Morgan Spurlock Interview
Morgan Spurlock Interview
Did your opinion of advertising change, between the beginning and the end of the film?

Morgan Spurlock

Erm, I think that what I realised with this film was the real value of co-promotion. Because what happened with this film is we were able to harness the marketing power of 22 brands, because when the film came out in theatres we went from 15 brands that were on at Sundance to 22, we signed on seven more during that period. So to have 22 companies that are lending you marketing support, advertising support, letting us take over their websites, have access to their mailing lists, their Twitter feeds, Facebook, the social media, the conglomerates they have their outreach in, made a huge difference, just in the awareness of the movie.

And what also I think changed for me was really having a deeper understanding of how manipulative advertising is, the whole idea of neural marketing, the idea that they're putting people in MRI machines just so they can further manipulate you and lessen that idea of free will by getting the majority of the responses to be identical, is frightening. It is as futuristic and as scary as you can get today. It'll get scarier but right now that's probably one of the scariest things that's happening today.
The contracts were also pretty scary from the looks of them. Do your contractual obligations extend to the press tour? Because I just had some POM Wonderful out there and it was delicious.

Morgan Spurlock

And it was delicious, right? And it was probably the greatest anti-oxidant you've ever drank? [Laughs] In most of our contracts, when I would go on television or when I would go places that I would make best efforts to take POM with me and we went to countries, like I just visited Norway and Sweden, POM hasn't gotten there yet so it's not like I'm going to be carrying POM in my suitcase just to make sure it happens – if it's not there, it's not there, there's nothing I can do.

You know, when we started screening the film for critics in the States, as soon as they would walk out, there would be POM girls outside the theatre handing them POMs. And one of the things that happens when you watch this film is you do crave it, you want one. And so when you walk out, you get it when someone hands it to you and you take a drink and you're like, 'Holy shit, they got me', because I wanted one, I walked out of the theatre and I got one and there's a real full circle that happens in those moments that I think is beautiful. And that's really what I think makes the movie work on a lot of levels.
I was there in 2004 when Super Size Me came out and at that point, Sao Paulo was like Blade Runner...
Were the companies that you did use aware of how many other companies had turned you down beforehand?

Morgan Spurlock

No, they had no idea. None of them had any idea. And when I showed up at POM, I was like, 'And when I got the idea for this film, I thought of you first,' I was like, 'You are the people that should be sponsoring this film,' so they all thought they were the first choice up until the film was actually made.
You indicated earlier that you're still somewhat ambivalent about advertising as a whole. Advertising is nowadays seen by some people (and especially young people) as a sort of conduit for creativity. What do you think about that?

Morgan Spurlock

I think that advertising can be creative, I think that advertising can be artistic. I have friends who work in the advertising business and it can be very artistic. I have friends of mine who work in marketing who said, ‘Marketing's very artistic' and I said, 'No, no – marketing's very scientific'. I said, 'There's a real difference.' There's something very scientific about marketing that has a real kind of checks and balances about how things work. I don't find marketing to be that creative – I think it can be clever, I think it can be really smart, but I don't find it to be that artistic, whereas I think advertising can be.
I want to ask you about Sao Paulo, because that scene [with the city entirely free of outdoor advertising] is extraordinary and I could have watched a whole film about it. How on earth did that come about?

Morgan Spurlock

Incredible, right? Yeah. It was an amazing thing. When the mayor, with the city council, got the whole idea behind it, they were dealing with a huge crime problem, a huge pollution problem and then for them to basically throw out, 'You know, the first thing we should do is eliminate the distractions, so people can see what's happening.' And then when they removed all these billboards and they saw how filthy the facades were and how dirty the city was, the next thing they did was clean up the city. So then suddenly all the buildings got remade, the facades got repaired, all these giant sky-scrapers got new paint jobs on the outside and slowly the city started to have a different feel to it, it had a very different skin.

I was there in 2004 when Super Size Me came out and at that point, Sao Paulo was like Blade Runner. Like there were giant neon signs everywhere, there was more per capita use of private use helicopters in Sao Paulo than anywhere else in the world. And to go back and see the transition that has happened now, six years later, when I was there last year, was incredible. I mean, it is a city that has really reinvented itself.
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Content updated: 18/10/2019 23:11

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