While it's a fairly straight-forward, academic documentary, "Make|SHIFT" shows the amazing evolution and transformation of advertising, from its earliest incarnations of the 20th Century, to the hyper-focused targeted ads of today. It even hints at what is to come.
And while its an interesting journey to see how far we've come, the documentary is also about the "ad men" - and women - who have influenced their industry, and in turn American culture, over the decades. It's the subjects that add to the worthwhile nature of this indie doc, and what makes "Make|SHIFT" effective.
Any small business person or really anyone selling anything should make "Make|SHIFT" required viewing. From the dawn of radio to the Golden Age of TV, advertising has always been an integral part of the experience. But as someone points out in the doc, it was only a matter of time that the masses would be OK with being broadcast to, as opposed to wanting to express themselves.
So radio ads evolved into TV ads, with mostly men standing around reading radio advertisements on air. The dreaded TV commercial break soon followed. As TV proudly and arrogantly owned the communication space, it never quite saw the internet coming, and how advertising would change with it.
Part of what makes the film work is that we all gravitate towards what is relatable...and there is not one among us who has not been drowned in advertisements our entire lives. Like other businesses, the best advertisers are the ones that are adaptable and who can lead regardless of what new space they enter into. Those that can't adapt, die, figuratively speaking.
"Make|SHIFT" works as a stroll down memory lane, as most viewers will remember each era of advertising that is discussed and represented on-screen with fond memories of many of the classic ads showcased. It also lands as a reminder of how quickly things have moved with the advent of better, faster technology over the years (a fun portion of the film is dedicated to the story of Burger King's infamous "Subservient Chicken," one of the first interactive internet campaigns that, somehow, led to them selling more chicken).
But most of all it makes an interesting point: Commercial advertising needs to be an active part of the conversation and our daily lives, not an interruption to that conversation and our daily lives. It's a virus that has learned to survive and is now a part of us, still ready to change as new technologies present new challenges into the future. "Make|SHIFT" doesn't mention the idea of the consumer themselves having become the actual product for larger corporations to profit from (a theme that was well explained in the recent Netflix doc, "The Social Dilemma"), but it works. I for one, was sold.
Run Time: 1 hour 16 minutes.
Directed by Casey Suchan ("Rock the Bells") and Tim Cawley ("From Nothing, Something: A Documentary on the Creative Process").
"Make|SHIFT" is available On VOD on Tuesday, March 30th, 2021.
For more info go to: www.MakeShift.film.
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