Branded Experiences were the hot property of the 2015 Cannes Festival of Creativity. Not only in the Branded Content & Entertainment category but across the entire event, brand movements, experiences and stunts were one of the strongest themes of this year’s event.
From Whisper’s Touch the Pickle, Always’ Like A Girl, Burger King Proud Whopper, Exit Deutschland’s Nazis Against Nazis, and even Volvo’s LifePaint, Cannes was awash with brands doing good and patting themselves on the back for it.
Much of this work was outstanding and worthy of praise, such as the World Food Programme’s 805 Million Names and States United to Prevent Gun Violence installation The Gun Shop, however, all of these projects once again raise the pointy question of categorisation. As the industry continues to push boundaries and create a new style of communication how can we categorise them for award shows? Is it promotion, is it branded content, is it branded experience - or it is time for a branded stunts category?
For the second year in a row, the Branded Content & Entertainment category failed to award a Grand Prix. The jury acknowledged that the category, which is only in its third year, still had "room for growth and maturity" and that branded content "transcends categorisation."
Jury President, David Lubars, Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Worldwide, said the jury had been unable to find "a unique element that we will still be talking about in 10 years' time," which he attributed to the developing nature of the discipline. "The lack of Grand Prix demonstrates that this is a maturing industry where advertisers and agencies are still learning how to make credible branded content."
"The benchmark for Branded Content was really high this year, but we just felt that the entertainment value needed to be pushed a little higher," said jury member Mark Eaves, founding partner of UK agency Gravity Road.
Clearly juries were on the hunt for boundary-pushing work that would highlight where creativity is headed, however, when it came to the Branded Content & Entertainment category, apparently none of the work was worthy of the top prize.
It is worth noting that charity, NGO, public service and other pro-bono work is not eligible for a Grand Prix, and while there was no big prize the jury did award a total of 63 Lions across the category. However it does raise the question about what is going on in the Branded Content & Entertainment space, is the work not good enough or is the ad industry not equipped to recognise great work?
Once again there seems to be a major divide between the work the advertising industry deems award winning and the work that audiences respond to. There is also a huge issue with the breadth and scale of the category itself and the work which is being entered into it.
The branded experiences category produced a number of fascinating and compelling projects. Water for Africa’s The Marathon Walker was an exceptional idea and a powerful case study, however, it fell short on the entertainment or content elements. Equally; The Ice Bucket Challenge, Holograms for Freedom and The Vangardist HIV+ all packed a punch in the idea or execution but there were not strong enough to beat the drum for the entire category.
According to Cannes Lions website: "The definition of Branded Content and Entertainment for the purpose of Cannes Lions is the creation of, or natural integration into, original content by a brand."
Obviously the jury has their hands full trying to interpret this definition and in doing so they hold tight to the criteria of awarding 'original work'. Equally at Branded Arts Review we hold fast to our own criteria, which stipulates that to be successful a piece of branded art or entertainment must fulfil at least one of the following:
- Raise the bar creatively and demonstrate creative excellence.
- Demonstrate a strong and cohesive strategic purpose and fit with the brand, its values, and positioning.
- Elevate the brand in a consumer’s mind and create an emotional connection with the viewer.
- Stand up as an authentic or legitimate piece of art, culture or entertainment
So with that in mind here are Branded Arts Review’s picks from the Branded Content and Entertainment category at the 2015 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.
Conservation International ‘Nature is Speaking’
Creative Company: TBWA\Media Arts Lab & MAL For Good
Nature became the narrator in a series of short films from environmental organization Conservation International, which delivers a powerful message to humanity: Nature doesn’t need people, but people need nature. The short films are part of an awareness campaign, which aims to reframe the conversation about the environment - this is not about saving the polar bears this is about saving humanity. Punchy, confrontational and powerful, this is an environmental campaign like you’ve never seen before. The films present Mother Nature, the ocean, the soil, the water, the rainforest and the coral reef, with each element voiced by one of Hollywood’s finest, including Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Penelope Cruz and Robert Redford. This series is a staggering achievement in powerful film-making and demonstrates the ability of great films to position and deliver messages. This film was awarded a Gold Lion in the Film Craft category but as it is a Branded Arts Review favourite it was worthy of mention here.
