CMA Winners 2017: Real Stories, Real Emotions & Lots of Tech
As the winners of the CMA awards enjoy their time in the spotlight, consultant editor (and judge) Dominic Mills looks over them and finds plenty of common themes.
At first glance, there might not seem to be much that binds together the 2017 gold winners. They are a mix of the long-established blue-chip content marketers like BA, Waitrose and Land Rover, as well as newer names like the Army, insurer Allianz, Adidas and a Norwegian quango.
Indeed, on one level the awards underline the glorious diversity of the landscape, with all kinds of clients – some with large budgets, some with minuscule ones – using content for a wide variety of purposes. It should be said also, since the CMA International Awards are unique for their focus on effectiveness, all paid off handsomely in terms of results for their brand owners.
The full list of winners and entry summaries is here.
But look deeper and there are several common themes that also bind them together. First is the use of real people telling real stories. I suspect this is down to the journalistic roots that underpin content marketing. Journalists instinctively know that the way to drive reader engagement is through the human stories that draw us together, and there was plenty of storytelling going on. Advertising, by contrast, favours more artificial constructs and often places actors or celebs in confected scenarios.
The second is through emotion, with many of the stories genuinely tugging at the heartstrings. Many of the winners first sought to understand the relevant emotional drivers behind purchase decisions, and then find ways to express them meaningfully. Much of this was done through data mining allied to intelligent interpretation to find genuine insights.
In this, content marketing and advertising are marching closer in step, as more brands downplay the rational in favour of what we now call System One thinking, first popularised by Daniel Kahneman. If the ad industry was quick to understand the power of behavioural psychology, content marketers have now also embraced it.
And third is the increasingly sophisticated use of technology – not just to drive reach, of which there are plenty of examples – but to build proprietary systems that permit both data mining and insight, but also drive efficiencies of production, allowing content to be easily repurposed (multi-purposed might be a better descriptor), scaled, targeted and, in some cases, personalised.
The power of real people
Let’s start with the Grand prix winner, for the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority (NLIA) by Geelmuyden Kiese (it also won Best Video-Singular and Best Specialist), which made a star out of Anna Gorzynik, mother of Polish truck driver Lukasz.
Anna, who goes on a road trip through Norway with Lukasz, epitomises the real people, real stories, theme. You can see the full case study film here. Thousands of foreign truck drivers, mainly East European, enter Norway every day. The NLIA wanted to educate them about local driving and employment regulations. They are both hard to reach (they’re on the road constantly) and typically resistant to authority bodies.
But in a genius piece of insight, the NLIA understood that they listen to their mums, so Anna was invited to join Lukasz in his cab. She is, as you might expect, the classic mum – nagging, worried, loving. “Jesus,” she tells Lukasz, “slow down”.
But she’s a star. Utterly natural, utterly compelling. The film went viral, and has now been subtitled for drivers from eight other nationalities.
Less ordinary, but nonetheless real, are the Para and abled Olympians who featured in campaigns for Allianz insurance by MediaCom (Best Finance and Best Video–Series) and Bridgestone tyres by We are Fearless (Best Automative) respectively.
Apart from being low-interest, functionally-driven, apparently-rational, categories, tyres and insurance don’t ostensibly look the same. But thereafter both brands share similar ground: common emotional values – safety, reliability, support; a common goal to drive awareness; the recognition of the pain and struggle Olympians suffer to achieve their goals; and the harnessing of the latter to tell gripping, human stories that resonate with all of us.
Allianz’s ‘Dare to Believe’ films featured seven Paralympians, among them a one-armed swimmer and, Al Jawed, a legless powerlifter. It’s hard not to be moved by their willpower or inspired by their triumphs.
Bridgestone similarly sought to focus on perseverance and effort, with 17 films tailored for different European markets, and pushed out over every conceivable channel, from social to owned media to earned. Its film for UK medal diver Chris Mears exemplifies the message, showing how he overcame a life-threatening ruptured spleen to take gold.
It’s a given that tech plays a key part in data acquisition and content distribution these days, but what impressed me was the way winners used tech for other purposes, including scaling, re-purposing and personalisation – all of which also drive efficiencies. And much of the tech is proprietary.
For RBS (Best B2B), Progressive Content built the ContentLive system, which combines a commissioning and content creator platform, a bespoke CMS that supports multiple sites, and custom-built web sites and apps to give each of the RBS Group brands its ‘own channel’.
This underpinned RBS’s ‘I saw this and thought of you’ campaign, which allows business banking frontline staff to follow-up customer contacts with specially chosen and relevant content that addresses their business needs. Via apps, staff could easily find the right content and distribute it themselves. Created once, the content could be used many times. You can see a NatWest example here.
You can also see similar tech platform/hub concepts as the building block of Cedar’s multi-brand, multi-language, work for BA and its sister IAG airlines (Best Content on Owned Channels), where the AEROLab dashboard allows Cedar to becnhmark performance of different content across its brands, as well as test out new ideas on a 1,000-strong panel.
For the Army, Karmarama’s ‘This is belonging’ (Best Data and Insight) recruitment campaign put tech at the core. Joining the Army is a life-changing decision: often taken over many months; involving a complicated customer journey; and, at root, employing different emotional motivations.
Army recruitment is thus well-suited to content, but demands genuine data analysis and insight.
Here’s a snapshot of its digital eco-system, which takes data from successful recruits and seeks to match it with Karmarama’s proprietary Continuum Pool of data on 48m UK adults. The data uncovered key motivations for joining the Army and also time-stamped interactions with Army messaging. The first gave up the insight that allowed Karmarama to build an over-arching emotional motivating theme – the desire for recruits to ‘belong to something greater than themselves’. The second allowed it to target potential recruits and then serve up different content at varying points along the decision route.
The new and the classic
One of the joys of the awards is the way it shows how content marketing accomodates both the new and the classic.
In the new corner, we have Iris’s work for the launch of the adidas GLITCH boot, a mobile-only, content-only campaign – ie none of the usual massive TV campaigns featuring highly-remunerated superstars that are common in this category. The GLITCH is a modifiable, customisable boot aimed at so-called ‘free-style’ footballers. It can only be bought via an app, and then after referral by an existing GLITCH wearer who passes on a one-off referral code.
In other words, it’s an exclusive club led by influencers who helped design the boot and whose community provides peer-to-peer advice and UGC. See more here.
And finally, let us celebrate the classic — in both senses of the word: classic print for a classic car, the Land Rover Defender (Best Use of Print within a Multi-Media Campaign), the last of 2m cars having rolled off the production line in 2017.
Produced by Foxtrot Papa, it’s a limited-circulation, high-price coffee-table book, celebrating the car through owners’ stories. And it’s glorious, to read, look at and touch. Solid, yet silky and luxurious: you just want to keep rolling your hand across the book. And the content’s not bad either, part nostalgia, part celebration. I’m not the slightest bit interested in the car, but I read this and I wanted this book on my table.
It’s a reminder, if we need one, of the enduring power of print and its ability to stir those emotions.
Now let’s see what 2018 brings.
Dominic Mills, Consultant Editor, The CMA