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The Ever-Blurring Lines Between Marketing and Advertising

Cannes

The Big Question: Why should we as marketers care about what advertisers are doing?

Advertising agencies and digital marketing agencies are totally different, right? The common misconception is that one comes up with commercials and has its own TV drama while the other makes websites and manages online marketing. In reality, the lines between advertising and marketing are becoming increasingly indistinguishable. With display advertising and SEM, digital marketers are constantly working in the online ad space. Ad agencies are tapping into the power of pairing a TV ad with a killer Twitter hashtag.

But with every marketer in town screaming, "Content! Content! Content!" it's worth it for us to take a good look at what advertisers, who have been in the business of creating content since their inception, are doing. While a marketer's content types and distribution channels are very different than an advertiser's, the central focus of content that communicates a brand effectively is more important than ever.

So when Cannes released the winners of the World's Best Print Ads and the World's Best Commercials for 2012-2013, I took a close look. What makes all of these ads the best in the world? How can I apply that to the online content I create for my clients? Here are some of my most important takeaways about what these ads all have in common:

1.The message is clear and communicated creatively
Land Rover doesn't even have a picture of their car in this ad. But what they do have is a picture of tarantula skewers.

Land Rover's Goliath Tarantula Ad

The key message: Land Rover takes you on an adventure. How much of an adventure can you handle? 8 out of 10? A bat floating in a bowl of broth? The message is not, "Buy our car." The message is, "Go on an adventure. Our car will take you there." This ad communicates that message in a very focused way, but a way that is outside of the box, eye-catching, and...well...crazy.

For Marketers: Creative means something that hasn't been done before. It means doing something that will catch people off guard and delight them. There is no formula for how to do this. Online marketers (SEOs especially) are so used to thinking "A+B+C = great SEO rankings." What we should be thinking is, "This client has a message of ABC. What is at the heart of that message and how can we communicate using something no one has seen before?"

2. They don't play down to the audience
I love content that makes you take a second look. That second look could be worth its weight in gold if it makes that onlooker think about you that much harder. These ads prove that it is OK to require something of your audience. In fact, when you give them content that engages them mentally, not just visually or at a passing glance, you are reaching them on a whole new level.

Make your audience work for it. But the caveat is, after you give them a hook to snatch that first look, you have to give them a really good reward once they do the work. I had to stare at this Beijing sports radio ad for a good 10 seconds before I really understood what I was looking at. But once you get it, you feel like you just caught on to an inside joke. The cleverness of the ad speaks for itself. It's incredibly subtle and incredibly effective.

The Volkswagen ads are another great example of this. What you see at first glance is not what you see on the second, or even third, glance. Also, the National Gallery commercial (below) where Titian's Diana and Actaeon is re-enacted requires you to stick with it through the entire commercial in order to get to the chilling ending. It's not even until the painting is shown that you really know what you are watching.

Marketers: Content consumers are smart. Yes, people move at such a fast pace that you have only a few brief seconds to catch their attention. That's why you need the hook. But once you hook them, you have to give them something that reaches them on more levels that just one. Think deeper. Can you create a piece of content with multiple levels? Don't just get them to come to your blog, or even share your post, but engage them so deeply they are literally staring at your content in order to find the buried treasure.

3. It tugs at your heartstrings
Like it or not, Dove's video and print advertisement "Real Beauty Sketches" showing portraits of various women got the world talking. The video went completely viral and even had its own parody for men. It hit on something emotional that resonated deeply with a lot of people.

Real Beauty Sketches

The follow up "Camera Shy" stayed consistent with their key message, but with a bit more light-hearted air. Still, the commercial pulls at you a little bit and leaves you asking a key question: "Why don't we think we're pretty?" And all of this is to sell soap.

Crisis Relief Singapore

Ads like the "Liking Isn't Helping" campaign shown above are for considerably more somber issues. Their imagery and copy is as moving as the cause itself. "Dumb Ways to Die" is a great example of how you can make people laugh while still touching on something serious. The ad's key message is abundantly clear - it's just really dumb to get hit by a train. Don't do it.

Even Axe deodorant touched on the closer-to-home issue of boyhood awkwardness around girls with their Susan Glenn campaign.

Marketers: Our end goal is, of course, to reach the right audience and grow a brand. But marketers have an opportunity to communicate a real purpose for people that touches on something deep inside us or an issue that we all connect with. You can do it to sell body spray or for humanitarian aid. But a good piece of content doesn't just present information, it reaches people.

Did any of the other Cannes winners stand out to you? Did you have any different marketing takeaways? Let us know in the comments section, or tweet @BFMweb.

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