An increasing number of firms are featuring original short films on their Web sites as an advertising strategy to enhance their image.

They believe they can make a deep impression on a specific part of the buying public by offering free quality shorts made by popular filmmakers at home and abroad.

BMW North America started showing “The Hire” series of five films featuring BMW cars on its site in April 2001. The films were created by a famed filmmaker under the supervision of David Fincher, who directed the acclaimed movie “Seven.”

“We are aiming at enhancing the BMW brand and winning new customers, especially in their 20s, by sponsoring ‘The Hire’ series,” an official at BMW Japan said.

The action and love stories on BMWfilms.com are popular. The site has been accessed more than 14 million times.

With subscriptions to broadband communication services in Japan topping 10 million and household subscribers numbering some 10.48 million as of the end of May, domestic firms are starting to show short films on their Web sites.

Nissan Motor Co. ran a short directed by Shinji Aoyama on its site from February to March. Nestle Japan Group has been featuring “Flower and Alice,” directed by Shunji Iwai and starring Anne Suzuki, since March.

Nippon Lever K.K. plans to distribute a film directed by photographer Mika Ninagawa starting in September.

Mazda Motor Corp. began offering a chic car-action film showing a new model speeding through the French port city of Marseilles.

The 12-minute movie was produced by filmmaker Luc Besson, who directed “Leon.” The production cost was about the same as creating two TV commercials.

“We intend to get our message across effectively to people in our target age group,” a Mazda public relations official said. “The buying behavior of consumers has changed and the number of people actively accessing the Internet has increased.”

Sponsoring shorts on Web sites appears to be one of the most effective ways to make an impression with young people, who have become bored with TV ads and TV itself.

“TV commercials are still effective. But we need to develop a new method of enhancing corporate brand image from a medium- and long-term viewpoint,” said Futaba Tanaka, a chief researcher at the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living.

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