Festival Intelligence: Influencing through digital brand stories | M&M Global

Festival Intelligence: Influencing through digital brand stories

From expressive creators to originality seekers, the new world consumer is demanding more from brands. In pursuit of developing more authentic and transparent connections, advertisers across the US are turning the focus to original content and social influencers to create new platforms from which digital brand storytelling is building stronger engagement with audiences.  

According to eMarketer, this year will “mark a major milestone in the world of advertising” with digital ad spending in the US set to exceed traditional ad spend for the first time, growing 19% to $129.34bn and representing 54.2% of total ad spend. By 2023, eMarketer estimates that digital will surpass two-thirds of total media spend.  

“The steady shift of consumer attention to digital platforms has hit an inflection point with advertisers, forcing them to now turn to digital to seek the incremental gains in reach and revenues which are disappearing in traditional media advertising,” said Monica Peart, forecasting director at eMarketer.

With 14% of the Festival of Media Global Awards 2019 shortlist campaigns entered from the US, second only to the UK (17%), we dug a little deeper into these entries to uncover the latest media and marketing trends from the world’s largest advertising market.

Food & beverage brands dominate the entries, representing 29% of the total shortlisted campaigns from the US, followed by retail (20%), technology and automotive (both 14%). Additional entries from the finance & utilities, fashion & beauty, telecoms, travel and media sectors were also featured on the shortlist.

Both Starcom and UM lead the agency rankings, with eight shortlisted entries each, followed by MediaCom with four and PHD with three. VM1, Courageous Studios and IBM Watson Advertising, GroupeConnect, Hearts & Science, Initiative, Telemundo, Vizeum and Zenith are also up for awards for work entered from the US.

The spread of categories from the US is split under the follow strands: Media (43%), Content (31%), Insight & Technology (26%). The two most populated categories within this are ‘Best Branded Content in Digital Channels’ and ‘The Content Curator Award’, with a strong showing in the ‘Best Event, Experiential or Sponsorship Campaign’, ‘Best Influencer Campaign’, ‘Best Multi-screen Campaign’, ‘Best Use of Programmatic’, ‘Impact Awards’ and ‘The Creative Use of Media Award’ categories.

Under the overarching theme of content, key branded content partnerships were formed across the board with trusted media brands including BuzzFeed, CNN, National Geographic, The New York Times, Roku and Time magazine — which gives brands both editorial authenticity as well as strength and scale in content distribution. The focus is very much on creating genuine stories that resonate with audiences beyond simple and straightforward brand messaging.

From an influencer perspective, in addition to celebrity/social influencers who already boast mass, loyal followings, many campaigns took a slightly different tact and used peer-to-peer influence techniques based on the insight that real people create real connections. These honest conversations and practical perspectives created a sense of trust and social community.

Bringing these stories to life through original content, digital and social media, video was the medium of choice for telling effective and impactful digital stories – ranging from long form YouTube content, live-streaming, Instagram Stories and more.

By leveraging a compelling and current brand voice, forging partnerships with trusted media outlets and distinctive talent with unique voices of their own, the most captivating content strategies are those built on real, human experiences with emotional connections.

We put the spotlight on three Festival of Media Global Awards 2019 shortlisted entries, which highlight this trend:

bank of america

Camp Better Money Habits | Bank of America | GroupeConnect | US

Shortlisted for: Best branded content in digital channels


Millennials are more fiscally responsible than the stereotypes portray and their top source of financial advice is each other. Designed to be a resource, not push product, Bank of America invented the Better Money Habits (BMH) financial education programme after 2008’s financial crisis. Through hundreds of pieces of informative content and tools covering saving & budgeting, credit, home ownership and retirement, Bank of America’s goal is to help younger adults improve their financial literacy and ultimately regain their trust.

