Seven Lessons From the Best Media Campaigns in the World


As well as being on the Cannes Media Lions Grand Jury Carat’s Global President Doug Ray has a unique global view of the media industry. Here, he shares his views on its current state and highlights examples of great work from which we can all learn.

1. Multi-channel is not integrated.

Unfortunately, many people call campaigns “integrated” where in fact they simply use multiple media channels to distribute consistent content. Our industry still has some work to do in moving towards fully integrated, ecosystem planning where each channel builds upon the other, leveraging the inherent value of that channel to create a robust brand experience.

P&G’s “Thank you, Mom” is an excellent example of an integrated ecosystem plan, as is the Media Lion Grand Prix winner from the Dutch funeral insurance company, Dela, for “Why Wait Until It’s Too Late?” Not only did this campaign connect on a deeply emotional level, it did so unexpectedly. Instead of focusing on those who had passed, it focused on those who were still with us, asking the simple question, “why wait until it’s too late to tell someone you love them.” Across every channel, messaging reflected the unique role of that channel. In video, for example, real-life moments of individuals telling someone how much they loved them were captured and distributed at scale. In newspapers, a blank page with the word “Dear,” provided a canvas for more people to share their feelings for loved ones. Across outdoor, the responses to those same newspaper ads were geographically placed near the homes of those for which they were intended. The medium was more than a distribution vehicle. Rather, it was an opportunity to get involved and participate. And that consumer involvement provided more content to share, keeping the campaign current, highly relevant and most importantly, effective.

2. Content and commerce are (finally) converging.

We’ve certainly talked about the convergence of content and commerce as a major driver of change in our industry and this year’s Media Lions saw a growing number these campaigns. In addition to our own ASOS #bestnightever campaign, Kia Cars “Revoo,” Geox “Amphibox,” and adidas’ “Window Shopping” campaigns were all award-winning examples of leveraging new technology to bring consumers closer to the point of transaction through media. This will no doubt continue to make media even more important to marketers in the future.

3. Social influencers are on the rise.

Although the Best Use of Social Media category had the largest number of entries, social media featured across almost every category, indicating the growing importance of earned media today. However, I have found the best work is not generally viral videos or Facebook applications - although these are certainly interesting - rather, the campaigns that leveraged the power of influencers and their own social networks were the ones that resonated.

In World Down Syndrome Day’s “Turn Up My Voice” campaign, celebrities such as Sharon Stone used their own blogs and social outlets to tell the stories of children with Down’s Syndrome, raising awareness and driving unprecedented increases in charitable donations. Similarly, Kerry Foods’ Fridge Raiders meat snacks turned to an online gaming celebrity called Syndicate Project and his vast social network of YouTube subscribers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers to help co-create a device that would enable gamers to eat the meat snacks hands-free. The “Meat Snacking Helmet” campaign, developed by Vizeum UK alongside Saatchi & Saatchi, ultimately generated 15,000 ideas and a 65% increase in sales versus the prior year at a L5.70 ROI—all without the use any traditional paid media.

4. Search is a powerful insight engine.

The “Kleenex Catches Colds” campaign is particularly interesting due to the simple use of search to inform a more effective media plan. In this case, Kleenex bid on Google keywords, with the actual objective of losing, to gather data on the geographic location of cold and flu outbreaks in the UK. Armed with this knowledge, digital media was targeted with near 100% accuracy, increasing sales by some 30% versus the prior year.

5. Cultural references create brand relevance.

Some of the best global work this year leveraged an explicit link to popular culture as a means to create broader brand relevance. Oreo’s “Daily Twist” campaign, for instance, celebrated the culture of the day, every day, by creating 100 ads for their 100thanniversary. Each ad reflected the trending news of the day, such as a six-layered, rainbow-colored creme cookie symbolising the pride parades happening across the country. Other campaigns also tapped into social causes affecting our culture such as Secret Deodorant’s “Meanamorphosis” anti-bullying campaign, Lee Jeans’ “Anx” campaign that raised awareness for those suffering from anorexia, and Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign.

6. Mobile is still finding its way.

Overall, the mobile work has been disappointing. Mobile apps and games seemed to dominate. While creative on their own, these entries did not inherently demonstrate a creative use of the medium itself. Conversely, the best campaigns were those that seamlessly integrated mobile devises or technology into a broader campaign such as adidas’ “The Highest Goal” and Smart Vertriebs’ “Par-King” or enabled access to deeper or enhanced content such as McDonald’s “Track My Macca’s,” Yihaodian’s “1000 Stores,” or California Milk Processing Board’s “Bedtime Stories.”

I should also point out that the use of QR codes has been pervasive as well, particularly in developing regions such as LATAM and Southeast Asia, where this technology is arguably more accepted than other regions of the world. It will be interesting to see if this continues or is replaced by more intuitive technology such as image recognition.

7. The Candid Camera Commercial.

A significant number of entries in to Cannes (and overall work this year) has leveraged a stunt or special event that was then captured on film for use as a commercial or viral video. Given the presence of this technique across a number of categories, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a growing trend. Has the dominance of reality TV and desire for 15 minutes of fame created a new commercial construct—the Candid Camera Commercial? No doubt, today’s consumers are more savvy and marketing aware than ever before. Therefore, does the use of “real people” in “real situations” create greater impact? More persuasion? For the following award-winners, it certainly did. Along with strong sales results: Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” “Bundaberg Rum’s “Road to Recovery,” Coca-Cola’s “Small World Machines,” and Carlsberg’s “Poker” campaigns.

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