10 Campaigns That Should Win Best Branded Content at Cannes

According to Adweek, there have been 40,133 Cannes entries this year. Many of the competitors are in the Branded Content and Entertainment section, which rewards brands that have created the best original content across 18 categories such as “Fiction Online Series” and “Original User-Generated Content.” Basically, judges will be looking at everything besides outsourced agency TV spots.

If you want to know why Cannes wanted to fuel better branded content in the first place, then read this article.

With the awards ceremony coming up fast—the winners will be announced June 27—it’s now or never for predicting who will take home the Lion. Here are the 10 brands with the best shot at original content glory.

Ikea: “The Power of a Bookbook”

When you think of Ikea, your mind probably doesn’t jump to innovation for the sake of innovation—you still put together most of their furniture by hand, after all. Thankfully, the furniture maker isn’t trying to change that image. Instead, it’s using that image to its advantage by poking fun at tech culture.

At first, people watching “The Power of a Bookbook” will think that they’re viewing a promo for the latest modern marvel. In reality, they’re watching an ad for a marketing tool that people have forgotten in our tech-obsessed age—the catalog.

This video is clearly lampooning how far removed people have become from simple, physical texts. I particularly love the line: “A device so simple and intuitive, using it feels almost familiar.”

And even if catalogs are old school, that doesn’t mean they don’t still work. Mara Einstein, an author and professor of Media Studies at Queens College, CUNY, said, “Researchers have found that people still look at catalogs before they buy, even if they ultimately intend to purchase online. It also is a throwback to the days of waiting for the Sears catalog, creating the opportunity for a long-term sense of nostalgia for a new generation of millennials.”

OK Go and Honda UNI-CUB: “I Won’t Let You Down”

IT seems like everyone and their grandma has heard of the band OK Go—most likely because of their viral, treadmill-based music video for “Here It Goes Again.” Since that hit, the group has gone on to create more clever music videos with a number of different brands. In marketing terms, they’re combining millennial appeal with branded content—a.k.a. an advertiser’s dream. In fact, OK Go has helped companies bring home several Lions before. In 2012, the band won seven awards at Cannes for their music video, “All Is Not Lost.”

Most recently, OK Go partnered with Honda to promote the UNI-CUB, which is essentially a self-balancing unicycle. The music video is filled with precarious balancing and umbrella-based choreography, an impressive feat that probably wouldn’t have been possible without that sweet brand capital.

Clearly, fans of the band are completely fine with the fact that “I Won’t Let You Down” is a corporately sponsored project: the video has racked up over 22 million views on YouTube. There’s a lesson to learn here: If your end product is truly creative and interesting, people won’t care how it was created.

“As content marketing, it works really well,” Einstein said. “It is entertaining. It doesn’t make the consumer stop what they are doing but flows into their entertainment experience. It is visually compelling, drawing on the old Hollywood Busby Berkeley movies. The product is integrated into the video without screaming looking at me.”

As if that wasn’t enough, the merry band of hipsters also has an interactive website. Visitors can check out an interview with the band, behind the scenes footage, and, of course, information about the Honda UNI-CUB. If that doesn’t scream award-worthy, I don’t know what does.

Hello Flo: “Postpartum, the Musical”

Hello Flo has brought the conversation about hygiene for your lady bits to center stage. Yes, a company has somehow managed to make the topics of periods and leaky nipples go viral. The feminine hygiene company first rose to stardom because of its “Full Moon Party” ad, which shows a mother throwing an insane party to embarrass her daughter, who had faked her first ride on the crimson wave.

Young girls aren’t the only ones who are the target of Hello Flo’s hilarious social commentary. Their latest video, “Postpartum: The Musical,” warns potential mothers of the hazards of childbirth in the funniest way possible.

I’m a woman, and I definitely didn’t know that cracked nipples were a thing. Am I officially a little more terrified to have children? You betcha. Am I going to remember Hello Flo when I need a jar of Vaseline to rub on my chest one day? Oh yeah.

Red Bull’s Red Bulletin: “Naked Inspiration”

Red Bull is known for being a brand that takes risks. But even for them, “Naked Inspiration” was a bold move. Before I describe the campaign, it’s probably easier for you to take in the craziness with your own eyes.

best branded content cannes

I could go on, but I know you’re probably already Googling this after reading the subhead above: “Mille Brown Vomited On Lady Gaga And Now She’s Taking Performance Art To An Even Higher Level.”

For those of you who are still with me, “Naked Inspiration” is the third episode of the “Red Bull Diplo Presents: @ Large Creators At Work” series. On a website that features scrolling, text and autoplay video, the artist describes how her favorite canvas is her body.

