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Database and insights company WARC (World Advertising Research Centre) shared its shortlist for the WARC Awards for Effectiveness last week. To them, winning this award ‘shows that you are developing and mastering new techniques to deliver business results for clients.’ And that’s pretty much the goal, right?

Creative marketing has undoubtedly made its place in culture and, since the last few years, it has been all about participating in spaces important to the consumer and making a mark as more than just a seller of products. But to a brand, all that doesn’t count for much if it doesn’t bump up commercial performance.

Each award category developed by WARC reflects this practical approach to creative marketing – no matter what the category, its description asks that entrants clearly demonstrate the business outcome when making their case. An effective way of going about the exercise, overall.

This got us thinking – what if these award categories could double up as campaign objectives for brands when creating content? Seeing how they don’t just make for good judgement criteria but also for goals that brands must even otherwise keep in sight when creating campaigns.

Often, the tendency is to measure creative marketing in terms of engagement metrics – did it get the kind of traction the brand intended? Did it get the likes that were promised as per the influencer’s clout? A short-sighted technique, to be blunt. But fewer brands see it as one of the ways to meaningfully shape themselves over time. To improve brand health. Or as a way to get a leg up on the competition by breaking fresh ground.

Repurposing the award categories as objectives could help brands change this thinking. It could help them create content that delights and delivers. And as a larger benefit, it could rescue branded content from its reputation for a murky ROI. Win-win.

So, for this week, we have picked up the WARC award categories that are most relevant for branded content. And we have reframed them as campaign objectives by illustrating them, using examples from our body of analysis on BuzzInContent. Our reason for not choosing examples from WARC’s shortlist is because they are global, and it makes more sense to ground the analysis in our own context.

So, going into the piece, do know that the examples are a result of purposive selection. They are not reflective of a jury’s judgement. Nor are they based on business results. They are simply the best illustrations we have to clarify the category requirements.

We have shared the six main categories created by WARC and six special award categories out of the 18 distributed across them.

Take a look.

PGIM India Mutual Fund’s video ‘Plan early and be a Mast Maula for Life’ matches these requirements well.

A piece of performance poetry, it describes what the brand sees as the archetypal Indian millennial – carefree about spending, focused on making their present exciting and doing whatever their heart desires, even if it comes at the cost of taking loans. It explains how such a lifestyle, while attractive, is not sustainable in the long run. And if the millennial truly wishes to live their whole life in financial comfort, not just the first few decades of it, then they must live prudently by planning for their retirement in time.

By trying to shift thinking around retirement planning among youth, using a communication format that is earnest and resonant, PGIM has tried to further a cultural shift that will logically reflect well on its business outcome. As the source of messaging that shows it to be a well-wisher, it is likely to attract young customers who feel that the brand understands them.

Special Award:

Natural Diamond Council, the editorial site populated by the Diamond Producers Association, could contend for this.

By creating content that mythologises the natural diamond and shows it to be an organic and prevalent part of popular culture, the Association is trying to fight back the growing popularity of lab-made diamonds. It is trying to reshape the cultural understanding of natural diamonds that are beginning to be seen as needlessly expensive and environmentally unsustainable by younger generations.

This reshaping of the diamond semiosphere (the collective cultural perception of natural and lab-made diamonds) should positively impact the Association’s business over time.

Special Award:

Myntra’s digital reality series, Myntra Fashion Superstar has been created to give fashion influencers a platform to display their skill and have it legitimised through judgement from industry experts. It is the brand’s attempt at opening up the otherwise exclusive world of fashion to those beyond professional designers and size-zero models. It is a celebration of accessibility in fashion, where talent can emerge from anywhere and all body types are welcomed.

By creating such a melting pot, Myntra has not just resonated with the influencer community. It has also reached out to a larger cross-section within the fashion community that was previously held back because of social background or appearance. And it has done all this while driving traffic to the Myntra app.

Unacademy has consistently worked towards its goal of democratising education through its platform. It has tried to reach out to as wide a community of students as possible and made study material and guidance from teachers more accessible to them. To amplify this spirit of inclusivity and encourage students who depend solely on their hard work to achieve progress, the brand came out with an anthem titled ‘Let’s Crack It’ in 2019.

