PR Lessons from La La Land

Last night’s Oscars provided the final twist in the tale of the hype surrounding La La Land. A story that unpicks the complexities of love and pursuing your dreams in a colourful, musical, emotional cocktail – the film has got everyone talking. As PR professionals, what lessons can we learn from its success?

*Warning: may contain spoilers*

The value of simple pleasures

In a climate of political turbulence and economic instability it’s little wonder that people are taking solace in seeing someone sing a beautiful song. When everything around us is unsettling, people are more receptive to uplifting messaging and simplistic, wholesome pleasures.

We saw similar behaviour when running our campaign for National Cream Tea Day last year. Planned in advance, the challenge of creating media cut-through was heightened when the date for the EU referendum was set for the same day. Contrasting the quintessentially British comfort of a cream tea with a stark and serious news agenda following the referendum results gave us the opportunity to leverage coverage and conversation, with people turning towards this simple pleasure as respite from the surrounding news.

 

There’s no better time to be a storyteller

La La Land brings to life an age old love story – a narrative played out hundreds of times before. Rather than this being a tired tale, in these unnerving times people are longing not only for simplicity, but for familiarity in the face of a reality that is becoming less and less recognisable. As Jez Nelson writes for Campaign, ‘with chaos and uncertainty around us, there’s a natural migration towards familiar and reassuring stories told in modern ways’.

La La Land GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This is an important touchpoint for brands trying to market themselves amongst a noisy and sometimes troubled news agenda. Play on your heritage, your roots, those aspects of your brand identity which are heartfelt and familiar. And even if people have heard your story before, don’t be afraid to find new ways to tell it again. There’s no better time to be a story-teller, providing escapism in the midst of confusion.

 

Enjoying the process

The twist in the tale was a much talked about feature of the film, and highlights another lesson to be learnt. Although the love story didn’t end as expected you couldn’t fail to enjoy the journey, glossed with rich cinematography and set to music. La La Land teaches you the value of embracing the moment, no matter the outcome.

La La Land GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This theme has also been adopted by Sainsbury’s in its recent #fooddancing campaign. The purpose-written song contains the lyric, ‘if you’re dancing while you’re cooking then you know you’re living well’ and urges people to fall in love with cooking again, bringing joy to the process.

 

The role of creativity

The popularity of La La Land and the lessons we can take from it bring about broader questions for creatives. As PR and digital professionals, creativity is our currency – but there are questions as to how we should use it.

Creative industries can choose – follow in the footsteps of La La Land and soothe consumers with the familiar, with the pleasant, or critique the regime and play upon fire and fury already ignited. Ian Heartfield, writing for Campaign, points out the value of angst in provoking revolutionary creativity, saying that, ‘we fight back by trying harder than ever to make only useful, beautiful things’.

If there’s one thing La La Land has taught us it’s that there’s inherent value and utility in beauty, especially in times like these.

 

Sasha Parkes - Wild West Comms

 

Words: Sasha Parkes

Senior Digital Exec at Wild West Comms