The greatest TED Talk ever sold - Morgan Spurlock


I have spent the past few years putting

myself into situations that are usually

very difficult and at the same time

somewhat dangerous I went to prison

difficult I worked in a coal mine

dangerous I filmed in war zones

difficult and dangerous and I spent 30

days eating nothing but this fun in the

beginning a little difficult in the

middle very dangerous in the end in fact

most of my career I have been immersing

myself into seemingly horrible

situations for the whole goal of trying

to examine societal issues in a way that

make them engaging that make them

interesting that hopefully break them

down in a way that make them

entertaining and accessible to an

audience so when I knew I was coming

here to do a TED talk that was gonna

look at the world of branding and

sponsorship I knew I would want to do

something a little different so some of

you may or may not have heard a couple

weeks ago I took out an ad on eBay I

sent out some Facebook messages some

Twitter messages and I gave people the

opportunity to buy the naming rights to

my 2011 TED talk that's right some lucky

individual corporation for-profit or

nonprofit was going to get the

once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because

I'm sure Chris Anderson will never let

it happen again

- by the naming rights to the talk

you're watching right now that at the

time didn't have a title didn't really

have a lot of content and didn't really

give much hint as to what the subject

matter would actually be so what you

were getting was this your name here

presents my TED talk did you have no

idea what the subject isn't depending on

the content could ultimately blow up in

your face especially if I make you or

your company look stupid for doing it

but that being said it's a very good

media opportunity you know how many

people watch these TED Talks it's a lot

that's just a working title by the way

so even with that caveat I knew that

someone would buy the naming rights now

if you'd have asked me that a year ago I

wouldn't been able to tell you that with

any certainty but in the new project

that I'm working on my new film we exam

in the world of marketing advertising

and as I said earlier I put myself in

some pretty horrible situations over the

years but nothing could prepare me

nothing could ready me for anything as

difficult or as dangerous as going into

the rooms with these guys

you see I had this idea for a movie what

I want to do is make a film all about

product placement marketing and

advertising where the entire film is

funded by product placement marketing

and advertising so the movie will be

called the greatest movie ever sold so

what happens in the greatest movie ever

sold is that everything from top to

bottom from start to finish is branded

from beginning to end you know from the

above the title sponsor that you'll see

in the movie which is Brand X now this

brand the Qualcomm Stadium the you know

Staples Center these people will be

married to the film in perpetuity

forever and so the film explores this

whole idea

it's what in perpetuity period forever

but not only we're gonna have the Brand

X title sponsor but we're gonna make

sure we sellout every category we can in

the film so maybe we sell a shoe and it

becomes the greatest shoe you ever wore

the greatest car you ever drove from the

greatest movie ever sold you know the

the greatest drink you've ever had Kurt

see the greatest movie ever sold so the

idea is beyond just showing that brands

are part of life but actually get them

to finance the film is them to finance

the film and actually we show the whole

process of how does it work the goal of

this whole film is transparency you're

gonna see the whole thing take place in

this movie so that's the the whole

concept the whole film start to finish

and I would love for scene journey to

help make it happen yeah you know it's

funny because when I first hear it it is

the ultimate respect for an audience

I don't know how receptive people are

going to be to it though

you have a perspective or do you I don't

want to use angle because that has sort

of has a negative connotation but do you

think that do you sort of know how this

is gonna play out no idea how much money

did it take to do this

1.5 million they're good I think that

you're gonna have a hard time meeting

with them but I think it's you know

certainly worth pursuing a couple really

big obvious brands who knows maybe by

the time your film comes out we look

like a bunch of blundering idiots what

do you think the response is gonna be I

the responses mostly will be no but as

the toughest cell because the felmers

tough sell because of me

both that meaning I'm not so optimistic

so can you help me I need help I can

help okay good good awesome yeah we got

a fight figure out which brands yeah

that's that's the challenge when you and

you look at like the people you deal

with we've got some places we can go

okay I'll turn the camera

I thought turn the camera off meant

let's have an off-the-record

conversation turns out it really means

we want nothing to do with your movie

and just like that one by one all of

these companies suddenly disappeared

none of them wanted anything to do with

this movie I mean I was amazed they

wanted absolutely nothing to do with

this project and I mean I was blown away

because I thought the whole concept the

idea of advertising was to get your

product out in front of as many people

as possible to get them as many people

to see it as possible especially in

today's world this this intersection of

new media and old median the fractured

media landscape isn't the idea to get

that new buzz worthy delivery vehicle

that's going to get that message to the

masses now that's what I thought but the

problem was you see my idea had one

fatal flaw and that flaw was this

actually no that was not the flaw

whatsoever that would've been a problem