This marketing effort was reflective of Unacademy’s intent of addressing as large a cross-section of students as possible, identifying with their challenges and ideally meeting its commercial goal.

Swiggy Instamart’s ‘The Better Half Cookbook’ accurately illustrates this category. By revisiting the idea of the cookbook through a branded lens, it has tapped into the less frequented space of offline branded content. It has also brought in novelty through its progressive revision of the traditional cookbook, taking it from a text that targets one person (usually a woman) to one that simultaneously talks to a modern-day couple, equally splitting the process of meal preparation between the two.

Swiggy Instamart has placed itself at the centre of this exercise by connecting each recipe with a specific QR code that can be scanned to order the necessary ingredients from the grocery delivery brand – a feature that is bound to increase sales and promises commercial success.

Special Award:

We’ve again chosen The Better Half cookbook for this. Except we wish to highlight its tech extension here. The brand has created a one-of-a-kind podcast called the ‘The Better Half earpodcast’ where one earpod plays one half of the recipe and the other plays the remaining half, allowing the modern-day couple to focus on following their respective roles while wearing an earpod each.

This extension allows Swiggy Instamart to connect with a younger audience that is more comfortable handling technology-driven experiences than the previous generations.

Special Award:

Digital agency Dentsu Webchutney has reinvented the space of employer branding by releasing 14 short brand films called ‘minisodes’ that showcase the work atmosphere at the company. Reminiscent of the popular TV show The Office, the minisodes show the company to be a relaxed set-up with passionate employees who find the time to both goof around and bag big name clients.

These films are Webchutney’s way of spicing up an otherwise bland space where employer branding is mostly understood in terms of job postings and office walkthroughs. And doesn’t necessarily excite the new-age employee who desires more than just impressive work credentials from their job. 

Over the last few years, Manforce Condoms has taken the initiative to fill the gap of sex education that exists in India. It has started many conversations about safety in the space of sexual intimacy, including the risks of recording private moments, getting intimate in public areas and letting young children surf the internet unsupervised. Its campaign #ShutThePhoneUp ran from 2017 to 2019 with a different film releasing in November of each year.

While no numbers are publicly available to directly relate the brand’s performance with its marketing over the years, its spokespersons have certainly correlated the two in general: “We intend to increase our MS and reach the 50% mark by 2022-23. All our strategies are aligned in this direction.” Moreover, Manforce is currently the biggest vendor in the country.

Special Award:

For this one, we have chosen CarDekho’s positioning as spokesperson for the elderly. Ever since September 2019, the brand has placed elders as central to the product pitch of two ads and the storyline of a short branded video.

Unlike brands in the automobile category, it has not chosen to address youth who see cars as a means to adventure and an independent modern lifestyle. It has instead reinvented the space by positioning itself as relevant to elders who need their car to take them from place A to place B, and nothing more.

CarDekho’s attempt at modernising the positioning route conventional to its category is also worth noting because, for the brand, modernising doesn’t necessarily mean making it more youthful. But instead staying up with the times – even if that translates to addressing an age bracket that most brands don’t think about unless they’re selling insurance.

Special Award:

Netflix’s marketing for 2020 black-comedy thriller film AK vs AK was unlike any other movie marketing the Indian audience has seen. It started with an openly staged Twitter spat between its two leading actors, Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap and continued through creative video collaborations with other public figures.

At one end was Anil Kapoor, who teamed up with Jackie Shroff to poke fun at Anurag Kashyap’s films, and at the other was Anurag Kashyap, who joined forces with former AIB members to create a diss track about Anil Kapoor.

Orchestrated in good spirits, the spat attracted and entertained fans more than any straightforward press junket or guest appearance on a reality show could have. In terms of business results, AK vs AK was streamed in 40+ countries on Netflix and made it to the platform’s top 10 most-watched list in 10 countries.

Wrapping Up

What we have shared here isn’t an exhaustive take on the awards categories. (For that, we would recommend that you head to WARC’s website page.) But this listing should make a good overview for brands that wish to make their efforts at creating branded content more meaningful. That want gets their money’s worth through more long-term returns than a mere uptick in positive sentiment for a brief period. It is a list definitely worth discussing at the next team meeting.