“I want to feel what it feels like to be set on fire,” Brown says. “I want to feel what it feels like to be hung upside down, not able to see anything, naked with paint being poured on me, being swung through a warehouse. I want to know what it feels like. I don’t mind if I die tomorrow doing this because at least I’ll die doing something I believe in.”

If the point of branded content is to remember a brand, then a naked woman hanging from a ceiling for four hours while being covered in paint is definitely Lion-worthy.

Intel and Dell: “What Lives Inside”

When your brand message is about innovation and creativity, you better step up to the plate when making a short film. Luckily, Intel and Dell met all expectations with “What Lives Inside,” a four-part series that is exclusive to Hulu. The episodes—featuring stars like J.K. Simmons, Colin Hanks, and Catherine O’Hara—focus on a man who journeys into the fantastical world of his recently deceased puppeteer father:

These videos truly transport the viewer to another place. The animation in “What Lives Inside” is stunning, the music drives the emotion behind the plot, and the acting is solid. In other words, this isn’t your typical branded video.

“Strategically, it is brilliant,” Einstein said. “How do you make a processor interesting? Really, what could be more boring? By combining stunning visuals (a must), top-level talent, they have produced a heart-warming piece worthy of a bigger screen.”

Yet despite the strong production value, the coolest part of this campaign may actually be the social element. Fans of “What Lives Inside” were allowed to submit drawings of potential creatures for the show, and then the winning creations were brought to life. Clearly, this kind of approach can really engage an audience—there were over 6,000 submissions. To see the winning creations, you’re going to have to check out the series for yourself.

Always: “#LikeaGirl”

For the first time this year, a new award, christened the Glass Lion, will be given to the campaign that most challenges gender norms. It’s safe to say Always #LikeaGirl is a big contender for that prize. Shortly after being released, the campaign went completely viral, garnering coverage by every media outlet from the LA Times to TIME. It currently has over 58 million views.

Sonic: “Back to School Summaries”

If marketing seasons were high school stereotypes, the back to school ads would be the nerd that nobody likes. Seriously, how often do people look forward to seeing ads about backpacks and jeans? So we have to give Sonic some serious props for making talking about school interesting and, dare I say it, cool.

At the end of August, the fast food brand offered its 3 million Facebook followers 10-word summaries of their favorite summer reading books. Or any book at all, really. The results are hilarious, and make books that are usually only talked about within the halls of a school culturally relevant. English teachers everywhere, rejoice!

best contentStarbucks: “Meet Me At Starbucks”

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had countless meetings in a Starbucks. You’ve been tutored, gone on dates, and written essays—all over the warm smell of overpriced coffee.

The bean brewing company decided to show the import role it plays in people’s lives by creating a documentary that gives a 24-hour look at what goes on in a Starbucks. And the company didn’t hold back any ambition.

As Ad Age reports, Starbucks didn’t focus on just one of their locations, or even 10. Instead, they shot in 59 different stores in 28 countries, using 39 local filmmakers, 10 local photographers, and one director who coordinated it all.

72andSunny, the agency responsible for the work, went through 220 hours of footage to get the highlights that you see here—everything from scrapbooking clubs to people on dates. Come on, anything featuring a scrapbooking club has to get some kind of award.

Totino’s: “Totino’s Living”

If you’re a fan of Contently, you know that we’re absolutely in love with the ridiculous fan site “Totino’s Living.” Created for the pizza roll company with the help of comedy duo Tim and Eric, “Totino’s Living” does exactly what great branded content should: It engages its audience with material that prioritizes entertainment; the product placement comes second.

The latest update from Totino’s? It’s partnering with Nerdist to create a series called “Adventure People.” Topics range from stylish geeks to general nerding out over Nerdist podcast legend Chris Hardwick. The two companies even held a contest to find a fresh-faced comedian to perform at Comic Con with Hardwick himself.

If you’re not part of the elite pizza roll demographic, just know that getting Chris Hardwick is a big boon for a company that’s targeting teen boys. He’s essentially their Pizza Lord.

Du: Two For One Tuesday

You wouldn’t think free movie tickets would need that much promotion. Yet du, a mobile company based in Dubai, decided to market its latest campaign in true cinematic style. The du “Two For One Tuesday” campaign involved big-budget, extremely well-produced videos that explain, in the funniest way possible, why people shouldn’t go to the movies alone.

Clearly, people love the feeling of going to the movies—even if that feeling comes from an advertisement. In fact, du Tuesday has already been raking in the awards: the Gold Pencil at the D&AD awards, four Gold Awards at New York Festivals World’s Best Advertising awards, and Best in Show at the Art Directors’ Club of New York. If copying is the sincerest form of flattery, then marketers should start copying du’s model stat.

What do you think deserves a Lion at Cannes this year? Let us know on Twitter @contently.

Image by Inside Films

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