Every year during Advertising Week, The IAB MIXX Awards celebrate that powerful intersection where technology meets creativity. As a judge for this year’s awards, I had the honor of discussing and debating some of the industry’s most impressive campaigns to help select the winners, which were unveiled at last night’s gala. A few common themes emerged after reviewing over 100 entries across 27 categories. These are some of the trends that translated into digital bronze, silver and gold for many of the MIXX finalists:
1. Give people a reason and a mechanism to share.
Adding tools and incentives for sharing across platforms is the perfect way to turn paid and owned content into earned media.
American Express dominated the MIXX Awards this year, racking up nine finalist spots across seven categories, with its innovative and forward-thinking approach. The most recognized entry of the field was the AmEx Sync program, a campaign that transforms special offer Twitter #hashtags into savings for cardmembers. The first-of-its-kind program lets U.S. cardmembers sync their eligible Card with Twitter. When they tweet using special offer hashtags, savings are loaded directly to their synced Cards - no coupons or print-outs required - and word of the offer spreads. Not only does the program incentivize sharing to drive earned media, this is a game-changing example of how American Express is turning Twitter content into commerce by connecting cardmembers to merchants and delivering value to both.
In the “You Want Fries with That” campaign, McDonald’s asked Americans to tell them what they wanted to pair with McDonald’s Fries for a chance to win hundreds of McDonald’s Arch Cards in a weekly drawing. The brand emblazoned the contest across packaging and created a mobile app to facilitate contest entries and make them easy to share on social channels. The result? Massive engagement and positive sharing in a way that was relevant to the brand. It also sold a lot of fries.
2. Two screens are better than one.
The power of dual screening is undeniable, and there is no better case in point than Super Bowl XLVI. This year, one in five advertisers incorporated hashtags into their Super Bowl TV spots, and a recent report by Compete found that 50% of Twitter users say they use Twitter while watching television.
On Super Bowl Sunday, FedEx became the first advertiser to use Shazam to tag a live event, leading a trend that saw almost half of all Super Bowl advertisers integrating with the service. Mobile users were able to unlock exclusive content including game stats, custom polls and an ad rating feature to complement their TV viewing experience. FedEx relied solely on owned media to amplify participation and awareness. Twitter, in particular, drove high earned media as FedEx followers retweeted the brand’s messages in real time.
To build buzz leading up to the second season premiere of Game of Thrones, HBO used social media channels to unveil new trailers and exclusive content. A Twitter campaign called GoT140 encouraged fans to describe the show using a special keyword in under 140 characters and featured user Tweets in two special spots that ran on HBO. On the day of the premiere, HBO used all its social profiles to interact live with eager viewers through activities like chats with the cast.
3. Gaming is no joke.
Every category of gaming continues to see massive growth, particularly in mobile and social. Gaming is also broadening in appeal across demos including moms (18 million of them play social games daily.) That translates into more opportunities for brands to engage audiences of all types through gaming.
In 2011, Frito-Lay announced a transition to all-natural products. To help drive awareness and advocacy with the influential mom audience, Frito-Lay developed a contextually relevant integration into Zynga’s Farmville - one of the world’s largest social games. When players entered the Frito-Lay Farm in Farmville, they could actually be part of the all-natural story and virtually see how Frito-Lay ingredients were harvested. Game players were also given access to sweeps and exclusive content including cooking webisodes with Frito-Lay chefs and employee testimonials on sustainable production practices.
Toyota wanted to grow appeal for its Yaris brand among the audience of no-frills car buyers who tend to consume most of their media and content online. To reach this digitally focused group, Toyota partnered with Xbox to sponsor Your Dungeon My Dragon, an original video comedy series on Xbox, web and mobile. The series was animated as a 16-bit video game resembling the first-generation video games of the target audience’s youth with the Yaris seamlessly integrated into the storyline. Gamer fans jumped at the opportunity to engage with the nostalgic video content interactive elements, mini-games and branded downloads.
4. The best ads move people.
Advertising that evokes an emotional response - be it humor, nostalgia, triumph, or surprise - gets people talking and sharing, regardless of the channel or platform.
The Google chrome spot “Dear Sophie” tells a poignant story about a father who documents his daughter’s first years in a series of messages that he plans to share with her later in life. The Google technology takes a backseat to the very human, highly relatable moments he captures. Twitter mentions of #Chrome trended on the night the ad debuted, proving a really brilliant creative idea that touches the soul doesn’t need any added incentive to go viral.
Prior to the Super Bowl, Honda stirred up nostalgia and buzz among gen Y when it released the “Matthew’s Day Off” teaser video starring Matthew Broderick as a grown-up Ferris Bueller. As curious fans turned to Twitter to find out what the teaser was all about, Honda, Ferris Bueller, and Matthew Broderick landed in the top 10 trending topics. During the game, the “Matthew’s Day Off” spot tied for second among all Super Bowl advertisers for Tweets per minute.
5. The best campaigns blur the line between product and marketing.
These campaigns go beyond a creative execution or campaign to deliver real utility and game-changing product innovation. They even sparked debate as to whether they should be considered “advertising.”
Nike’s FuelBand is a device that lets users track all their daily activity as well as compare and celebrate fitness achievements with the six million members of the Nike+ community. To launch FuelBand, Nike created the ‘It Counts” campaign highlighting how the product’s social sharing integration drives engagement and increases motivation for an active lifestyle. And the campaign lives on in the daily activities of Nike+ FuelBand users who track, compete and share results within their social communities.
Sherwin-Williams knows people draw color inspiration from a variety of sources, and make their paint choices primarily based on color. That’s why the paint retailer built a first-of-its-kind online tool called ChipIt that lets you match Sherwin Williams paint colors to any photo on the web to produce a custom chipcard or palette of paint colors. A user can then save the chipcard, print it or share it on popular social sites like Pinterest.
This year’s finalists illustrate that marketing success is increasingly determined by a deep understanding of consumer needs and behavior, integration across platforms and experiences that blur the line between ads and content. That’s why these campaigns resonated with consumers who helped amplify the brand’s message across platforms and devices. To quote the headline of a recent RWW article (Ads Aren’t Reshaping Twitter, Twitter Is Reshaping Ads), platforms like Twitter are changing the way we think about “ads” and innovative campaigns like the ones described here are redefining what we mean by the word “advertising.”