How Blockbuster is turning its last ever video shop into a brand
Despite having ceased trading in 2014, the movie rental chain is screening its biggest ad in over a decade during the Super Bowl. We find out why.
Yes, you read that correctly, Blockbuster is back. Well, kind of. The chain went bust a decade ago, but throughout its various financial messes, as each store closed one by one, a lone franchise in Bend, Oregon has remained.
Owned by Ken and Debbie Tisher and run by Sandi Harding, the relic is a homage to all things pre-digital. They sell memberships, memorabilia and movies, and now they’re making themselves known on one of the biggest sporting nights of the year with the help of Atlantic New York.
“It’s one of the most iconic brands in history,” says the indie agency’s chief creative officer Marco Pupo. “It’s the world’s last Blockbuster – that’s what makes the whole story so interesting, there’s still one standing and it looks like it’s not going anywhere.”
The creative admits that the collaboration started as more of a “passion project” for the agency, saying that even they were shocked to find out about the existence of a remaining Blockbuster store.
Determined that it should remain an integral part of the community, the store is fighting until the bitter end – which just so happens to be the campaign name – to get the word out that it is still operating. “We needed an interesting idea that was small and easy to pull off, but that can really blow up in culture,” confirms Pupo.
Starring a creepy-crawly cockroach called Steve, the ad will be played in-store this Sunday, on VHS and through a physical TV. Skeptics would be forgiven for thinking this is just a stunt or that there’s another big brand behind it, but in reality that’s not the case. “The business is, surprisingly, thriving through the local community that keeps renting movies they love,” admits the creative. “They love the nostalgia, but also there are so many tourists that go there.” One notable passerby was Hollywood actor Pete Davidson, who hit up the store a couple of weeks ago.
This sense of nostalgia, says Atlantic co-founder Joao Coutinho, was recently ramped up by the popularity of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things – something that the brand can “take advantage of,” he says. The human connection and personality are factors that many miss in the town and beyond, which is why there will be an old-fashioned screening party for the ad this Sunday.
“People are really passionate about this brand and what it meant to them, all the memories, so knowing that there’s only one store left in the world means something,” adds Pupo. “We believe that, with the right creative and strategy, ’The Last Blockbuster’ can be relevant as its own brand. And we believe in building that in the long run.”