Cannes Lions Awards Top Branded Content Creativity, But Leaves Room for Improvement - Insights

Cannes Lions Awards Top Branded Content Creativity, But Leaves Room for Improvement

by Dawn Papandrea

4 minute read

Another Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity season is in the books and there were lots of accolades for branded content – 11 gold Lions — but notably, no one was awarded the top Grand Prix prize.

For the last 61 years, Cannes Lions has brought together the top creative, marketing, and advertising minds to celebrate creativity. This is only the third year that branded content had its own category, and while the competition was strong, it apparently was not bold enough, according to Branded Content Jury president Doug Scott, president of OgilvyEntertainment. He told AdWeek:

“Despite the fact that we saw great submissions from clients and agencies around the world, and awarded 11 golds, none of the work exemplified all of the key elements of extraordinary branded content—originality, craft, integration, brand alignment and most importantly narrative.”

Ouch! That’s not to say, though, that it was a weak year in branded content. On the contrary, there were some standouts that will serve as motivating forces for brands to up the ante in the coming year. Here are a few of the U.S. based prize winners, and what their awards can teach marketers:

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Honda and agency RPA for “Project Drive-In

Honda’s integrated campaign was designed to help support an entertainment endangered species – America’s drive-in theaters. In order to help raise awareness about their imminent closures (because of the high cost of upgrading them to digital projection technology), Honda’s project shed light on this issue, and helped create publicity around preserving these theaters.

Lesson: Brands should focus on not only telling great stories, but to choose ones that help start larger social conversations, and even inspire change. This campaign effectively helped 10 drive-in theaters stay in business through social media awareness and fund raising efforts, thus proving that a branded content piece can inspire others to action.

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Samsung and 72andSunny for the “Oscars Selfie

As an Oscar sponsor, it was a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 that captured the celebrity selfie that went viral. Bradley Cooper did the snapping and included in the photo was Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, and others.

Lesson: Real-time efforts can pay off. While this now infamous shot was somewhat conceived in advance – Ellen planned to do the selfie with Meryl Streep – it turned into a much more amazing image when the other mega stars jumped in. Samsung capitalized on the viral nature of the image by announcing a $3 million donation to two of Ellen’s charity picks: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Humane Society.

Sony Music and Interlude N.Y. for “Bob Dylan: Like a Rolling Stone”            

What happens when a classic song meets cutting-edge technology? You have the interactive music video for Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” which became a sensation among music and digital entertainment fans. Yoni Bloch, CEO of Interlude told “The abundance of awards we’ve received makes it very clear — a digital media strategy that incorporates interactive video can generate an amazing response from both consumers and the market. With our platform, brands and content creators have a proven tool to express their creativity and expand their audience. We can see a future in which every music video is interactive.”

Lesson: Branded content is a two-way street. Find ways to create an interactive experience with viewers and they’ll be hooked.

Chipotle and CAA Marketing for “The Scarecrow”

Chipotle’s accolades continued as this short film earned three gold Lions in Branded Content for its now famous three-minute animated short film featuring a cover of the Willy Wonka tune “Pure Imagination” by Fiona Apple. The story follows an animated scarecrow as he has a moral dilemma about the farming industry’s practices, and helped launched the company to the forefront of the national discussion on GMOs, sustainability, and ethical farming practices.

Lesson: Give your audience a powerful message without selling them something, and you can solidify your brand’s mission.

What will marketers have to do to raise the bar and aim for the coveted Cannes Grand Prix next year? Said Scott:

“It is my belief that we as the provocateurs of culture need to push harder with our creative tools and create stories that not only reflect the present but set the future.” Time to get to work!


Read NewsCred CEO Shafqat Islam’s take on the awards in Brand Republic.

By Dawn Papandrea, NewsCred Contributor