at all see this would have been fine but

what this image represents was the

problem see when you do a google image

search for transparency this is

this is one of the first images that

comes up so I like the way you roll

sergey brin no this this was the problem

transparency free from pretense or

deceit easily detected or seen through

readily understood characterized by

visibility or accessibility of

information especially concerning

business practices that last line being

probably the biggest problem you see we

hear a lot about transparency these days

you know our politicians say it our

president says it even our CEOs say it

but suddenly when it comes down to it

becoming a reality something suddenly

changes but why

well transparency is scary like that odd

still screaming bear it's unpredictable


like this odd country road and it's also

very risky what else is what else is

risky eating an entire bowl of Cool Whip

that's very risky no when I started

talking to companies you know and

telling them you we wanted to tell this

story and they said no we want you to

tell a story we want you to tell a story

the way we just want to tell our story

see when I was a kid and my father would

catch me in some sort of lie Mary is

giving me the look he often gave me he

would say son there's three sides to

every story there's your story there's

my story and there's the real story now

you see with this film we wanted to tell

the real story but with only one company

one agency willing to help me and that's

only because I knew John Bonham Richard

Kirshenbaum for years I realized that I

would have to go on my own I'd have to

cut out the middleman and go to the

companies myself you know myself with

all of my team so well you suddenly

started realize or what I started

realized that we started having

conversation with these companies the

idea of understanding your brand is a

universal problem I have friends who

make great big giant Hollywood films and

I have friends who make little

independent films like I make and the

friends might make big giant Hollywood

movies say that the reason their films

are so successful is because of the

brand partners that they have and then

my friends who make small independent

films say well how are we supposed to

compete with these big giant Hollywood

movies and the movie is called the

greatest movie ever sold and so now how

specifically what we see banned in the

film it's any time I'm getting ready to

go any time I open up my medicine

cabinet you will see ban deodorant well

any time

do an interview with someone I could say

are you are you fresh enough for this

interview are you are you ready look a

little nervous

I want to help you calm down so maybe

you should maybe you should put some on

for the interview this little offer you

know one of this fabulous says whether

it's a floral fusion or paradise wins

you know they'll have their chance you

know what we will have have them geared

for both male or female you know solid

roll-on or stick whatever maybe that's

the that's the two cent tour so now I

can answer your questions and give you

the five-cent tour we are a smaller

brain much like you talked about being a

smaller you know movie are very much a

challenge of brands so we don't have the

budgets that other brands have so doing

things like this you know remind people

about ban is kind of why we're

interested in it what are the words that

you would use to describe ban ban is


technology's not the way you want to

describe something somebody's put in

their armpit you're talking about bold

oh yeah fresh guyhnic fresh is a great

word that really spins this category

into the positive versus a fights odor

and when this right it's keeps you fresh

fresh either we keep you fresher longer

better freshness more freshness three

times fresher things like that that are

you know more of that positive benefit

and that's a multi-million dollar

corporation what about me what about a

regular guy I need to go talk to the man

on the street the people who are like me

the regular Joe's they need to tell me

about my brand how would you guys

describe your brand

my brain

I don't know like

all right really nice clothes eighties

revival meets skater Punk

unless it's laundry day right what is

brand Jerry unique unique I guess what

kind of genre style I am would be like

dark glamour I like a lot of black

colors a lot of Gray's and stuff like

that but usually some that have an

accessory like sunglasses or I like

crystal and things like that too

if Dan were a brand he might be a

classic convertible I'm insane

the brand that I am is I would call it

casual fly part hippy part yogi part

Brooklyn girl I don't know I'm the pet


I sell pet toys all over the country all

over the world so I guess that's my

brand in my warped little industry

that's my brand my brand is FedEx

because I deliver the goods failed

writer alcoholic brand is that something

I'm a lawyer brand I'm Tom well we can't

all be brand Tom but I do often find

myself at the intersection of dark

glamour and casual fly what I realize I

needed an expert I need someone who

could get inside my head somebody who

could really help me understand what

they call your brand personality and so

I found a company called Olsen's Altman

in Pittsburgh who they've helped

companies like Nestle Febreze hallmark

discover that brand personality if they

could do it for them surely they could

do it for me

you brought your pictures right I did

the very first picture is a picture of

my family so tell me a little bit how it

relates to your thoughts and feelings

about anyway these are the people who

shaped the way I look at the world tell

me about this world I think it's the I

think your world is the world that you

live in like people that are around you

your friends your family the the way you

live your life a job you do like all

those things stemmed and started from

one place and for me there's them

installed with my family in West

