Avant Card and Sydney Film Festival – 23 fabulous years!

May 9th, 2017 by Avant Card

To celebrate the launch of the 2017 Sydney Film Festival program, and the fact that Avant Card has been producing campaigns for the festival since 1994, we spoke to James Woolley, Head of Marketing and Customer Relations.

“I’ve been with Sydney Film Festival for eight festivals, and have done 19 film festivals in total, including several Melbourne International Film Festivals, Mardi Gras Film Festivals, and (the sadly closed) Brisbane International Film Festival.”

“I started at Sydney Film Festival in the ticketing team, and somehow managed to work up to Head of Marketing and Customer Relations – it’s a been a long journey, but I feel very lucky to be at a company which would encourage such growth.”

Charlie Stone, General Manager at Avant Card, reflects on her working relationship with the festival. “Sydney Film Festival became one of my clients the very first day that I started at Avant Card, and working with them is great! They are fun, creative and awesome folks. Being able to see the festival grow over the years, and how our services have been a part of that growth has been rewarding.”

“I always look forward to the festival each year, having the opportunity to see films that I wouldn’t generally be able to. I usually see five films across the festival each year (if I had time I would see more)!”

The 2017 Avant Card campaign for Sydney Film Festival is extensive, and part of the marketing vision that Woolley inherited from his predecessor. “Our previous Head of Marketing, Craig Donarski, is responsible for this year’s campaign look and strategy. He wanted to achieve a campaign that was colourful, attractive and, most importantly, had a broad appeal. The inspiration behind the campaign was collage, with all the associations of multiple perspectives, combined voices, artistry, inclusion and modern media that that notion brings. A number of collage artists were invited to pitch their designs, and the winner we chose was our ‘gemstone’ design which we felt best represents our theme: From Every Angle. The outline was then sent to our designers who used images from films from this Festival and previous ones to create a design and marketing campaign that brought together everything Sydney Film Festival aims to represent.”

“Every year it becomes more important for us to use a flexible combination of digital and physical, newer and more traditional, methods for our marketing campaigns. Through Avant Card we have produced a postcard, a mini-guide and a poster distributed throughout the city and in cinemas. We use street advertising, aiming to brighten up gloomy June days with our colourful designs. An exciting return for SFF this year is the Find a Program Guide Tracker, which audiences can use on their phones to find where their nearest supply of Program Guides is available – thanks Avant Card! We use television adverts and, of course, our social media campaigns are becoming more important with every Festival. It seems to be the combination of all of the above, however, that produces the most successful results and makes us most visible and present.”

“I have just begun working as Head of Marketing this year, [however] as this is my eighth year with Sydney Film Festival, I have seen a lot of change and development over that time. Our earlier campaigns were attractive and effective, but also a lot more conservative. As time has changed, so has our audience, and we have to try and keep up with that, whilst still appealing to as broad an audience as possible. Our campaigns have become much more colourful, and playful, and much less academic.”

Pat Mackle, founder and Managing Director at Avant Card, reflects on how the Sydney Film Festival campaign artwork has changed over time.

“The earliest card was back in 1994 – it was very text heavy with an abstract light fractal. The following year I think they really nailed the design. Sydney Film Festival is so synonymous with the State Theatre, and they used the beautiful steps in the foyer with a film reel cascading down the staircase. It’s a very memorable image using famous stills from movies.

23 years later and the designs have really changed. They really use bright, colourful, almost-glow-in-the-dark creatives – they look so modern when you compare them against the very early ones!”

We are always interested in why clients choose to work with us. Regarding the time-tested relationship between Sydney Film Festival and Avant Card, Woolley cites results. “Avant Card offer an unparalleled visibility throughout Sydney. Our materials are simply everywhere, and are increasingly coming to set the agenda for the arts in Sydney – we simply didn’t feel like we could miss out on that!

The launch of our annual campaign is the part of the Festival build-up we are always most excited about, and Avant Card plays an important role in increasing this sense of anticipation as they publish the postcard, which is the first time anyone sees the new look. In the past, we have also released teaser artworks to hint at what the year’s design will be and Avant Card have helped us achieve this too – so they add a great sense of fun and excitement in the lead up to the festival and really make it feel like the city-wide event we want it to be.”

Avant Card has helped us achieve our goals year after year, so to Sydney Film Festival it is an important relationship. We always find Avant Card a pleasure to work with and they make it easy for us to achieve our visions for our campaigns.”