Skip links

Impact Documentaries in the Age of Digital Marketing

Impact documentary is one of the many documentary types used for video marketing. As 97.9% of Filipino internet users consume online videos weekly, video marketing is key to brand awareness and visibility in the country.

Since March 29, 1994, when the Philippines first logged in to the World Wide Web, the way Filipinos consumed media has changed dramatically. According to a January 2023 statistic,  85.16 million Filipinos, or about 73% of the population, have access to the Internet. Additionally, Filipino users consume online media for nine hours and 14 minutes on a weekly average. With this information, it has become clear that marketing through online platforms is an effective method of reaching specific demographics. To enhance reach, one type of media distributed online is called the “Impact” documentary—a sub-documentary genre designed to affect the audience emotionally. The genre features specific movements, events, and initiatives to showcase their effects on various sectors of society.

This article will discuss the history of the subgenre and its value in the marketing industry.

Blog Overview

Age of Digital Marketing

In a recent survey by Statista, it has been found that there is a ratio of four devices per person on average. All these devices have internet access. This means that digital marketing is key to brand awareness and visibility. Digital marketing provides businesses with measurable content plans and strategies, actionable data for boosting content, and cost-effectivity and sustainability in content production. Among these digital marketing tactics, video marketing reigns supreme. Currently, 81% of businesses utilize video marketing to boost their brand’s visibility. According to a Renderforest survey, video marketing increases brand awareness by 70%, traffic by 51%, and sales by 34%. With these numbers, it shows why our online feeds are saturated with video content.

Now, is video marketing the right tool for your business? Before that, let’s understand the root of the medium’s influence.

A Film Is Born

Because of its popularity, films have become integral to our society and culture. In the 1910s, during the golden age of Hollywood, theaters became the layman’s third place, a space away from home and work. Theatergoers gather for different reasons such as leisure, entertainment, escapism, education, and community. As films progressed from the Nickelodeon to silent movies and talkies, to color, these reasons were subconsciously injected into American culture.

As World War I slowly found its way to American shores, films became a medium of propaganda. For instance, “Hearts of the World (1918)” is a military film commissioned by the British government to writer and director D.W. Griffith. The film served as a reel to encourage individuals to partake in the war. The film showcased how the war disrupted day-to-day living, hopes and dreams, and family. With the films’ measurable influence, can you imagine the number of propaganda films produced during World War II?

Another example of film as a medium for propaganda is “Triumph of the Will (1935)” by Leni Riefenstahl. The documentarian captured Adolf Hitler in low-angle shots when he delivered his speeches, and in high-angle shots when his private planes landed.  In her signature documentary style, Riefenstahl glorified the dictator as this son of God who descended from the heavens to cleanse humanity. Watching these films will enlighten the audience of the power films possess and how damaging they can be in the wrong hands.

These propagandas are a testament to the value films hold. Films educate, influence, and inspire their audiences. However, in this contemporary time when offline and online spaces are saturated with content and videos, do films still bear the same value?

Documentaries in Depth

Did you know that filmmaking began with documentaries?

The first records of motion pictures were rooted in the mundane. “The Horse in Motion (1878)” was produced because of a scientific question: “Are all four of a horse’s hooves ever off the ground at the same time while the horse is galloping?” Eadweard Muybridge, a renowned English photographer, answered this by setting up multiple cameras that would capture images one after the other. Then, the continuous images were assembled into a reel. The technique showed all of the horse’s hooves did lift off the ground in three out of the 12 frames. “Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)” and “Arrival of a Train (1895)” are other examples of the first wave of motion pictures. These documentaries fall under the Observational Documentary or Fly on the Wall category. This technique became the cornerstone of documentary filmmaking. 

Aside from the aforementioned style, other documentary categories came to prominence in the years after the Second World War. The other subgenres are Poetic, Reflexive, Expository, Participatory, and Impact. Filmmakers utilize different styles for different intentions.

Currently, Impact documentaries are used by businesses and organizations to accomplish marketing goals. The goals are as follows: generating brand awareness, building brand loyalty, maintaining existing client relationships, introducing new services or products, being as formal or informal as needed, connecting human experience with branding, and creating an emotional connection.

Influence of Impact Documentaries

The main objective of Impact documentaries is to influence their audience. There are four kinds of Impact documentaries: change minds, change behaviors, change structures, and build communities. A filmmaker can mix and match the four to form the identity of their documentary.

When are Impact documentaries the most useful?

