Why Creativity Matters For Branded Content

Why Creativity Matters For Branded Content

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Creativity is essential to create great content, because creativity positively affects business and corporate achievements. This is what Philip Thomas, Lions Festivals Chief Executive proved during the recent BCMA Leadership Series breakfast event held recently in London. He showed that there is a direct correlation between ROI and creativity, as creativity affects business development. He focused on what was behind successful creativity projects.

The discussion continued with a panel session of industry experts, including, Claire Postans, Creative Director, Jamie Oliver Ltd, Richard Pattinson, SVP Content, BBC StoryWorks, James Morris, Global Head, MediaCom Beyond Advertising, Ben Kerr, Chief Strategy Officer, Somethin’ Else, Max Garner, Head of Content, The StoryLab.

Creativity is an essential asset for business growth. The use of creativity allows brands to achieve revenues and increase price and sales performance. Great international brands such as McDonald’s and Heineken analysed the ROI of their award winning campaigns. The direct correlation between creativity and economic value is very impressive: +54% for McDonald’s winner campaigns (vs those that achieve no awards) and +45% for Heineken.


01What does creativity mean? The most difficult task is to discover what makes clients and agencies come together. When a client asks its agency for a “creative and brave” project they will most likely obtain something that is going to disappoint them: “Brave is fine, but not that brave”! is often the response, because of the meaning given to words and the use of a different lexicon.

According to some of the Cannes Lion-winning art directors, creativity means many different things:

“Expression of yourself”, “Desire to change the world”, “Take a risk”, “Not doing what has been done and doing it better, but doing what has never been done before”, “Questioning and daring yourself”, “Think differently from what you learnt”, “Free to explore topics”, “Put information and ideas in a way that nobody has never seen before”, “Make people have a reaction and an emotional response”, “Old, left behind”.

Before strengthening the relation with W+K agency in 2011, Heineken had six different agencies in nine years and it was considered by ADWEEK as the worst client ever.

Before achieving the best creative marketer award in 2015, the Heineken management realised two key aspects for the business:

1) creativity is completely subjective; 2) the development of a clear and efficient strategic plan is the only way to build a long-lasting fruitful relation with the creative agency.

02The senior director global marketing capability Cinzia Morelli-Verhoog said: “If you want great creativity you need to be able to talk about it and give it a language, because more often than not, creativity is very subjective, it has a lot to do with gut feelings, and the experience and legacy of the different individuals. By introducing the creative ladder we created a language within Heineken. For example, “clichè creativity” is level number four of our ladder, so anything that is “clichè” is a creativity of a kind that we don’t consider makes any impact”.

The “creativity ladder” genesis is very useful for a specific purpose: when we talk about a project with our agency, how can we describe it? When we select creative projects and we want to explain why they don’t come up to our expectations, how can we do? We need to talk the agency’s language.


Disruption, Product and Culture were the three most used keywords from the last Lions Festival in 2015.

Nowadays, the disruption word is abused but during the festival, the concept was focused on the media: the Grand Prix winner of the Film category, the most difficult to achieve, was a TV spot for Geico Insurance that breaks the advertising language rules: instead of suggesting you to change channel, it makes you watch the spot until the end to see what happens. Instead of placing the logo just a few seconds before the end of the spot, the brand is placed in the middle of the screen for the whole duration of the video. It is simple but very innovative because it shows a new way to use digital media and it reinvents the less engaging format, the pre-roll, into the web context.

Another “explosive” example of use of media is given by 3M-Post-it with The banner that makes you like banners campaign. This campaign was devised and created by Proximity (BBDO Russia) revolutionising the use of cookies with banners planned as a tool to engage users.

Another 2015 creative trend was the Product. The R/GA agency announced the creation of an accelerator dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT) with the purpose of helping start-ups that develop “connected” products. It was a 3 month intensive programme based on a collaboration of “Fortune 500” companies that promoted 360° support to its clients.

There were many other examples of campaigns, not only developing creative concepts, but also marketing-supporting for products: one example being the Clever Buoy for Optus case. It is a product created by M&C Saatchi’s Sydney to contrast the shark attacks problem using the Telco Company Optus as a facilitator in identifying ‘predators’ “This is not an Ad campaign, it is taking our business to a whole other place. And that is why work like this will change the world”.


This is the most interesting creative trend in 2015: creativity is also measured by its capability to introduce the brand/product into culture (and not only into consumption habits) and “change the world”. It might sound “a bit naff” or utopian but the number of companies that are adopting a social responsible perspective is increasing not only as a positive reaction to abusive behaviour, but Its becoming more ‘mainstream’ and it is crucial in the brand discussion.

There are many examples of this, perhaps the most obvious, being Procter & Gamble’s Always Intimate Words book, with Leo Burnett Mexico winning the Cannes Lions Award Grand Prix in the Health and Wellness category. The campaign sought to empower indigenous women outside of Oaxaca, Mexico by finding a way to educate them on cervical cancer, which is currently the leading cause of death in their community.

The problem? There are no words for the female reproductive system in the women’s indigenous language due to cultural taboo, leaving women unable to explain their symptoms and prohibiting them from receiving the treatment they need. To solve this, Leo Burnett Mexico enlisted the help of sociologists, doctors and linguists to work with the women and create the missing words: an example? “The door of the house Baby” is the cervix.

The purpose of this type of activity is to do something ‘real’ and genuine. Otherwise, none will be interested in your brand and the boomerang effect would be very likable.

Another example that revolutionised the women’s sport approach is the This Girl Can, a campaign developed by Sport England and a wide range of partnership organisations. The organisations started with a very profound insight that revealed a huge difference in the number of men and women playing sport. And it’s not because females don’t want to get active. Millions of women and girls are afraid to exercise because of fear of judgement.

The video tell the real stories of women who play sport by using images that are the complete opposite of the idealised and stylised images of women we are used to see.

The Sport’s England’s marketing challenged agencies to create a concept that mirrored these insights and selected the bravest campaign. It was a real challenge but after having won the Glass Award, this kind of strategy became widely used into the organisation. Since the launch of #thisgirlcan, the campaign has inspired more than 2.8 million women to get active, 37 million people have now viewed the flagship film online and it has collected 660,000 tweets.

In conclusion, brand storytelling means mirroring the culture or defining new cultural horizons. The mantra seems to be to make the world a better place!

By Elena Grinta

Elena Grinta is Founder and General Manager of Osservatorio Branded Entertainment and Strategic Consultant for Branded Content & Entertainment

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