Following years of meteoric growth, 2015 was an interesting year in the world of branded arts and entertainment as the category came of age.
With experimentation behind them, many brands confidently embraced the category creating branded arts, branded entertainment and branded experiences. In 2015, the vehicle of choice was the online film and this category exploded with brands rolling out hundreds and hundreds of online films.
There were outrageous films, such as Melco Crown Entertainment’s film to launch its new Studio City casino starring Robert De Niro, Leonardi DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, which was estimated to cost $70 million.
There were sensational films, such as the bonkers - yet brilliant - branded entertainment project ‘100 Years’ by Cognac brand Louis XIII, which is a film that is scheduled to launch in 100 years time.
There were hilarious films, like the cheeky Bonds 'Balls' films. And there were downright beautiful films, like ‘Emily’s Oz’, a film by US cable company Comcast, which brought to life the film watching experience for blind people.
'Fem-vertising' was in full swing in 2015 delivering a steady stream of empowering films: Sport England’s 'This Girl Can' delivered a rousing ad to get women involved with sport and physical fitness; while Nike Women honoured the US Women's Soccer Team, and, P&G's Always built on its blisteringly successful #LikeAGirl campaign with its 'Unstoppable' movement.
The 'Sad-vertising' trend also continued in 2015, with brands tugging on our heartstrings and showering us with films filled with the warm and fuzzies. Pedigree promoted its dog adoption program with a powerful film about ex-criminals and rescue dogs, Dental brand Fixodent told the story of Aslan, a nine-year-old white Lion with teeth problems, and Mumsnet broke our hearts with the story of five-year-old Elleemae, who saved her mother’s life by calling 999 when she had an epileptic fit.
Beats By Dre turned its winning formula to the Rugby World Cup with 'The Game Starts Here' film series, Under Armour teamed with hit film The Martian to create a unique branded entertainment film, Saucony broke away from the high-energy fitspiration films of rivals Nike and Adidas to create a thoughtful film series called 'Seeker Stories', while Pepsi went Back To The Future creating a limited edition Pepsi Perfect drink bottle and ad campaign.
Some brands pushed boundaries: Samsung showcased its virtual reality headsets creating a diving school in a desert and then live streaming a virtual reality birth and Philips headed back into the darkness to create another sublime glow-in-the-dark adventure sports film, this time featuring mountain biking in the deserts and forests of America.
Air New Zealand launched yet another successful safety video, with a remake of the film and song, Men In Black, featuring stars from the film and New Zealand’s rugby side the All Blacks, and AT&T returned with another stirring film for its 'It Can Wait' campaign against using mobile phones while driving.
It wasn't just films though.
Branded entertainment's influence was evident across all major sporting and cultural events most notably the Super Bowl, which produced another strong year of entertaining advertising. Super Bowl standouts included Snickers' ongoing ‘You’re not you when you're hungry” this time featuring 'The Brady Bunch' and the latest installation in Budweiser’s heartwarming tales of animal love with 'Lost Dog'.
While films, and ads, made up the greater majority of the projects in the branded arts and entertainment space, a number of brands broke rank to create sensational branded experiences.
Nike created an exclusive luxury workout experience with 45 Grand in New York’s SoHo and Four Seasons extended its luxury hotel offering to the skies launching the Four Seasons Jet experience. Google started work on its new brand headquarters, which aims to create a forward thinking office space consisting of greenhouse-style canopy inspired buildings, while London’s V&A museum hosted a sensational brand experience in Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty exhibition.
Once again brands embraced the art world creating exhibitions and brand experiences, with 2015 delivering a trend for travelling exhibitions. BMW took its iconic collection of Art Cars on a global tour, Patagonia hit the road with its Worn Wear platform to spread its sustainability message across the USA, and Converse created a global art exhibition to celebrate its iconic Chuck Taylor All Star shoe.
The competition was fierce but Branded Arts Review has whittled the list down to compile its annual Best Of list. Here are the standout projects from the last 12 months.
Apple created an ambitious blossoming floral installation to launch the Apple Watch in the UK. Taking over all 24 windows of London’s iconic Selfridges department store with an impressive branded arts display that was visually striking and attracted big crowds. The installation was also a savvy strategic move by Apple, which sought to position the Apple Watch as a luxury fashion item, not a tech gadget.
HSBC launched one of the best adverts of the year with the 90-second film ‘The Lift’. The film formed the centerpiece of a major global campaign exploring the human side of running a business. The stunning masterpiece, which follows the 40-year career of one man and takes place entirely in a lift, is a superbly crafted piece of storytelling. However, the outstanding film and its message were severely let down by timing - the launch came just days after the brand announced it was cutting 50,000 jobs.
Branded entertainment doesn’t get much bigger than the James Bond 007 juggernaut. The latest film Spectre burst onto screens in 2015 with 14 brands, including Aston Martin, Heineken, Omega, Sony, Tom Ford and Visit Britain, all looking to capitalise on the character’s global appeal. While brands have always featured heavily in the world of Bond with Ian Fleming’s novels full of brand references. In Spectre the line between where the movie ends and product marketing begins has been erased with brands embedded into the storyline. As branded entertainment goes, Bond is the ultimate brand ambassador and Spectre is a shining example of success.
