Will We See a Grand Prix In the Branded Content & Entertainment Category?
Having failed to award a Grand Prix last year, there’s likely to be a heightened interest on the judges’ decisions in this year’s Cannes Lions Branded Content and Entertainment category.
Maybe we shouldn’t be so shocked that last year’s panel decided not to bestow the festival’s highest honour (although there were multiple and very well-deserved golds). After all this is a category that is very much evolving and has not yet reached maturity (if such a thing exists) – and that makes it such a thrilling one to be a judge of and sector to work in.
I’m sure that this year there will be the same level of debate within the judging chamber as we seek to clarify and define what exactly branded content is as it continues to evolve, and with more clients changing their whole brand behaviour to this model of thinking.
A glance at previous entries shows that some have sometimes appeared to be little more than an addendum to a pre-existing advertising idea rather than a piece of entertainment that can stand on its own two feet, in its own right. Equally, there have been some examples of pieces of work being little more than (often great) TV ads with a heavy paid-for digital distribution strategy. For me, this is not what branded content should be and nor is it the Cannes Lions official definition, which states it is “…the creation of, or natural integration into, original content by a brand.”
While many fantastic advertising ideas will be on display in Cannes next week, our role as judges is to pick the winners that started in a different place to established modes of advertising. Branded content is about creating pieces of entertainment – original moments in time that people genuinely want to spend time with. It should be work that stands alongside not just the best in the advertising industry, but the best in the whole entertainment industry: creative work that can fight for your attention alongside Game of Thrones, rather than just be pre-roll before it. It’s about being the main event rather than a prelude. It’s why the ‘Entertainment’ word in the category’s name is no mere appendix or addendum – it’s crucial in the execution of a well-conceived and executed piece of branded content and reflects how the worlds of entertainment, advertising and publishing are coming together in new ways.
So will there be a Grand Prix winner this year that successfully meets or exceeds these criteria? Well, one thing is certain: we’ll find out pretty soon.