For all pumping up of content and branded entertainment, the building of content studios at agencies and even multiple content partnership announcements announced this week alone at Cannes, the category marked an anticlimactic end to the Cannes International Festival of Creativity: there was no Grand Prix winner in branded content and entertainment.
For a relatively new category that launched in 2012, the move to not award a Grand Prix signals that there's an overwhelming amount of of content being developed, but none of it stands out -- and further, how does a jury even define branded content?
This problem isn't unique to this year. Last year the jury also did not award a Grand Prix in branded content and entertainment.
This year's jury did award 16 Gold Lions. But David Lubars, president of the branded content and entertainment jury and BBDO chief creative officer, said Saturday that the jury ultimately decided not to award the Grand Prix because there was no single piece of category-defining work that people will be thinking about in the years to come. Nothing stood out enough from 1,394 entries.
"This is kind of a new category, and it's still a maturing category," he said. That there was no Grand Prix, "says to you that there still room for growth" in this category. "When you give a Grand Prix, that's like classic history forever, and the jury and I didn't feel like any of those quite hit that peak."
There was, however one piece of work that the content jury may well have awarded, had it entered: Wieden & Kennedy London's work for Honda's Civic Type R. The jury "admired that very much," said Mr. Lubars.
Mark Fitzloff, exec creative director at Wieden and titanium and integrated jury president, who was sitting next to Mr. Lubars on the panel during the press conference, quipped: "Our entry budget was already used up." (The Honda work was awarded a Gold Lion in the film craft and film categories on Saturday.)
Many of the entrants in the branded content and entertainment category just slapped a logo onto something, or made an integration just for the brand's sake without any larger narrative or natural partnership, said Mark Fortner, jury member and head of innovation and branded content at Mediacom. But there were also multiple entries that were compelling live experiences, like Samsung's Slideliner by Traffik in Australia or Media Market's Rabbit Race campaign by Ogilvy in Germany, he added, and several NGO entries, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, that couldn't have been eligible for a Grand Prix.
The branded content and entertainment category faced an issue several other categories did this year, especially as digital and social bleed into nearly every part of a campaign: how do jurors even define a category now? "The thing about this category to me is that it's not even a category anymore -- it transcends. It's just how the world is now," said Mr. Lubars.
The creative data category, which was new this year, also did not award a Grand Prix.