Contagious’ Cannes contenders on display at Future Flash

Watch the work Paul Kemp-Robertson says will win big in France

Watch the work Paul Kemp-Robertson says will win big in France

As June approaches, the industry is starting to place its bets on the work that will nab awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. At the ICA’s Future Flash event on Thursday, Paul Kemp-Robertson, founder and editorial director of Contagious Communications, shared work that he thinks is likely to dominate the industry’s most prestigious festival.

While the long-time industry watcher and consultant acknowledged that “prankvertising” – work designed to scare the bejeezus out of people, like a terrifying marauding devil baby – was prominent this year, Kemp-Robertson said the work that will likely to dominate at Cannes is heavy on two things: content and purpose.

Content, he said, resonates because it allows a brand to tell a deeply layered story across multiple platforms in many ways, a concept perfectly exemplified by Volvo’s campaign for its new trucks, which began with a series of stunt videos and culminated in the most excellent “Epic Split.” The work was essentially a B-to-B campaign but through content it became one of the most popular spots of the year.

Similarly, Kemp-Robertson pointed to Guinness’ “Sapeurs,” a charming and energized look at the Society of Elegant Persons in the Congo – folks who shed their work-a-day duds for seriously dapper threads in their down time. With a video ad and a companion doc, Guinness was able to amplify the story of this subculture.

Strong content also allows something as banal as talking about attributes to be imbued with deep heart that connects with people, which is why Kemp-Robertson says Skype’s “Stay Together” series is a sure bet for Cannes hardware. “At the end of a day it’s just a product demonstration but they’ve looked into how people use the service.”

The Contagious founder said Newcastle Brown Ale did a brilliant job of leveraging content with its “If We Made It” campaign, a series of online films that hijacked the Super Bowl (of which the beer brand was not a sponsor) by talking about how amazing their spot could have been, if they actually had the money to make a Big Game ad. As Kemp-Robertson says, “They used the principle of judo, to use the weight and bulk of your opponent to beat them.”

Roundly panning the actual content as “the most vacuous, vapid thing ever… that makes Jersey Shore look like War and Peace,” Kemp-Robertson tips AT&T’s “Summer Break” project – a reality series that played out on social and mobile – to win at Cannes for its innovative distribution. “For the price of a spot in American Idol, BBDO was able to get nine weeks of content,” he said, content that was viewed over 644 million times.

Something worth saying

The other trend that Kemp-Roberston says will dominate Cannes is work with purpose. “Money doesn’t buy you scale, sincerity does,” he said, quoting David Droga, who uttered the comment while serving as jury president of last year’s Innovation Lions. Brand work with greater meaning to the world at large will be “a big part of the conversation this year.”

The first piece he suggested will prevail based on its greater purpose was Samsung “Power Sleep,” an app that allows individuals to donate their phone’s processing power to an research project in need of computing power. The project allowed people to plug in and become a part of a global super computer while they slept.

Technology was also used to bring people together where laws were keeping them apart in the Google+ “Same Sex Marriage” effort. Couples in France, who were legally prohibited from being wed, were married over Google+ by a mayor in Belgium. As Google has been doing with much of it’s advertising, it tapped into real stories and added a layer of purpose to humanize a web service.

A more gutting story that Kemp-Robertson expects will succeed at Cannes is AT&T’s “It Can Wait”. An anti-texting-and-driving campaign that manifest as a 30-minute documentary from filmmaker Werner Herzog, the stories of people irreparably harmed by texting drivers was so successful that it elicited support from competitive brands and garnered 4.8 billion media impressions.

But the absolute killer piece of work Kemp-Robertson shared is one of those efforts that illustrates that brands and agencies can, when creating work with purpose, have a profound impact on the world. With “Sweetie” for Terre des homes, Amsterdam agency Lemz created a realistic avatar of a 10-year-old girl that lured webcam sex tourists and, in turn, drew attention to an unseen problem, using the power of technology to affect real change. In this case, the project resulted in actual arrests.

As a parting note, Kemp-Robertson recalled a quote from Unilever marketing SVP Marc Mathieu to reinforce the reasons that stories and purpose yield such excellent work. “A brand is lot like a person. If it’s doesn’t have a point of view, it’s not very interesting.”

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