The Best Branded Content of May and Early June

Confession: I was going to publish this roundup last Friday and only cover May, but I wanted to wait until Beats came out with their inevitable World Cup video. It finally dropped yesterday, and oh man, does it make me want to run through a wall… and then buy some overpriced headphones. But there was plenty more than just Beats.

Over the past month and change, brands created content to appeal to just about everyone—not just hype-hungry bros like me. There was six-second ammo for moms looking to scare their kids away from cancer sticks; an exciting new magazine for fans of longform journalism and tales of Americana; and a lesbian love story featuring Lily Allen that made the liberal arts alumnus in me burst with happiness (and also crave ice cream).

Let’s get to it. (Credit and thanks to Gabe Rosenberg for helping sort through the truly massive amount of branded content on the web.)

Beats By Dre: “The Game Before the Game”

Usually, Beats videos show athletes walking into raucous road-game environments and shutting out the haters with their Beats headphones (Colin Kaepernick facing off against rabid Seahawks fans; Kevin Garnett strutting into MSG). However, this video smartly mixes it up, splicing in the pre-game rituals of players and fans alike. (Spoiler: A lot of them involve wearing Beats headphones.) It’s emotionally resonant, and it works. And at this point, watching Beats hype videos before big games is starting to feel like a ritual itself.

M&C Saatchi: World No Tobacco Day

A branded video that involves a woman with luscious red lips smoking a cigarette would normally be a PR nightmare (and possible lawsuit) waiting to happen. This Vine from M&C Saatchi for World No Tobacco Day turns that cliché on its head. The way the smoker audibly drags on the cigarette and blows directly into the camera is unsettling, as is the message: Before this video starts again, another smoker will die. Damn. Time to dump those cigs down the toilet and browse some Vines of silly bears to kick the depression.

Net-a-Porter: Porter Summer Issue

How do you follow up putting the biggest supermodel in the world—Giselle—on the cover for your magazine launch? There’s only one baby noise pretending to be a name that could compete: Gaga.

Image via Gaga Images

The behind-the-scenes video, as well, is positively Vogue.

Porter – Lady Gaga from Inez & Vinoodh on Vimeo.

Sosh: Until Tomorrow

Sosh – Until Tomorrow Teaser from Ride Sessions on Vimeo.

At this point, creating extreme-sports films are the branded content version of kitten slideshows—people are just going to keep making them until they stop working. Keeping in line with the trend, the trailer of Until Tomorrow, by French mobile company Sosh, looks pretty gnarly. It features five athletes completing fan-submitted challenges in dramatic slow motion. When you watch the trailer, be sure to be on the lookout for the random shot of a kid holding a chicken at the 1:03 mark.

Pornhub: Search for a Creative Director PornHub already shocked us with one of the greatest works of data journalism by a brand we’ve ever seen. Now, they’ve come up with one of the best user-generated content plays in recent memory. In March, PornHub put out a call for a creative director to lead their first mainstream ad campaign, and the safe-for-work submissions of the 15 finalists are pretty incredible. It’s garnered tons of press, and as Digiday notes, the finalists include some serious marketing and media pros.

Pepsi Max: Unstoppable

This is a branded short film for the World Cup about a retro teen romance directed by Stringer Bell from The Wire (Idris Elba), and yes, that’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever written. But the film is so good. You’ll love the music (R3hab ft. Eva Simons), the fashion (thick rims, argyle, and suspenders!), and the plot (an underdog love story that’ll get your blood pumping). I can only hope this inspires Pepsi to give Idris Elba a blank check so he can do whatever the heck he wants.

Basecamp: The Distance There was reason to be skeptical when Basecamp launched a magazine that actively shuns technology companies, choosing instead to profile old-school businesses bootstrapping and thriving for at least 25 years. (Basecamp has actively eschewed outside funding, so that’s why they’re into the whole bootstrapping thing.) It’s slow-cooked, long-form storytelling, and the first two stories have been great; the first told the story of Chicago’s last leather tannery, the next was a fun profile of Tina’s Closet, a shop trying to save women from the perils of an ill-fitting bra. Basecamp claims the digital magazine—run by veteran journalist Wailin Wong—is editorially independent, and we hope to see the great pieces of storytelling continue.

Cornetto Cupidity Love Stories: “40 Love”

Surprisingly, “40 Love” is not about a man and his love of Olde English. In fact, it’s a love story that doesn’t involve a man at all (or any 40s, sadly). The latest edition in ice-cream company Cornetto’s “Love Stories” series of short films features singer Lily Allen as narrator, a lesbian romance. It “feels like a softer and sweeter Judd Apatow movie,” writes Adweek, which is the perfect description. Just be sure you have a high tolerance for hipsterdom before watching.

What are some of your favorite pieces of branded content from May? Tell us @Contently.

What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

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