Home > Articles > Business & Management

How Show Business Invents (and Reinvents) Media

With digital recording devices making it easier than ever for television watchers to avoid advertising, companies have to find new and interesting ways to reach customers with their message. This chapter highlights some of the more innovative ways that companies can get their message out.
This chapter is from the book

Anything can become a medium for show business. In some cases, show business invents new media out of ordinary objects (swimming pools, sandals, and splash guards). In other cases, by giving ordinary communication tools (documentary films, web sites, annual reports, novels) an unexpected and creative new use, media are reinvented to engage customers in their day-to-day lives.

One of the most successful independent films of 2002 was a sleeper hit called Dogtown and Z-Boys. This 90-minute documentary details the origins of skateboarding among a small group of California misfits in the 1970s who eventually became celebrities in this new alternative sport. The film was directed by Stacey Peralta, one of the original Z-Boys, and won several prestigious awards at major independent film festivals such as the Sundance Film Festival. What started as a limited initial release in three U.S. cities spread into a major phenomenon with the help of heavy and doting coverage in mainstream press like MTV and National Public Radio.

But except for one article in the business section of The New York Times, no one seemed to notice that this film was entirely financed (to the tune of $650,000) by Vans, the sneaker company whose shoes are the footwear of choice for the skateboarding subculture. This may sound like a lot to throw behind sponsorship of an independent artistic product, but Vans knew Mr. Peralta was a hero to their customers and saw his film as an opportunity to connect to them and their lifestyle by doing something less direct, less suspect, and much more valuable than a traditional media campaign.

In fact, Vans keeps a suitably low profile in Dogtown, which avoids making it seem crassly commercial. Their role as producers (Vans Off The Wall Productions) is mentioned only in the credits, and the product name appears only once in the film's dialogue. Instead, the camera does the talking, showing Vans on the feet of almost everyone onscreen in the entire movie. As a result, the film has been able to avoid the kind of criticism that overt product placement would likely bring in the alternative culture of independent film. But the real audience for the brand, the avid skateboarders whose culture it documents, noticed who had made it possible for their story to reach the silver screen.

Where does a shoe company get the idea to enter movie making? "It wasn't that hard an idea," according to Jay Wilson, executive producer of the movie and Vice President of Global Marketing for Vans. "Teens go to movies, go to skateboarding events. It was a pretty obvious connection." The concept started with a long profile of Mr. Peralta in Spin magazine called "Lords of Dogtown." When Peralta couldn't sell the idea to film his story to Warner Brothers, Vans stepped in. Wilson convinced his CEO to put up $400,000 to start, and then $250,000 to finish and promote it as their excitement over the film grew. Peralta directed the project, which remained his baby, and Vans got 80 percent ownership. With box-office totals at $1.4 million by year's end, the film has grown from a marketing coup for Vans to a big profit-maker, with more revenue to come from overseas distribution, DVD, and television.

Wilson calls this an example of self-liquidating marketing. "A friend in J. Walter Thompson asked me how I thought of it, and I said, 'You guys invented it!' Thompson's clients used to own their own shows, like the Burma Shave hours, the Gillette hours." Vans has been so pleased with the results of its first movie that they have already filmed a reality TV show with the WB network, leased out their Pipemaster's surf competition for the film Blue Crush, and invested heavily in a cross-promotion of an action film whose superhero also does a lot of skateboarding in Vans shoes. Meanwhile, Vans's profits have grown 66% between 1999 and 2002, driven by steep increases in U.S. sales.

Show Business in Entertainment Media

In this chapter, we look at how show business invents and reinvents media. Show business can turn anything into a medium for communication: shoes, coins, even bicycle seats. Show business can also take familiar forms of communication and adapt them to powerfully communicate brand experiences.

The first place where show business reinvents familiar communications is our entertainment media: movies, TV, theater, novels. When brands become an integrated part of the entertainment that customers embrace and share with peers (i.e., a favorite TV show, not the 30-second advertisement that interrupts it) they can provide an experience that entertains and engages customers in the brand.

The boldest entertainment-media show businesses are producing content of their own—like Vans's film with Stacey Peralta, which celebrated and was celebrated by their core audience, the sports enthusiasts who use their products and serve as trendsetters for other customers.

In 2002, DaimlerChrysler's Dodge division teamed up with MTV to create a reality show called the Fast Enuff Challenge. The show began with casting calls and test drives in the summer to find 15 real-life drivers for a Dodge racing competition. The contestants were filmed as they trained in professional racing, lived together, learned together, and finally competed against each other and celebrities from MTV's other programs in a climactic racing showdown. The whole Dodge-centered story was then turned into a 1-hour reality TV show that aired at the end of the year.

BMW turned heads when it went into the movie-making business in 2001, producing The Hire, a series of short films with leading international directors—John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Guy Ritchie, John Woo, and more. Each movie showed off the signature style of the director and featured major Hollywood stars (Gary Oldman, Don Cheadle, Madonna) and the recurring character of a driver behind the wheel of a BMW (played by Clive Owen). The movies were also unusual in that they could only be seen on BMW's website: a new form of advertising—and entertainment—for affluent target customers who weren't easily reached by television spots. Visitors online can watch the films, download the movies or wallpaper images to their desktop, order a DVD, read credits and plot synopses, or view trailers and shorts on the making of the films. This bold investment in online creative content has paid off in avid customer interest. More than 10 million films have been watched from BMW's website. More importantly, 2 million visitors have registered at the site, with 60 percent of those opting-in for continuing communication from BMW, and an amazing 94 percent making an online recommendation to a friend.[9]

In Dogtown, the Fast Enuff Challenge, and The Hire, Vans, Dodge and BMW took the lead to help create and produce original content that told a story with their brand in a central role. They were careful to partner with others with the knowledge or experience to help tell the story (Peralta, MTV, BMW's stable of Hollywood directors). Vans and Dodge also took the step of including the customers they were trying to reach in the process of making the story: Dogtown was a film for, of, and by the skateboarding community; Fast Enuff Challenge was a TV show made with and about the customers Dodge was trying to reach. This kind of show business collaboration brings close communication and bonding with customers.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020