5. NBC Sports ‘The Return Of Coach Lasso’
Creative Company: Brooklyn Brothers
US audiences are known for their disinterest in soccer in general let alone the English Premier League, so when NBC Sports launched its coverage of the competition it created the hugely successful film ‘An American Coach in England’. To kick off its second season of coverage and respond to fans demands for more NBC Sports brought back Coach Lasso with another film 'The Return of Coach Lasso'. The sequel achieved 1.5 million views on the launch day and grew TV audiences. The film is funny and entertaining it shamelessly promotes the brand and that is the point. This is standout work that easily holds it own as legitimate and highly entertaining content. Audiences are literally flooding NBC Sports with requests for more, a sure sign of successful content.
4. NZ Transport Authority ‘Tinnyvision’
Creative Company: Clemenger BBDO Wellington
In a bid to educate young people about the impact that marijuana use can have on their driving, the New Zealand Transport Authority embraced content and social channels in a standout branded entertainment campaign. Knowing the target audience of young males would not respond well to a traditional advertising campaign, NZTA turned to Snapchat creating custom footage, which aimed to engage and then surprise the target audience. ‘Tinnyvision’ documented a group of four Kiwi stoners mucking around. It was engaging and humorous and unfolding through the day it took followers on a journey, drawing them in and then shocking them with the final instalment. It’s a superb campaign and a brilliant use of authentic content to cut through and engage with a hard to reach audience.
3. P&G Always ‘Like A Girl’
Creative Company: Leo Burnett
P&G’s feminine products brand Always set out on a mission to examine the phrase ‘Like A Girl’ and created a sensation. The online film brought to life the negative perception that is attached to ‘behaving like a girl’ and sought to redefine it and create a movement at the same time. The film is good, but the power of the campaign is in the insight. In many ways this ad could have been for Nike, it probably should have been the empowering message could have worked for any brand seeking to empower women. However, it took a feminine products brand, that was examining young women’s self-esteem to shine a light on a common prejudice. This film is not the best brand film you will watch, but it demonstrates a really strong brand purpose and connects with audiences. There is no denying the importance of its message to a target audience of young women. Also, there is simply no beating the magic moment when those little girls start running and jumping about and trying to be the best. Strong work.
2. Beats By Dre ‘The Game Before The Game’
Creative Company: R/GA London
Launching before the FIFA World Cup, The Game Before the Game, is a 5-minute film starring Brazilian football star Neymar, among a cast of others, and features his father giving him an inspiring pre-game pep talk. The film is an emotive montage of sports players going through their pre-game psyche-up session. The aim of the film is to showcase the unseen game of how the greats prepare and, of course, to highlight the role music and Beats headphones can play in this game. The film is dripping with stars and was staggeringly successful in attracting huge viewing numbers. The film lead to a FIFA ban on Beats By Dre headsets by players at the tournament, as sponsor Sony was not impressed, which only helped cement its success. The film helped to catapult the brand into the mainstream and to position it as the headphone brand for sports and sportspeople. In many ways, Beats pulled a Nike and won the tournament.
1. The Times ‘The Unquiet Film Series’
Creative Company: Grey London & Betsy Works
Last year The Times & The Sunday Times opened up its archives providing filmmakers with unprecedented access to its records. The result is The Unquiet Film Series, a collection of online films celebrating the historical and cultural impact of the newspaper. The series aims to shine a light on the contribution The Times have made to the history and culture of Britain and beyond. Coming at a time when the British public's trust for journalists was at an all time low and as media organisations battle to get people to value and pay for journalism, the series aims to highlight the power of great journalism and the important place it occupies in society, while also celebrating the immense cultural and historical impact that The Times has made throughout its long history. The films are beautifully made and the entire series is compelling, fascinating and very worthy of your time. The series reminds the viewer of the power of quality journalism and reinforces the integrity of the brand. It is a standout piece of work that engages audiences and creates human and emotional connections through their journalists. Outstanding work. The Cannes jury shortlisted this series but failed to award it metal, we disagree. It is Branded Arts Review Best of Cannes 2015.