A city promo film

Websites house promotional films. Therefore, as web editors we are usually called in to produce promotional films. On this particular occasion we were commissioned to produce a short film that would change the negative perceptions people might have of a city.

The Brief

The brief for this film is to make Birmingham a destination of choice for staff and for students. Birmingham as a city has been viewed negatively by people and our promotional video should transform the negative perception into positive perceptions. This film should be used to advertise the city as a destination of choice ahead of the University to two target groups.


We explored the promotional material currently that currently exists to help promote the city and we felt we could offer a different perspective of the city.

The proposal is to produce a film that dismisses any pre-existing myths that Birmingham is grey, industrial and boring. We will leverage the city’s strengths to drive a positive reaction towards Birmingham and steer perceptions away from current misconceptions and cultural hearsay.

The target groups have been identified as:

  • Potential students
  • Potential staff

Commercial objectives

  • To increase student conversion and recruit more students
  • To recruit high quality staff to draw in more students

Marketing objectives

  • To produce a film to sit alongside wider marketing materials and complement any University literature
  • Boost the pride of the city


To advertise Birmingham as a city that people would want to live in, we wanted to make Birmingham as aspirational as possible. We initially wanted to set Birmingham as a backdrop to a wider story. This would add narrative to the film and hopefully make it more engaging and different than other promotional city videos. We wanted to set the scene that Birmingham has something to be proud of. We will portray Birmingham as an aspirational place to live and work without following traditional methods that have almost tried to act as both informative and tourist board.

We will not look to rebrand the city, but to reposition and offer a new perspective on Birmingham that traditional communications have not done in the past. Our film will match the brief and meet objectives by creating a theme and concept supported by emotion. We will tap into the emotions of the viewer by producing aspirational content rather than rational (factual) content. It is aspirational content that enhances brand and customer relationships and while we are not promoting a brand as such, we should, for this purpose view our city as a brand. By making Birmingham aspirational we are viewing the city a luxury product.

Research strongly suggests favourability towards brands/products is strongly correlated with emotional content in advertising, but not with factual content.

The theme and concept of the film will also benefit from letting the viewer relax – almost shut off from the world and offer no distraction. High attention weakens the effect of emotional content. So the implications are that advertising aimed at building strong relationships and positive perceptions is more effective if processed at lower levels of attention.


Aspirational brand strategy is concerned with creating the dream and generating positive emotional reactions from the emotional reactions of consumers (Hill 2010).

This strategy is based on the premise that emotions play an important role on our purchase decision making and that rationality in decision making is a fallacy. Attention and facts are not what we should be using in our film. Our aim is to reposition the city through imagery. Appealing to what the target audience want to be. We seek to differentiate the city through emotion and by doing so we aim to win hearts rather than minds.

Psychological satisfaction is thus consequently the strongest differentiation a marketer can create (Davis 2002).

The starting point for our strategy is imagination. Not only from us when deciding on our theme, but also from the consumer. They need to imagine what it would look like to live here. Imagination is an aid to practical thinking and opens the door to making purchasing decisions (Brown and Patterson 2000).

Brands and the aspirations they tap

McDonalds Family enjoyment and togetherness around a fast food meal
Nike Transformation on the sports field
Body Shop Social equality and justice in business
Birmingham Openness, room to breathe, cosmopolitan and a place to explore


The aim is to merge the brand image and physical product together in synergy so the product and presentation are consistent.

Theme and Concept

Initially, we wanted Birmingham to act and serve as a backdrop to a story. But then it made sense to develop our own story. Part of the brief wanted us to look beyond the borders of the city centre.  To make Birmingham look vibrant, warm and green. The city centre of Birmingham is relatively small when compared to the wider city, so it makes sense for us to shift focus (not completely, but partially) away from the city centre monuments.

We needed to give the notion that the viewer could explore more than just Birmingham if you lived here given the close transport links and location of the city.

Our strapline to the film went through a couple of iterations. The first was

‘Live in Birmingham, raised by the world’

We felt this needed some development.

This is a play on the Dutch saying, ‘born in Amsterdam, raised by the world’ which in itself is a play on the popular well known saying, ‘born and raised’.

