Digital takes ad campaigns closer to Hollywood

When the leading lights in advertising gathered in Cannes last week for the annual festival, traditional models of content creation were forced into a back seat.

Actor Ben Stiller made the corny but inevitable joke during his presentation with Yahoo! at the Cannes Lions 57th International Advertising Festival last week: “You mean this isn’t the Cannes Film Festival? That explains all the purple in my room”

But the event bore a greater resemblance to the region’s signature film festival than most of the 8,000 people who attended might have anticipated. Film industry heavyweights such as Where the Wild Things Are director Spike Jonze, Avatar producer Jon Landau and Stiller himself all appeared as part of brand presentations in Cannes last week.

Their involvement illustrates how the world of online distribution has pulled the two sectors closer together as creative collaborations help brands win consumers’ hearts and minds. It also called into question the future of traditional product-led TV spots as debate raged about whether this form of advertising had become redundant thanks to the popularity of online virals.

Emotional stories
While Jonze and Stiller appeared in conjunction with Kraft and Yahoo! respectively, Avatar’s Landau headed a film showcase by video competition board Mofilm, highlighting the work of brands such as Lego and Coke Zero.

The pieces shown were more like short films than traditional TV spots, lending themselves to viral sharing and online discussions – the future for all brands, as consensus from discussions during the week confirmed. Lego’s work showed a young boy putting single Lego bricks into a glass bottle, which he throws out to sea only to return to the beach some time later to find the same bottle encasing a completed Lego structure.

Coke Zero’s piece, meanwhile, featured Odd Couple-style flatmates on the hunt for a new couch. The problem of finding a couch to suit both the tall thin one and the short stocky one is solved when drinking Coke Zero leads to the brainwave of cutting two couches in half and joining them up.
The project has inspired Coca-Cola marketers to create more viral content. “Our ambition around what to do with content has increased,” said Coca-Cola vice-president of global advertising Jonathan Mildenhall. “Traditional models of content creation aren’t going to help us develop the right content and emotional stories around our brand.”

Online virals
The concept of brands and films isn’t unique to this year’s festival – Mofilm was present at Cannes Lions last year, while agency Saatchi & Saatchi has produced a showcase of new directing talent for the past 20 years. But it is the evolution of the digital space that has seen the two sectors move closer together, along with the emerging trend for online virals to precede a TV presence. Evian, Nike and The Sun are just a few examples of brands that have produced online ads that have filtered out to TV by popular demand.

“It is the opposite to how it used to be, but it’s not so different to what ads have always been about,” Jimmy Maymann, co-founder of branded content distribution company Go Viral, told Marketing Week in Cannes. “It is coming back to where advertising started – what is the narrative and the role of the brand?

“Now brands are delivering content that the consumer can ’pull’ rather than just have content ’pushed’ at them, and produce multiple creative pieces rather than just one TV spot. But brands must discover what the dynamics are that get people to share or rate videos and what impact that has on the brand.”

Branded content is now becoming a serious part of marketing strategies, and the extension of the internet to multiple devices means there is a growing critical mass for brands to address via the web. Henrique de Castro, Google vice-president for global media and platforms, told an audience in Cannes that the rise of online video is reaching a “tipping point for digital display”.

He claimed that while the average person in Europe now watches 26 hours of TV a week, around 18 hours a week is spent online as the internet moves increasingly out of the home; and clearly brands should point their activity towards where people are.

“The convergence of video online and TV will be a powerful tool for advertisers and agencies,” de Castro said. Instead of product spots being “blasted out” on TV, brands can eliminate wasted budget and tailor creative pieces towards specific audiences through various online avenues.

He advised: “Rebalance your media mix because the whole world will become digital.”

As brands move from static campaigns to creative activities spanning across media, it appears digital should no longer exist separately in a marketing or agency structure. And as online films and high profile creatives become an important element of this, perhaps it won’t be long before the advertising industry joins forces with Cannes’ most famous festival.

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