As content steps up to the awards podium, has video replaced the press release?

There are some new categories on the PR Week Awards block and, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of them is Best Use of Content (the others are Best Use of Creativity – a subject we have held forth on before – and Best Use of a Small Budget).  Content has been a buzzword in PR for a few years now and we’re seeing a definite shift in the skills agencies are demanding. For example, we’re seeing requests for film-making and editing skills which simply didn’t come up before.  Looking at the shortlist, it seems that content has become the product and it’s the campaigns themselves that are generating heat, rather than the products they are promoting.

And the winner could be…

The shortlist for Best Use of Content includes a graphic novel telling the story of Bacardi by Citizen, the #therewillbehaters hashtag for Adidas by Iris, a mock party political broadcast with Nigel Farage for Paddy Power by Mischief, Stephen Hawking sharing his theories on predicting the outcome of the football world cup by Taylor Herring, also for Paddy Power, and the End Marmite Neglect campaign by W.

All of these campaigns secured good coverage in trades and nationals, with YouTube views in the tens of thousands, or 20 million in the case of Adidas, and lots of Twitter and Facebook action.  The Bacardi campaign has proper artistic kudos courtesy of its creators, graphic novel legends Warren Ellis and Mike Allred, and was lauded by the design and marketing press for its originality.  The Adidas campaign, which was launching a new range of boots, featured premier league footballers so it’s perhaps not surprising it garnered significant attention.  The clever bit was the #therewillbehaters hashtag, which neatly tapped into anti-troll sentiment enabling the campaign to transcend its promotional origins and evolve into a social commentary with the hashtag appearing on numerous motivational tweets, blogs and memes.

Paddy Power has enjoyed a long history of high profile PR stunts and has two entries in the content category.  Nigel Farage was employed to declare his love for Europe, or at least the European Ryder Cup team.  It’s a very funny spoof with plenty of barbed comments about Americans. Mr Farage plays it straight, even when channelling Churchill, which only makes it more amusing.  The other Paddy Power entry is the legendary Stephen Hawking lending his formidable intellectual might to determine how England could win at football, despite the fact that when kicking penalties “as we say in science, they couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo”. It’s a brilliant way of lending tongue-in-cheek gravitas to a perennial national dilemma and, not surprisingly, got a lot of attention.

Last on the list, but leading the pack in terms of controversy, is the End Marmite Neglect campaign.  The TV ad was criticised for trivialising animal neglect, even though it was about rescuing lonely jars of Marmite from the back of the cupboard it received over 500 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.  Unilever donated £18,000 to the RSPCA to appease its critics.  If all publicity is good publicity then this was a flat out stonker.

So what does all this mean for PR? 

When you consider Apple’s recent decision to enable ad-blocking software on its operating system, we could be heading into an ad-free future so it’s going to be down to content and clever distribution on social media to get cut-through for clients’ stories.  What these campaigns show us is how PR agencies are creating sophisticated content that transcends channel boundaries and delivers real engagement (measured in shares, likes and views), then working all the social media angles to deliver comprehensive exposure.  It’s seems it’s no longer press releases that get journalists’ attention it’s clever video that delivers the goods.  Perhaps the long-heralded ‘death of the press release’ is finally upon us.

Who do we think will win?  Tricky, but our money’s on Adidas because it’s a theme that is bang on the zeitgeist of nurturing self-esteem and will probably outlive the boots it was designed to promote.

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