By Tom Bannister
There are enough awards shows out there for everybody to get a trophy. But, along with Cannes Lions, the Webbys have done a good job of capturing the convergence of multiple disciplines and industries (tech, entertainment, advertising, design, PR) versus other awards shows like the Clios, which focus on a particular discipline. Here are five branded content, takeaways from this year’s Webby winners (announced this week):
Companion/Extensions Of Traditional Media IP
Companion or extension pieces from traditional media IP are more popular than original IP native to digital. That includes both digital extensions, which promote third party brands like Carl’s Jr., and digital content designed to promote traditional media franchises like “The Martian.” For example, “Rick & Morty: Thickburger Invasion” is a traditional, short-form commercial based on the Cartoon Network show’s characters. “The Martian” was represented in multiple categories including winning Best Individual Short: Drama Category, with a self-filmed video segment by Mark Watney. Even unofficial use of traditional IP proved popular in the form of both Adi Shankur’s Power Rangers Fan Film and “Star Trek’s Pilgrim Of Eternity.” With traditional media moving deeper into branded content, leveraging of traditional IP is a trend that will continue to grow and looks ideally positioned to capitalize on experiential media like VR and live broadcasting. However, like the Oscars, which separates adaptations from original material, the Webbys should consider separate categories for programs which are original to the web. Is derivative of traditional really the best representation of the web’s creativity?
Short-Form More Popular Than Long-Form
Like in previous years and at Cannes Lions, too, short-form is clearly favored over long-form. Even the long-form category winners aren’t really long-form. For example, “The Skinny” comes in at 12 minutes per episode, whereas “Love Is Welcome Here” from AirBNB is only three minutes. At the Webbys, most branded content pieces across most of the categories tend to be under five minutes. This might be because short-form is better suited to the web/mobile-centric experience or it might be because short-form is often better suited to the shorter turnaround/development timelines of brands’ funded programming.
Entertainment Brands Leading Charge
Entertainment category brands, products and services, such as networks or studios promoting films and series releases, are the most successful brand category at the Webbys. “Zoolander Returns To The Runway” won Best Live, “House on Hallow Hill” won Best VR, “COCAINENOMICS” won Best Native. Entertainment brands tend to have a competitive advantage over consumer brands as their value propositions are essentially stories and, as such, are more easily extended into digital. Fewer gaming franchises were represented this year. Approximately 1/3 of the branded content winners were entertainment products. Tech comes in a close second, with winners from Beats, GE, Google and Intel. Brands not normally connected with entertainment, like insurance purveyor Geico or Ziploc, are anomalies.
Ideas Versus Traditional Storytelling Skills
A lot is made in branded content commentary about the power of storytelling, but awards shows tend to prove the power of the idea rather than the story. Stories contain two things: characters and a plot. A story is designed to hold somebody’s attention over an elongated period of time. That’s simply not true of most branded content, which tends to reflect the power of an idea, an image or a moment rather than a story. Jean-Claude Van Damme balanced between two trucks is not a story and, similarly, among this years crop of Webby winners, there are a lot of amazing, attention-grabbing and unique ideas such as “The World’s Slowest Rube Goldberg,” “DC Pipe Dream” and “Unskippable.” But to blanket label a cool idea as a story because “storytelling’” is a fashionable concept is to detract from what makes the piece great. This year’s best example of actual storytelling at the Webbys is GE Podcast Theater’s “The Message”. As with the popularity of short-form, the virality of an idea versus the immersive qualities of a story might partially explain the prominence of the latter.
Need An ‘Audience Created’ Award For Branded
The Webbys category system can be a little confusing, with advertising given a separate section, while brand-funded initiatives are represented within all the major categories. One important subcategory. however. would be a couple of audience-created awards for branded content. This would be the best-branded content created by customers, amateurs and fans, encompassing everything from fan films to personal videos (like Go-Pro content) to social content such as haul photos on Instagram, to best live customer service experiences. How brand marketing lives and is represented post-purchase in consumers’ lives is becoming as important as the way brands try to portray themselves pre-purchase, and customer service is mingling with marketing. As filmmakers’ digital tools only get better, this trend will become more and more powerful, and part of the future of advertising lies in reacting to and amplifying content created by customers, rather than purely by creative departments.
This post was penned by VideoInk publishing partner Branded.tv, a one-stop shop for branded entertainment. Branded.tv features and catalogs the best branded entertainment campaigns from around the world.