Virginia what's the next one going to

talk about the next one this was the

best day ever

how does this relate to thoughts and

feelings about who you are there's like

who do I want to be I like things that

are different I like things that are

weird things

tell me about the Y phase what does that

do for us what does the Michelle people

state genuine now as important

what is the red represent


thank you thank you yeah thanks for your

patient great job yeah yeah I don't know

what's gonna come of this there was a

whole lot of crazy going on in there the

first thing we saw was this idea that

you had two distinct but complementary

sides to your brand personality the

Morgan Spurlock brand is a mindful play

brand those are kind of juxtaposed very

nicely together and I think there's

almost a paradox with those and I think

some companies will just focus on one

one of their strengths or you know or

the other instead of focusing on both

most companies tend to it's human nature

to avoid things that they're not sure of

avoid fear those elements and you really

embrace those and you actually turn them

into positives for you it's a neat thing

to see what other brands are like that

the first one here is a classic Apple

and you can see here to target we mini

from Mini Coopers and JetBlue now

there's playful brands and mindful

brands those sort of things that have

come and gone but a playful mindful

brand is a pretty powerful thing

a playful mindful brand what is your

brand if somebody actually described

your brand identity your brand

personality what would you be are you an

up attribute are you something that gets

the blood flowing are you more of a Down

attribute are you something a little

more calm reserved conservative up

attributes are things like being playful

being fresh like The Fresh Prince

contemporary adventurous edge you're

daring like Errol Flynn nimble or agile

profane domineering magical or mystical

like Gandalf are you more of a Down

attribute are you mindful sophisticated

like double-oh-seven are you established

traditional nurturing protective

empathetic like the Oprah are you

reliable stable familiar safe secure

sacred contemplative or wise like the

Dalai Lama or Yoda over the course this

film we had 500 plus companies who were

up and down company say no they didn't

want any part of this project they

wanted nothing to do with this film

mainly because they had no control they

would have no control over the final

product but we did get 17 brand partners

who were willing to relinquish that

control who wanted to be in business

with someone as mindful and as playful

as myself

and who ultimately empowered us to tell

stories that normally we wouldn't be

able to tell stories that an advertiser

would normally never get behind they

enabled us to tell the story about neuro

marketing as we got into the telling the

story in this film about how now they're

using MRIs to target the desire centers

of your brain for both commercials as

well as movie marketing we went to San

Paolo where they abandoned or

advertising in the entire city for the

past five years there's no billboards

there's no posters there's no flyers

nothing and we went to school districts

where now companies are making their way

into cash-strapped schools all across

America what's incredible for me is the

the projects that I've gotten the most

feedback out of are I've had the most

success and are ones where I've

interacted with things directly and

that's what these brands did they cut

out the middleman they cut out their

agencies and said maybe these agencies

don't have my best interests in mind I'm

gonna deal directly with the artist I'm

gonna work with him to create something

different something that's going to get

people thinking that's gonna challenge

the way we look at the world and how is

that been for them has it been


well since the film premiered at the

Sundance Film Festival let's just take a

look according to Burrell's the movie

premiered in January and since then and

this is heating the whole thing we've

had more than 900 million media

impressions for this film

that's literally covering just like a

two and a half week period that's only

online no print no TV the film hasn't

even been distributed yet it's not even

online it's not even streaming it's not

even been out into other foreign

countries yet so ultimately this film

has already started to gain a lot of

momentum and not bad for a project that

almost every ad agency we talked to

advise their clients not to take part

what I always believe is that if you

take chances if you take risks that in

those risks will come opportunity I

believe that when you push people away

from that you're pushing them more

towards failure I believe that when you

train your employees to be risk-averse

then you're preparing your whole company

to be reward challenged I feel like that

what has to happen moving forward is we

need to encourage people to take risks

we need to encourage people to not be

afraid of opportunities that may scare

them ultimately moving forward I think

we have to embrace fear we've got to put

that bear in a cage

embrace fear embrace risk one big

spoonful at a time we have to embrace

risky and ultimately we have to embrace

transparency today more than ever a

little honesty is going to go a long way

and that being said through honesty and

transparency my entire talk embrace

transparency has been brought to you by

my good friends at EMC who for $7,100

bought the naming rights on eBay


ENC turning big data into big

opportunity for organizations all over

the world

EMC presents embrace transparency thank

you very much guys



in the name of transparency what exactly

happened to that $7,100 that is a

fantastic question I have in my pocket

a check made out to the parent

organization of the Ted foundation the

sapling foundation they check for $7,100

to be applied towards my attendance for

next year's tag