Wandering in the fog of concepts continued, or on the vague framework of content categories

- in 2015, ARTICLES
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This year’s edition of the Clio Awards shows how content categories reflect today’s trends in marketing communication. Branded content and branded entertainment are categories covering the full range of media and showing how difficult it is to limit transmedia communication to a framework of individual media and categories. Therefore, they continue to pose problems for both those submitting and evaluating. During this year’s deliberations a lot of time was spent on discussing whether a particular campaign belonged to a given category and subcategory. This was especially true since the Clio Awards’ organisers had decided to separate Branded content from Branded entertainment and, within each of these, established sometimes overlapping subcategories. Fortunately for those submitting, the contest rules allowed the judges to move the campaigns between categories, of which we decided to take advantage at a couple of occasions. After all, can we not watch a well-executed documentary film for our own leisure and relaxation, and thus qualify it in the entertainment category? How about an event, which was attended by several hundred people, but received a new lease of life on the Internet in the form of an engaging viral film with several million viewers, can it not be content?

What is worrying is the fact that spot campaigns, clearly intended in the first place for paid airing on television or the Internet, are still submitted to content-related categories. This may suggest that, unfortunately, some of those submitting still do not understand the essence of this category. In my opinion even an ideally executed, most poignant and engaging spot is still a spot and has its dedicated categories. Content categories should be evaluated through the prism of whether we would willingly, not coerced in any way, be inclined to watch the given content. This can be particularly clearly demonstrated on the example of entertainment content. Those submitting should ask themselves whether the viewers would watch the said content when looking to spend a nice evening or a coffee break at work? And would they be willing to pay for it?

All the more so, since at this year’s Clio Awards one could feel the lack of a sub-category that would allow integration of communication with existing programs to be quantified. It is a trend definitely worth watching and the best solutions should be supported, set as examples and a counterweight to badly executed and obnoxious product placement. From among the winners one should clearly point to the Affordable Care Act that was discussed in Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: President Barack Obama and awarded a Grand Clio, and GE’s segment for the Jimmy Fallon show that received a gold award. The first example is a programme on the verge of total failure. The decision to use the incumbent President of the United States in a very specific Funny or Die environment could have been counter-productive and end up deepening the image crisis of ObamaCare. Therefore, one should applaud the courage and exemplary use of an Internet show convention (it is worth noting that the creator of the campaign and the entity submitting it was not the advertising agency, but Funny or Die).

GE also showed great understanding (again, probably with the help of the program’s creators) of the nature of Fallon’s show. By creating Fallonventions, a mini-cycle inside Fallon’s programme proper, which shows young inventors and their innovations (ranging from an edible bowl for cereal to a self-supporting selfie stick), they perfectly captured the values and qualities that GE wants to identify with. The entertainment nature of the communication has also made it possible to reach target groups that have so far been beyond the reach of GE communication.

What is encouraging is that brands are beginning to feel better as story narrators and getting more confident and bolder in this area. They use technology creatively (for example, in the case of The Tweeting Pothole or the multi award-winning Pay Per Laugh) and build integrated campaigns based on content. These are positive signs suggesting that the category is slowly maturing and developing. Whether we have to enclose it in a very rigid framework, I leave as a matter of secondary importance.