This film category works best if the filmmaker understands the needs of the project they are producing. Its usefulness is rooted in the filmmaker’s capacity to immerse in the environment where the stories transpire. This is because Impact documentaries deal with the specifics. It showcases objective observations, facts, and anecdotes. To strengthen your documentary, it must answer these questions:

What am I revealing?

  • This will allow you to identify the points you need to unravel and explore. The point you will be revealing is still unknown to the public.

What am I investigating?

  • This will provide you with a path toward ideas that require urgent attention. The ideas you will be investigating are known to the public yet are seldom talked about.  

What am I spotlighting?

  • This will emphasize an already existing concept that bears repeating. The concept you will be spotlighting is known to the public yet lost its momentum.

What am I humanizing?

  • This will let you discover new facets of a discourse that are often studied on the surface level. The discourse you will be humanizing is known yet weaponized to misguide and malign different marginalized sectors.

By answering these questions, you will begin to understand the story you will produce. Remember, the more specific your angle, the better.  

Impact Documentary Examples 

The following examples are a testament to the value of Impact documentaries.

Coca-Cola: 5by20

  • The initiative aimed to empower five million women by 2020. The Coca-Cola-backed campaign was a series of seminars and workshops that tackled business management and marketing. Through this two-minute documentary, Coca-Cola was able to showcase its Corporate Social Responsibility by assisting women all over the world.

Starbucks: Rebuilding Memories

  • A two-minute documentary that featured the life of Rosario, a mother who had lost a daughter. To cope with grief, Rosario started a scrapbooking club to preserve life-long memories. The club met at Starbucks every week. The Impact documentary showed Starbucks as a safe space for individuals like Rosario.

Stella Artois: Up There

  • A 12-minute documentary that put a spotlight on the lives of mural painters. The short film followed the struggles of these mural painters as they kept the medium alive. Stella Artois was able to capture its audience through the passion of its subject. The Impact documentary became a 12-minute product placement for Stella Artois without it looking like an advertisement. An exemplary mixture of art and business.

Photoshop: Startup Memories

  • This 18-minute documentary featured the four founders of the graphics editing platform, Photoshop. The four recounted their memories as they were launching the software into mainstream media. The Impact documentary was a mix of found footage, sit-down interviews, and graphics. It was able to encourage and inspire its audience through the stories and anecdotes of the founders.

David Lloyd Leisure: Declan Dunne Story  

  • This short documentary fell under the docu-fiction category. The majority of the stills might have been staged, but the participant’s truth was not compromised. This technique required skill and experience. In this compelling short, football player Declan Dunne narrated how he survived an impossible moment in his life. This Impact documentary showcased how the health and fitness club David Lloyd Leisure was able to support and provide for Dunne’s needs during recovery. Currently, this style of Impact documentary is the most commonly used. 

These examples show the different ways you can angle your story. It is important to take note of the common denominator among the five–their unique participants. In creating your stories, your characters become your plot. Selecting the right participants will be crucial to your Impact documentaries.

And to reiterate a point raised above, films can influence their audience. It is valuable to utilize this medium for the right cause.

Leveraging on the Influence

Planning to invest in Impact documentaries to showcase your body of work?

Even though Impact documentaries fall under the umbrella of video marketing, it does not mean the results are immediate. With offline and online spaces saturated with content, producing quality documentaries is essential. 

Here are a few tips to leverage the strength of Impact documentaries:

1. It Is Not an Ad

This form of video content relies on its ability to capture real people and events. You will be able to produce a captivating story by spotlighting your characters as someone your audience can empathize with.

2. Information Is Essential

Information isn’t only numbers and data, it can also be anecdotes, pull quotes, and montages. It is essential to include key information in your Impact documentaries as these will highlight the value of your work. Details also distinguish which documentaries are of quality.

3. Storytelling Is King

Similar to other forms of stories, Impact documentaries work best when they follow a structure. Context, characters, conflict, conclusion, and call to action are the five key points you need in your structure. You may mix them up or add a few more, but these five should remain consistent.

4. It All Boils Down to Production Quality

The previous three points will be futile if you will not be able to execute them properly. As the filmmaker, it is your responsibility to identify the appropriate equipment, treatment, and execution for the project. It is not about the equipment, it is about the people who utilize them.

In the end, Impact documentaries are only tools to boost your already existing narratives. In an age when video marketing reigns supreme, it is valuable to utilize these tools humanely and ethically. At its core, quality storytelling is the root of your video content.  

M2.0 Communications is a public relations company that has been helping brands tell meaningful, data-driven narratives. We offer content creation and video production services for brands to creatively tell their stories and engage their audiences. Visit our case studies page to learn more about our collaborations.

Share this post on: