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Content marketing in 2014

16/12/14

The best, worst and most controversial video initiatives of the year.

“Don we now our gay apparel”. Surely that’s everyone’s favourite Christmas carol lyric? Oh, just me then. Anyway, it’s more than seasonally appropriate for this blog because it’s time to grab your glad rags, practice your red carpet pose and deck the sideboard with glittery awards.* Yes, folks, it’s the 2nd Red Bee Content Awards! (If you want to make sure you’re reading in the right tone, imagine that last sentence screamed by Kermit the Frog. There, you’re with me now).

2014 has been such a bumper year for video content from brands that this thing could make even the Grammys look snappy. So without further ado, it’s curtain up.

Biggest Moment of WOW in a Three Minute Film

Pepsi kicked off the year with something awesome, both in the proper old fashioned sense and the, like, totally, dude, sense. Human Loop the Loop left me genuinely awe-struck, taken with awe, awe-inspired. It was awesome. Plenty of wincing jeopardy, a well-paced edit and a moment of genuine chin-flapping WOW.

The Not Sainsbury's Award for Best Use of Dramatic Conflict in a Brand Story

Vodafone’s First series had conflict (an ingredient we discuss a lot at Red Bee) by the bucket load. But the best film was this documentary tale of a bitter feud between two grumpy old chaps who happen to be the last two remaining speakers of an ancient indigenous language in Mexico. Will they talk and share their knowledge for future generations? Or will the language die thanks to their intransigence? And talking of quarrelsome old men harking back to a forgotten age, ladies and gentlemen please welcome to the stage Mr Nigel Farage.

The Topical Genius Award

Mischief-makers-in-chief Paddy Power pulled a masterstroke by hiring the world’s most vocal Eurosceptic to swing for Europe in the Ryder Cup. Our Nige initially may have been sceptical about the pro-European message, but I reckon the film treatment persuaded him, featuring as it did golf, booze and an implicit nod to gambling…

The Bravery Award for Boldly Standing Against the Tyranny of the Three Minute Video Rule

Someone, somewhere has decided that all YouTube videos should be three minutes long. Cobblers, say both Virgin America and Leica cameras. The former put you on a five hour flight with a crap airline called BLAH and the latter demonstrated their attention to detail by showcasing their metal polishing process in real time (45 mins). Both are hypnotically alluring, contain enough wit to hook you in and reward the viewer who skips about. Expect to see more experimenting with online time length in 2015.

Best Use of Elves, Dwarves and Wizards in a Flight Safety Video.

Air New Zealand. Again, in a surprisingly uncontested award category.

The Halfords Award for Most Touching Moment of Bonding Betwixt Man and Bike

In a major upset, this one goes to Halfords for their splendid series of films on The Bike Whisperer of Halfords. A funny, shareable idea, with a pitch-perfect performance from comedian Tony Law. It might just be the best piece of entertaining content ever conceived (Disclaimer: we made it).

Most Useful How To Video Yet Conceived

Mirabeau Wines for this nifty trick with a shoe and a bottle. Alas, intensive summer research has revealed that it becomes a less rewarding and more expensive stunt when attempted with a flip flop.

Funniest Thing Featuring a Car

For the second year running, that’ll be Hyundai’s Honest series, which this year picked up an International Content Marketing Association award for Best Automotive campaign. Though we hear that this is the award they were really rooting for.

Best Use of Sex To Sell a Product

A number of contenders here. Agent Provocateur radically broke with convention for underwear marketing by showcasing a lot of young women jiggling and jerking about in their undies. Clothing brand Wren racked up 95 million views by persuading strangers to kiss each other. And we would have loved to have given this award to sexy 1970s travel agency Thorne Travel, for the sexy glamour with which their sexy women travel agents sexily walked around sexy Kilwinning, Ayrshire. But instead it must go to those saucy Danes at Speis Rejser with their Do It For Denmark initiative. On a higher mission than merely flogging holidays, this travel agent nobly decided to tackle the falling birth rate currently threatening Denmark’s future prosperity. Their hard-hitting documentary shares tonal DNA with a lost 1994 episode of Eurotrash as it outlines the problem and the radical solution: more holidays for more sex. Entertaining, and for Denmark in the long term, useful too.

Cutest Love Story From An Ice Cream Brand

Warming up for peak tennis and ice cream season (May and June for the French Open and Wimbers), Cornetto released 40 Love, a beautifully crafted, offbeat love story between a ball-girl and a rising female star of the court. The connection with ice cream is slightly tenuous, but who cares that much about strategic sanctity when a brand is brave enough to produce films as charming as this? Content this good works on a simple formula: like the content and there’s a good chance that you’ll like the brand too.

Best Content with a Wider Social Impact

2014 saw a good batch of films made for women and by women, a theme identified here by our Kath. The one with the biggest impact was Like A Girl from Always. Intriguing and insightful, it deftly illustrates how some of western society’s endemic prejudices can dent the self-esteem of girls and potentially restrain their ambition. The enormity of the film's reach (53 million and counting) will hopefully eradicate the use of the phrase ‘like a girl’ as an implied denigration.

The Miu Miu Award for Content from a High End Fashion Brand That Is Actually Quite Good, For a Change

An inaugural award sponsored by and awarded to Miu Miu for their excellent series of films from female directors, the best of which is this corker from Miranda July – Somebody. It’s a great satire on our growing tendency to outsource human interaction, however tender, to apps, tech and intermediaries. The seemingly spoof app was created for real, and in a case of life imitating art, it was downloaded in large numbers, leading to perhaps the first case of 'Brand Creates Living Satirical Performance Art Project'. Oh, I forgot, Chanel has already done that with Karl Lagerfeld…

The Chanel Award for Content from a High End Fashion Brand That Is As Bad As You Would Expect

Surprisingly Karl had little to do with this one. It was Baz Luhrmann of all people, the king of kitsch pastiche. Unfortunately, he dropped any sense of irony here and gave us every overly-pungent perfume ad cliché in the book. Poor Giselle temporarily loses the love of her life because she can’t step over a two foot white fence. Don’t worry, she gets him back. He just went to the opera house. The opera house, eh? Who would have thought it?

The Sainsbury’s Award for Most Controversial Film of The Year

Sainsbury’s First World War Christmas ad/content. I won’t wear down my finger pads on this one. Here’s the crux of the argument. Sumptuous production. Emotive storytelling. Timely reminder of both the worst and best of human endeavour. Raising money for veterans. But… a sense of deep unease at the appropriation of a war to flog turkeys and tinsel. The debate rages on…

And finally, the highlight of the night…

The Grand Prix for the Most Audacious Branded Content Achievement of the Year

The accolades above have been awarded to brands that have got their audiences searching for, enjoying and sharing their content. No mean feat, when you consider no sane being starts their day with a stated ambition to consume some branded content. But only one brand this year has managed to make people pay, in their droves, for some branded content…

Step forward LEGO, with The LEGO Movie. An entertaining ad for merchandise that clocks in at over 100 minutes, that made over $468 million worldwide (not all for LEGO, but they would have seen a healthy slice). The bar for content marketing success has been raised. With that in mind, I’d better get back to work on my screenplay for Toilet Duck: the Movie.

See you at the 2016 Oscars.

Michael Reeves, Business Development Director, Content.

*Recipients are responsible for commissioning their own trophies. Red Bee accepts no financial responsibility for production of said awards. Have you considered up-cycling your old swimming badges?