BEST OF 2015
On February 14, the Paris Saint-German football club played against Caen at Parc des Princes. 72 seconds into the game, star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a goal. In his celebrations, and in defiance of the rules, Ibrahimovic removed his shirt and stood silently arms raised in the center of the field revealing fifty new tattoos covering his chest and upper body. The tattoos were names of people the footballer had never met and the stunt was an electrifying campaign by the United Nations World Food Programme. The campaign, 805 Million Names, aimed to generate awareness of the millions of people suffering from hunger around the world. Ibrahimovic donated his body and his time for free and endured the subsequent backlash and yellow card to promote the cause. The campaign went viral instantly and attracted headlines around the world. The juxtaposition of football’s notorious bad boy performing such a worthy and selfless act generated huge audiences and helped propel the message globally. The agency behind the project, Forsman & Bodenfors, claims the film reached a staggering 1.2 billion people. Searing, emotional and extraordinary, this project is unforgettable. One of the most striking branded arts projects in 2015.
With 2015 being the year that Marty McFly landed in the future in the much-loved film Back To The Future II, there was always going to be a lot of talk of hoverboards. Lexus got the jump on the rest of the pack in August when it launched a teaser film spruiking the sleekest looking hoverboard you could imagine. That’s right, Lexus created a functioning, luxury hoverboard and the world went crazy. The prototype hoverboard was part of Lexus’ ‘Amazing In Motion’ branded entertainment platform, which aims to position the brand as a leader in design, technology, and creative innovation. The 'Slide' project (created by UK agency CHI & Partners) aimed to generate awareness of the brand and take the ‘Amazing In Motion’ platform to a mass audience, which it did. The teaser film attracted more than 11 million views in just 24 hours and the entire campaign has attracted more than 33 million views globally. The launch film secured more than 13 million views on YouTube alone. The formula for success was always going to be strong here, given the huge global appetite for all things nostalgic and our collective obsession with hoverboards. However, Lexus deserves huge kudos for investing in and creating a rideable luxury hoverboard and subsequently securing the brand’s position as a technology and creative force. This branded entertainment campaign showcased the brand’s engineering and design credentials while also demonstrating the powerful role imagination plays in the design process. Superb work.
Western Sydney University released a series of beautifully crafted films as part of the education institute’s rebrand. The rebrand was part of a very specific strategy to embrace the local region, which is one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia, and to encourage more local students to attend the university. The films, created by VCD & WE.Collective, aim to present the potential and 'unlimited' possibility of Western Sydney University by showcasing the diversity and remarkable backgrounds of its students. The Unlimited film series follows the lives of former students, telling their stories leading up to their time at Western Sydney University and their experiences afterwards. While the stories are varied, each is an inspiring tale showing the power of hard work, talent and self-belief. The lead film, which tells the story of refugee lawyer Deng Thiak Adut, is a masterpiece. Deng’s story is remarkable and coupled with a superb choice of music and beautifully crafted storytelling, the film is powerful and proud. Pride is a massive driver in the strategy behind this campaign, as the university seeks to expel the stigma that Western Sydney has historically attracted, and invigorate the local community's pride in the area. These films achieve that and then some. This is a powerful and stunning example of how brands can embrace authentic and human storytelling to really connect and engage with audiences.
Loteria de Navidad or the Spanish Christmas Lottery is an annual lottery which attracts groups of Spaniards who team up to buy multiple tickets in the hope of gaining an extra special Christmas present. As the event has grown in popularity, its annual Christmas advert has become a highly anticipated event to ring in the festive season. In 2015, the lottery and ad agency Leo Burnett Madrid, created a Pixar-style animated film following Justino, a night watchman at a factory who overcomes his lonely job by creating fun and thoughtful pranks to amuse his daytime colleagues. The film is a superb piece of branded entertainment, a standout both for production quality and storytelling. It also nails a very simple strategy to remind people of the joy of sharing and togetherness. The film’s power comes from the loneliness and isolation we see our character overcome and the underlying message of friendship and sharing. This is a beautiful piece of film that will warm the cockles of your heart and fill you with Christmas spirit. It will also make you want to buy a lottery ticket.
When it comes to branded entertainment, no brand can claim the sheer unstoppable success of GoPro. GoPro has a genius branded entertainment strategy which sees it curate the hundreds of films its customers post daily alongside its own GoPro Productions, to create an unlimited stream of branded content. Every film shared by GoPro is a masterpiece in product demonstration, brand positioning, and entertaining content, complete with the kick-ass tagline ‘Go be a Hero’. While GoPro cameras have become de rigueur for anyone planning to jump off, over or under anything, the content is not just about adventures, it’s also about unseen angles for the everyday that help bring the ordinary – and extraordinary - to life. (‘Fireman Saves Kitten’ is one of the brand’s most viewed films of all time with more than 28 million views on YouTube.) GoPro’s curation of films helps to create a powerful example of a brand that not only enables heroic and courageous activity but that also inspires and encourages it. Forget Red Bull, who use GoPro cameras to capture their content, it’s all about GoPro. The brand has millions of followers to prove it - more than 3.5 million YouTube subscribers, 9.3 million Facebook followers and 7.6 million Instagram fans.
In 2015, GoPro rolled out hundreds of excellent films, including Danny MacAskill - Cascadia, The Search for the Blue Whale and Twiggy The Waterskiing Squirrel. However, it was Simplified, the film GoPro launched to promote a new smaller, lighter camera, the GoPro Hero 4, that was a standout and an instant smash. The film attracted more than 1.2 million views on YouTube in just two days when it launched in July and has since racked up more than 15 million views. It is a perfect example of how to create entertainment that serves as outstanding product demonstration while reinforcing the brand values and positioning - all without compromising the integrity or authenticity of the content. Without question, GoPro has become a master of branded entertainment. GoPro has literally changed the way we see the world.
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