A Cinematic Approach to Branded Content

Going beyond the traditional corporate video

When it comes to traditional advertising techniques, the jig is up. Over the past decade, social media has made information faster and easier to access than ever before. People want to know who they’re supporting, and it’s easy enough to find out. It’s not that the average consumer doesn’t want to know about brands. In fact, brand loyalty is on the rise. They just want more than a snappy advertisement or a dry corporate walkthrough. They want people. People they can relate to, whose values align with theirs.

Farmers of the Pontiac: Episode 3 from FIVE2NINE on Vimeo.

At Five2Nine, Creative Director Mike McKay uses cinematic storytelling to bring brands to life. The Farmers of The Pontiac, above, is a collaboration he’s excited to have put together for SADC Pontiac.

“When we think of the idea of a corporate video, not many people get a great visual image in their minds,” McKay says. “For us, it’s a real opportunity to flex our filmmaking muscles.”

Through this lens, corporate projects become mini-documentaries. It’s a time-consuming approach, but the final product has impact and longevity. 

An exciting example is William Amos’s 2019 campaign video for the Liberal party. The video captures Amos’s spirit, helping people identify with his campaign.

William Amos 2019 Campaign from FIVE2NINE on Vimeo.

cinematic branded storytelling

On set for The Story of Level Six with @gabesphotos

“For me, it’s really exciting to sink my teeth into these kinds of projects,” McKay says.

For The Story of Level Six, Kevin Cook, social media strategist for the company, had the idea to work with Five2Nine on a campaign.

“I had worked with Mike in the past,” Cook says. “His ability to captivate the audience and myself through stunning visuals and storytelling was exactly the feel I was looking for.”

In the video, McKay’s interview with Stig Larsson, company founder, is interspliced with dynamic photos and videos. The focus is less on the what of Level Six and more on the why.


The Story of Level Six from FIVE2NINE on Vimeo.

“We’re trying to take the audience, whatever the target audience is, on an emotional ride to connect with the brand and connect with their message,” McKay says. 

Larsson was immediately on board with the concept and felt it was the right move. “I thought it was a great idea,” he says. “To be able to tell my story and share it with everyone in a visual way was a proud moment. I really wanted to be honest, sincere, and genuine.”

In the year since its release, the video has made an impression on people. ”I had multiple friends, family, and industry colleagues reach out and mention how much they loved it,” says Larsson. “I felt really proud. To share my dream, all the hard work I have put into Level Six and have myself and my family portrayed in a 5-minute mini-documentary was an amazing feeling. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”

The approach feels simple, but it takes a special set of skills to pull off that authentic feeling. 

McKay says it’s not only about knowing storytelling techniques. It’s about getting the best out of someone while the cameras are rolling. “Knowing how to pull the emotion out and use it at the right time is a really important part of the cinematic experience,” he says.

On set for The Story of Level Six with @gabesphotos

It’s a special quality Five2Nine is known for. When clients are open to investing in this kind of project, the team gives it their all.

For Larsson, The Story of Level Six provided something you can’t get from your average ad campaign. 

“It’s not just about the biggest waterfall or coolest shot of someone paddling,” he says. It’s about aligning with our values and sharing our love for the water and our sport.”