Content marketing in 2013: The good, the bad and the weird


And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun... Hold on John, not yet.

Before we get too excited about 2014 we need to put 2013 to bed properly, and what better way of doing that than a review of the year dressed up as some sort of spurious awards ceremony? I know, I spoil you.

So ladies and gentlemen, please don your poshest frocks and blackest ties for the inaugural Red Bee Content Awards. There's a prize* for anyone who can suggest a snappier name than that. I was after something to compete with the Oscars, Brits and Baftas. Preferably using the acronym Colin, if you can. And there's another prize** for suggesting a suitable host. This blog's all about audience interaction. You do the work here. Responses below please. Anyway, up goes the curtain…

Best Use of Pleasantly Surprised Children at Christmas 
Only last week our Kath pointed out the trend for this year's big festive ad campaigns to go all longer-form on us. But length is not everything, as has been mentioned in many walks of life (looks like Julian Clary might be hosting now). It's what you do with it that counts. And to our mind Sainsbury's used their extended length better than anyone else by telling us a story – in fact many stories, in their Christmas In a Day film. And what a happy ending. Not a dry eye in the house.

Best Use of Jean Claude Van Damme in a Product Demo 
Hopefully the first of many annual awards in this admittedly niche category. 'But is it really content or just an ad?' I hear you think, loudly. The answer depends on your definition of content, but for what it's worth mine's pretty simple: if people actively seek it and choose to spend time with it, it's content. So this is. Building on their previous films championing the precision steering of their lorries, Volvo Trucks once again gave us something with jeopardy, humour and a clear product benefit. Next time I buy a large articulated lorry, I'm buying a Volvo.

Best Use of Enya in a Soundtrack 
A judge's commendation to Volvo Trucks, (see above). Not a category in which anyone can ever claim to be an actual winner.

Best Content About Many Product Benefits Not Featuring Jean Claude Van Damme 
A slightly wider category this one, but if you'll excuse the natural bias, I'll plump for our film for the Hyundai Santa Fe. Never before has so much useful product info for potential car buyers been delivered in a film that starts with such an odd confession from the protagonist. You simply have to watch on.

Best Illustrations of a Brand's Core Belief or Purpose 
Chipotle's Scarecrow. This Pixar-esque fable is even better than their Cannes Lion winning 'Back to the start' from 2011. Scarecrow is beautiful, charming, persuasive and clearly differentiates the brand from the EVIL competition.

Most High Profile Content Marketing Calamity Of The Year 
Oh Guinness, what were you thinking? Who knows. But here's what we were thinking.

Best Use of Content to Reinvigorate an Established Brand Idea 
Dove's Real Beauty Sketches. Working off a brilliant insight to champion a proper brand mission. A great example of a powerful idea that could only have been brought to life with content. Just imagine trying to capture this clever experiment and the emotions of the participants in a 30 second ad. Impossible. Over 60 million viewers can't be wrong.

Best Use of Willem Dafoe's Extraordinarily Weird Face 
After last year's launch with Kevin Spacey, Jameson's First Shot content competition continued with just as much A-list clout. Eminently watchable proof that great talent and good storytelling will attract an audience anywhere.

Best Recycling of an old Philips Content Idea for a Gin Brand 
A few years back, Phillips commissioned a series of short films, each with the same fixed script (see Parallel Lines. The idea was so intriguing, and the films so good, that Bombay Sapphire thought it would, ahem, 'reboot' the idea, this time with a more open competition mechanic, and under the very credible aegis of the Tribeca Film Festival. Again, some brilliantly compelling short films, which, for those unaware of the original Philips competition, will certainly deliver against the gin's brand idea of 'Imagination'.

Most Gripping High Octane Drama 
Jaguar's Desire was a cracking watch. Dramatic cinematography? Check. Damien Lewis's audition for Bond? Check. Nasty baddy? Check. Comedy car chase? Check. Dramatic escape? Check. Clever twist? Check. As thrilling, beautifully crafted and packed with features as the car itself. Coincidence? I think not.

Best Resurrection of a Classic TV Format 
Air New Zealand's Blind Gate brought back Saturday night classic Blind Date to promote two new seats on its route to LA. Cue two strangers, playing the old show format at the airport for a chance to go on holiday together. All the familiar flirting, embarrassment and will they/won't they tension wrapped neatly around a product point. Even if you found the old show excruciating, credit please the pun-tastic title of the new version.

So there we have it, the most auspicious and coveted creative awards in content marketing are over. No doubt national controversy will rage about the judge's decisions. But while we wait for the inevitable press headlines and twitter storm, why not tell me what we've missed?

Michael Reeves, Business Development Director, Content.

*There isn't. 
**There still isn't