So this got us thinking… born and raised cannot be live and raised…. What other popular saying starts off with the word ‘live’?

Live and breathe! ‘Live and breathe Birmingham’… too obvious and we lose the ‘world’ part.


Live in Birmingham, Breathe in the World’.

This links to the many themes of Birmingham and the changing perceptions of the city. Oxygen was discovered in Birmingham.  Birmingham minister Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen in 1774. Our city helps people breathe fresh clean air by having 571 parks totalling over 3,500 hectares of public open space (more than any other European city) and has the largest urban nature reserve in Europe. We are the city that allows people to breathe.

The breathing in the world part of the strapline relates to the city’s links to many parts of the world. The transport links, canals, airport, trains, motorways etc.  We could also draw on the relation to the diversity of the city including the national and international business markets. As an individual living in the city you will be exposed to a diverse range of cultures and nationalities.

Breathing in the world is tied to the brief that we want people to understand Birmingham is more than just the city centre. It’s about being able to escape to its rural areas in a matter of minutes. It’s about looking beyond the borders or the city and broader horizons.

The theme of oxygen, breathing in, puffing out a chest also draws on the concept of pride and additionally, living without constraint. Oxygen is clean and could also reflect a new start. We only need to look at the rebrand of BT-cellnet mobile company to O2 to act as a case study.

We have identified Birmingham’s strengths and only scenes of the city that have been through a rigorous round of justification about whether they are aspirational will be included in the final film.

Birmingham’s strengths:

  • Green
  • Young
  • Sport
  • Food
  • Culture
  • Travel
  • Diverse
  • Shopping

So why aspirational?

Lickey Hills (Birmingham)

As above.

Aspiration is a universal human experience that transcends age, geography, education and social status.

Alongside the rational versus emotional debate we need to discuss the global versus local concept.

This is a global film so we needed to plan the film avoiding activities that are closely associated with our culture. Our film will be experiential in the hope that it evokes sensations, feelings, imaginations and showcase an aspirational yet obtainable lifestyle.

Global consumer culture needs to convey meanings that are identified and recognised universally.

In addition to this we need to recognise low GDP countries aspire to be part of a global consumer culture.

Mid GDP countries will be swayed by the experiential appeal.

Factual messages centred on the cities functionality should not be used and avoided if we are to provoke positive associations with the audiences.

To design effective messages, we should consider using strong narratives, images of lifestyles and music (preferably with a female voice).

In general, we should be focusing on emotion and experience for mid-high GDP.


We are deciding against a traditional campaign which might seem like propaganda.

We recognise that advertising a destination is all about ‘show, not tell’. In doing, so we can overcome people’s negative views of the region which is hindering people’s choice as a destination. Subtly drawing on the city’s heritage, diversity and amenities with warm tones and classic cinematography will add credence. The theme and concept will be something that all aspire to. To be able to live and breathe in an environment that allows them to take time to reflect. All people can relate to the action or ceremony of finding a place to breathe, whether that be on their own or with a group.

The soundtrack we have chosen to play over the imagery is a song called ’10,000 Emerald Pools’. This is a contemporary track that references the action of breathing and therefore reinforcing our concept. There are lines that relate to the film and the need for a relationship. This could refer to the relationship of the people in the film and their city.

The staff video will be as part of a wider package. It will be commercial with interviews from academic staff that have made the move to the city to identify what their concerns were and how they were put aside once they made the move. We will also focus on more family orientated shots with a focus on schools and child care.

The staff recruitment film will link to a website with a list of schools popular locations outside of the city centre to live. This website could integrate google maps or a visual to show how close in proximity the city is to its surrounding areas. We will also work with the marketing teams to create a brochure to send out to staff.

The conventional comms model
Persuade people to come

New model

Our experiential model
Inspire people to join us


We need to inspire and provide something to aspire to through our visuals, which is why some scenes will be set through the viewpoint of the actors.

In the modern age, it would not be a film without creating a call to action. Something along the lines of ‘send us a two second video of where you go to relax’ #birminghambreathes

Kabir Ganguly

Kabir Ganguly

Web, Digital, Advertising, Media, Strategist, Music, Food, Football, Internet, Observer, Competitor. Managing Director - universitiesandtheweb.com

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