Shafqat Islam, CEO, NewsCred
Shafqat Islam, CEO, NewsCred
A view from Shafqat Islam, CEO, NewsCred

The best Cannes season for content marketers

Cannes Lions 2014 was the year of Kanye West, Courtney Love and Jared Leto. It was also the year that content was most notable for its absence among the top awards winners.

For all of our discussions around engagement and value, no branded content Grand Prix was awarded. The jury’s reason was that "no single entry displayed all of the craft, digital, and social elements required to elevate it to the top prize".

So, has content progressed enough in the past 12 months to ensure we don’t see a repeat of that this week? Have the likes of McDonald's and VisitBritain, whose successes we’ve highlighted before, done enough to ensure branded content gets a much deserved Grand Prix in 2015?

We hope so. At NewsCred we believe the conversation needs to move beyond simply providing "good" content and on to what it takes to create truly excellent content that spans screens and makes intelligent use of data insights. This year’s Cannes agenda reflects this, demonstrating that the industry is moving the content agenda forward in 2015.

Below are our session recommendations for content marketers this year:

Data is refining the creative process

Perhaps the most forward-thinking idea from this year’s festival is the fact that content marketers are moving away from a whole-hearted embrace of the purely creative left brain and beginning to strike a balance with the more analytical and results-driven right brain. Data and measurement have always been difficult topics of conversation when discussing creative processes – content marketing included – but intelligent use of data in such spaces can do more than provide ROI. Using data to analyse the elements of content that best engage and the themes and topics that most inspire, you can push the quality of your content to exciting new levels.

The session 'Science vs poets: The art of connecting data to storytelling' is delivered by Chris Clarke, chief creative officer, and Jason Kodish, chief data scientist, from marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi. It promises to provide demonstrations of how data can be used to build a compelling narrative and punch up your storytelling. They aim to prove once and for all that left brain and right brain can work together.

Brands will interact with crowds to create audiences

With the advent of mobile, an audience once unified by platform (laptop and desktop) became fragmented. Today, internet users are split between a variety of screen sizes, feeds and social-media platforms. It makes for less of an audience and more of a disorganised crowd.

But you can win over the crowd and turn them into an audience by interacting with them across platforms and channels. One session at Cannes 2015 recognises this: 'Blood, Sex and Storytelling: Turning Crowds Into Audiences', presented by creative agency Rothco and comedian/writer Padraig Hyland. They will invoke none other than Shakespeare to demonstrate their point, going through a variety of exercises and offering practical advice on how to directly engage with your readers through content and social media to turn them into a responsive audience.

If Shakespeare isn’t your thing, you could take a leaf from the book of one of today’s storytellers, Kim Kardashian. Think what you like of her, but she has made a success of her own and the Kardashian brands by interacting with audiences through content on multiple platforms. On the stage this year she will reveal how she will evolve her brand story through multiple platforms in the coming years. If anyone knows how to turn a crowd into an audience, it’s her.

Experiences can create the best content

Experience-driven stories can be the most potent approach to captivating an audience, and this year offers particular inspiration on this front. Our partners Havas Worldwide are working with National Geographic to bring you 'Full Frontal Content', highlighting four exciting stories of how experiences have led to new perspectives on content. Be it helicopter rides, mountain climbing or art and performance, the session argues that capturing these experiences and sharing them with the world can build a large, loyal following, and that the same principles can be applied to branded content with great success. Havas will also demonstrate its content prowess this year with its social newsroom, #HavasCafe, on La Croisette.

Similarly, the session 'Keith Reinhard Meets the Backpacker Intern', tells the unique tale of copywriter Mark van der Heijden and his journey across the globe. Seventeen months ago he quit his job and began backpacking around the world. Through six continents, 25 countries and 30 companies, van der Heijden offered his creative skills in return for food and a place to sleep. In this session, he shares his experiences with advertising veteran Keith Reinhard, and explains how his experiences have improved his own creative approach to content and given him the edge in his career.

As a brand, drawing on these lessons and applying them to your own strategy can not only enrich your content offering, but also ensure that you rise above the noise in the busy space of online content.

The content conversation has moved on in huge strides in the past 12 months, focusing less on what is, and more on what could be. Whether it be multiscreen, data-driven or experiential, these new and adventurous ways of approaching storytelling have made content marketing even more exciting, opening up the possibilities for innovative and informative new ways of telling our stories tomorrow.

Click here to read the Campaign@Cannes blog