Saturday night saw the awarding of the inaugural Branded Content & Entertainment Lions during the closing awards gala of the 59th International Festival of Creativity.
“This is a big milestone in our industry that really puts a flag in the ground and says ‘audiences can come first,’” said Avi Savar, jury president and chief creative officer of Big Fuel, about the introduction of the competition, during the morning press conference to announce the winners.
Chipotle and Creative Artists Agency picked up the Grand Prix for “Cultivate Campaign” which promoted sustainable farming and food industry practices.
Most well-known was the short film that won Grand Prix in Film competition, but the campaign included a number of different elements including the Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” as well as an event.
“Believing that the more people know Chipotle is a business doing good, the more likely they will become passionate and loyal customers,” states the official entry from the U.S.-based Mexican fast food chain.
“I’m thrilled to see a brand like Chipotle embracing content as a way of building relationships with audiences,” said Savar.
“You can see that a brand can truly build itself around the idea of content. There is no moment in any of that work that talked about 99 cent burritos.”
Savar said judges were looking for relevancy to the audience, relevancy to the brand, meaningful business outcomes and original content, though there were lots of debates about how the categories should defined and what constitutes branded content and what is advertising.
Asked if he could distinguish, Savar said branded content puts audience first and product second.
“Traditional advertising is about figuring out a unique selling proposition, features and benefits driven and connect product to people. Start with the product and end up with the people,” he said.
“True, pure, terrific work in our category inverts that. We start with people stories first and figure out how to connect stories to product.”
The jury awarded 18 Gold Lions. Some of the work more familiar to Canadians include “MFCEO” for K-Swiss and “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”
Cannes Lions festival CEO Philip Thomas said they were expecting about 400 entries for the first year of the competition but ended up with 800, 19 of which were from Canada. None of those made the shortlist.
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