Why Ford made a short film about a giant mushroom

Who: Ford Canada, with BBDO for strategy and creative; Soft Citizen for production (directed by Danilo Parra); media by Mindshare.

What: “Mushroom,” a more than seven-minute long short film about two foragers squaring off over a giant mushroom in a forest. The film contains not a single shot or mention of a Ford vehicle, but is an ad for Ford’s EVs. (Yes, we’ll explain.)

When & Where: The film is live now on YouTube and on Bell’s streaming service Crave. It was promoted with an integrated campaign including a trailer, out-of-home, and digital/social ads.

Why: Ford is scaling up its EV output, and plans to produce more than 600,000 EVs globally by next year and 2 million by 2026. In a category where every major automaker is scrambling to grab market share, Ford wants to elevate its EV brand on the platform “Build the Unexpected”—like making smoothies from materials used in its vehicles, and now making a short film.

“Ford EVs hold incredible power and potential. We didn’t want to just say that, but show it,” said Mike Schonberger, BBDO vice-president and creative director. “The idea to create the first film powered by electric vehicles provided that opportunity.”

How: The film is directed by acclaimed Chilean-American filmmaker Danilo Parra. Called “Mushroom,” it is about two mushroom foragers—one young, the other much older—who both discover a giant mushroom in the woods at the same time. They end up in a prolonged standoff, waiting for it to finish growing before they can harvest it. In the end, greed gets the better of them, and both endure an unfortunate demise while the mushroom remains alone in the dark forest.

It’s only in the closing credits that viewers learn that the film was “Powered by Ford electric vehicles.”

“We wanted the viewer to enjoy the film on its own merits, and then reveal that Ford EVs made it happen. It feeds into the brand platform of ‘Build the Unexpected,’” said Schonberger.

Beyond the film: BBDO and Ford also ran a promotional campaign like any film studio would for a major release, with a trailer, wild posters, digital and social ads all featuring the “Powered by Ford electric vehicles” message. The campaign also includes a making-of film (see if below). “The behind-the-scenes was equally as important to us,” said Schonberger. “It’s where we show the vehicles authentically, as the unexpected stars behind the camera. No polish, no tire shine. Just real EVs at work, powering a huge production.”

There’s really no Ford message in the film? Only insofar as that they wanted it to be interesting and unexpected. “The story of two very different mushroom foragers in a war of attrition over a giant mushroom was a perfect fit,” said Schonberger. It was also an ambitious shoot, at night, in a secluded location, which was ideal to demonstrate the ability of the Ford EVs—the F-150 Lightning and two E-Transits, to be specific—to power a challenging shoot.

“There is plenty of symbolism around greed, nature and the promise of EVs, but the goal wasn’t to make a commentary on any of that,” said Schonberger. “It was to enable a filmmaker to make a movie, and give him the freedom to do it however and wherever he needed.”

“The ability to plug in and power electric items from the F-150 Lightning and E-Transit vehicles unlocks vast possibilities for what you can do with an electric vehicle, and where you can do it,” said Gemma Giovinazzo, Ford’s director, marketing communications, in a release.

And we quote: “To truly help showcase how Ford is a leader in electric vehicles and stand out from the competition, we felt it was necessary to do something that had never been done before and electrify unexpectedly.” — Max Geraldo, chief creative officer, BBDO Canada

David Brown