Having spent much of Cannes in a dark room for six 11-hour days judging the nascent Branded Content and Entertainment category, I was both inspired and galvanised. It struck me that this category is a bellwether for where we are going as a commercial media industry, tapping into both what wins in the world and at Cannes. Here are five key traits I observed that should stand us in good stead for the next year.
1. Welcome different skillsets. Ours was a vibrant jury of senior creative leaders from television broadcast and distribution, media agencies, sponsorship, content production, digital platforms, integrated advertising agencies and an in-house client agency.
As a creative director in a media agency, where I stretch between creative strategy and content execution with diverse partners, I felt at home. Although we had different start points, we shared a passion for work that lives truly, delightfully and usefully in the world today. Because we had different perspectives, we could recognise the work that was stretching into new areas.
2. Don’t be afraid to blur the lines. We encountered ideas that also belonged in the Media, Promo and Activation, Cyber or PR categories. We kept definitions fuzzy when judging these "hybrids" because good ideas (and content) transcend traditional categories.
The best work fuses medium and message. The joins between creative idea, content and context are invisible
3. The medium can be your idea. Ideas such as "skip ad festival", which used pre-roll as a voting mechanic, or "mortal timeline", which mimicked the behaviour it aims to change, show the elegant power of using channels as the hero creative ingredient.
4. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. The best work fuses medium and message without hierarchy. The joins between creative idea, content and context are invisible. This is sweaty, gritty collaboration – the art, science and craft of multiple disciplines working together.
5. Play the long game. It was clear how tricky it is to create great content that genuinely works with a commercial brand. We now compete with the likes of Orange Is The New Black and Caitlyn Jenner’s story. We have to ground our thinking in a brand’s long-term purpose and understand deeply what role it plays in people’s lives. Ideas such as Foot Locker’s "Horse with Harden", which pits the internet against a basketball star, Wendy’s "yes yes yes", which creates hits from Tweets, and Media Markt’s "rabbit race", where live bunny-betting beat World Cup viewership, show the difference that creative media thinking brings to the mix.
So here’s to the first Branded Content and Entertainment Grand Prix in 2016. They are in us, roaring to be unleashed.
Ann Wixley is the creative director at OMD UK