gimmick.

When was the last time you called a friend and said, ‘you should buy this product because the ad is great’? It’s not realistic behavior. But when was the last time you bought or recommended a product because you found out something great about the way the company behaves  because it’s a sustainable brand? That’s something that you can get behind as a consumer. 

Q: What’s next for you?

JR: Two things. One is continuing to lead this revolution by pointing our clients and this industry in the right direction  this direction that says behavior is much more important than messages, that’s it’s time to be great, not just say you’re great. The second thing is, we’ve just kicked off working on a book on a similar topic. The notion of the book is to bring in case studies, get more granular and give very specific guidance about actions, tactics and tools that can be used to leverage this revolutionary way of thinking.

I still believe in the power of advertising  it can still do incredible things for a brand. The issue is, it doesn’t do nearly as much as it once did because it’s been disrupted by all this new technology. I don’t have a technical analysis on this, but my gut instinct says, take 20% of your advertising budget and put that towards better brand behavior. What if you took all those millions of dollars and just made your business practices more sustainable? That becomes marketing with meaning. 


Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor of Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]