What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form. “ Are those words by David Ogilvy, the undisputed legend of advertising, still true today? Hard to say. The form is pretty damn important as well. But since it was covered it in part one of this article, let’s tip our proverbial hats to the old master and focus on content in this part.

CONTENT IS KING?

This advertising adage (not to be confused with AdAge) is already very venerable. Does this make it outdated? Many admen say so. Attention span of modern consumers shorter than ever. Advertising over-saturation means only boldest and most intriguing executions that sell it’s message in the shortest possible time prove to be successful. YouTube, Twitter, Internet memes – everything seems to get people used to short, pill-sized forms of communication. An antithesis of storytelling. So how can content be king?

Well, I’m happy to announce that the news of the king’s death have been premature. The prime evidence at this year’s Cannes festival is the What Lives Inside prepared for a high profile duo of brands – Dell and Intel. It as close to pure storytelling as a modern campaign can ever get. Its festival success and – primarily – astonishing popularity among Internet users mean great content can still make effective communication.

Why still? Because, while masterfully crafted, the activation’s format is hardly original. The project can be well described as a sequel of another Cannes-awarded campaign The Beauty Inside also developed for  Intel. Arguably one with an even more captivating story than this year’s laureate.

And both of those campaigns can be described as descendants of the legend of cinematic “advertainment” – BMW’s The Hire series.

And that is not all. This year’s gold Lion winners include two more excellent content-driven projects.  First of them celebrated Adobe Photoshop’s 25th Anniversary. Apart form a great story it sported an ingenious demonstration of the possibilities offered by graphic processing professionals’ application of choice. And on top of that something for the users to play with (and share with their friends).

Second one is also built for strong viral potential. World’s Toughest Job, a campaign celebrating the hard work moms put into taking care of their children, has fittingly gone live shortly before Mother’s Day. The idea itself was excellent, the surprise factor considerable and  the end effect thought provoking. Some might say however it was a little overt-the-top considering the video-ending call to action encouraging the viewer to celebrate Mother’s Day by sending his or her mother… an e-card from cardstore.com.

TECHNOLOGY VS. STORYTELLING

On this year’s Cannes festival Nick Law, R/GA’s Global Chief Creative Officer and one of the head jurors has said (about the body of work submitted this year) “There are two sorts of creative thinking, the more narrative, agency-type thinking and the more systematic, Silicon Valley-type of thinking. There was a lot of work that was more narrative, usually on behalf of brands, but to me, a lot of the conversation was parsing out the differences and the pros and cons from these two worlds.”

This might have been the case in the jury room, but I have to respectfully disagree with the polarising “two sorts” theory. It is not a choice and it definitely should not be a battle between those approaches. Instead the only real way forward must surely be synergy. Winners (both metaphorical and actual award-winners) make great stories and tell them using technology of modern times.

There is a lot of evidence for this claim among this year’s Cannes honours, such as already mentioned Honda’s The Other Side. As you would expect from Wieden & Kennedy they have delivered captivating storytelling perfectly capturing the spirit of Civic’s two versions. They have however used cutting edge digital tools to deliver it – including a custom-built interactive YouTube experience.

To create another great story popular American sports apparel brand Under Armour forged an unlikely partnership with Gisele Bundchen (yes, the Victoria’s Secret Angel). The resulting I Will What I Want activation told the tale about following your heart regardless of what others might think. And similarly to Honda it has been reinforced with top-notch and perfectly fitting technological solutions in order to create a real-time (and real-world) feed of outside chatter. Interestingly, no hashtags have been harmed in campaign’s creation, which fact alone – looking at so many current advertising activities – is an innovation.

Lastly, the most moving (in my opinion anyway) of the story-technology marriages – Soundcloud’s Wall of Sound. This time the script, as well as the soundtrack, has been written by history. However it’s adaptation into an innovative, immense, interactive experience is truly masterful and the opportunity to relive those events (which are hopefully never to be repeated) is priceless.

BOTTOM LINE

Another much quoted sentence from this year’s festival has been authored by Dr Karen Nelson-Field, Director of the Centre for Digital Video Intelligence at the University of South Australia. “Distribution is king; content is queen.”

Distribution is king; content is queen.We can of course understand it in a couple of ways. Distribution can be defined as activation’s advertising and media spend. Considering however, that the most popular Cannes case study words (for a few years running now) have been “zero media budget” I don’t think this is what she meant. Distribution is rather the form, which the content takes – preferably one friendly to viral and wide publicity. Earned media (word of mouth – the most precious of them all – included) have always beaten paid media and today’s technology gives brands and agencies unprecedented possibilities of tapping this resource.

What is the conclusion then? For all of you classical storytellers out there, both by profession and at hearth – you are not relics of the advertising past. Far from it. However in order to survive you need to learn a new language. Interactive. And don’t stop there. Practice it until everyone, yourselves included, believes you are native speakers.

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Dawid Wnuk

Dawid Wnuk

An experienced manager and leader in the field of interactive / integrated communication with over 40 international and regional advertising awards (be.net/dawidwnuk).

Head of the Creative Communication Division at Performante worldwide-operating interactive advertising agency (performante.com).

A firm believer in forging lasting and meaningful brand-consumer connections as a route to customer loyalty - a cornerstone of every brand's long-term growth.

Outside of marketing - an award-winning fine art and journalistic photographer (dawidwnuk.com) as well as lover, performer and writer of both music and literature.

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