To make BMH relevant, the strategy was to enable honest conversations between Millennials and offer practical perspectives. GroupeConnect created Camp Better Money Habits, an end-of-summer weekend retreat and financial bootcamp where 50 young Millennials earning less than $50k per year convened to have fun, network with peers, and experience financial education in a unique way. The agency made sure to capture everything on video. Roving camera crews talked to campers one-on-one and a “confessional booth” enabled them to share their deepest fears, financial hacks and proudest financial accomplishments in a safe setting.

It transformed Better Money Habits from a passive resource to peer-to-peer at scale though the combination of original content and digital + social media. To scale the relatable, educational financial information and create conversation with a broader younger adult audience facing similar life moments, it shared the campers’ stories in digital and social media using video, articles and quizzes on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, with more in-depth content living on BuzzFeed.com and Bank of America’s Better Money Habits’ website.


Moving Forward through Media | Uber | MediaCom | US

Shortlisted for: Best branded content in digital channels


Uber had begun to radically address its culture with changing its CEO, starting programmes to address driver satisfaction, defining a clear purpose and several other shifts within its organisation. Its challenge in 2018 was to turnaround the brand perception of Uber by conveying these big shifts it was making and soften the beach head for a more purpose driven campaign that was to follow. Turning around public opinion is like changing the course of a super tanker – you have to pick your approach and moments. Upon testing various messaging approaches, it realised people were more influenced by an emotional appeal from real people vs. a litany of plain facts told through ads.

It would identify key moments of emotion using an emotional scoring system, to deliver those conversations. It needed Real People in Real Moments vs. brand ads in all moments. Firstly, MediaCom regained Uber’s place in culture by becoming part of conversations around the highly emotional Basketball’s All-Star Weekend. In a first ever effort, it took two legends of the game, Lebron James and Kevin Durant and put them on the back seat of an Uber. In a moment of real talk, they addressed not just sporting issues but also pivotal cultural topics around race and politics – creating highly emotional content.

To target the emotional passions of basketball fans, the agency identified that the key content sharing moments occur during the three days of the All-Star Weekend. To ensure Uber gained traction amongst NBA fans, it replicated their behaviour, moving across to second screens and social media in the ad break, before capitalising on post-game hype in highlights on Bleacher Report, Sports Center and across NBA properties. It extended to premium YouTube placements, targeted towards users with the highest affinity to NBA, and capitalised on Lebron James and Kevin Durant’s social following, attracting responses from other NBA stars and fans who joined in the conversation.


Slay with Olay | Olay Facial Skin Care (P&G) | Hearts & Science | US

Shortlisted for: Best branded content in digital channels


The existing association of Olay for the MI-30 woman, if there was one at all, was that of an outdated ‘old lady brand’ that didn’t understand the needs of a millennial woman and didn’t offer beauty solutions designed for their needs or tastes. It had to strike a balance in messaging between driving home brand benefits while doing so in an authentic manner. So the brand’s first strategic goal was to find authentic stories to tell, and find the right partner for helping tell them. Hearts & Science found the perfect partner in Buzzfeed, one of the most trusted digital sources for news, entertainment, and media among the MI-30 demographic.

Authenticity would be the key. Millennial women are a highly sought-after demographic, and they know it. They’re savvy, skeptical of being marketed toward or taken advantage of, and strong in their opinions and brand preferences. The agency knew that telling an effective digital story first would be vital, before it could begin to build up positive brand associations for Olay. Together with the millennial powerhouse Buzzfeed, they collaborated to create three entertaining, light hearted digital video series campaigns (New Faces, Same Problems, Quarter Life Crisis Averted, and Turning 30) following women in their late 20s who are looking to improve one area of their lives as they reach important stages in their “adulting” lives.

Within each video series, audiences met a relatable, down-to-earth and funny woman with her ‘life together,’ save for one area where she could use a little extra guidance – whether trying to balance motherhood with work, embracing self-confidence with age, or establishing a more responsible self-care routine. The result was a memorable, heartfelt and genuinely funny campaign that spoke directly to the exact demographic Olay was most desperate to reach, resulting in measurable success among these women as well as a meaningful campaign that went beyond marketing to send a worthwhile message to women everywhere.

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