One of the most popular seminars on Dar Four at Cannes Lions, ‘From the Makers of Pop Culture’, saw JWT’s Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, Craig Davis, interact with the likes of actor Martin Sheen; Michael Patrick King, Executive Producer ‘Sex And The City’, and Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder and Editor of Huffingtonpost.com. Under the scanner was what made successful content and how it could be used for brands.
Davis began his session with Sheen and the actor seconded much of what various advertising gurus say when it comes to what clicks in content – being safe is risky. He said, “One of the reasons why The West Wing gained popularity was because we spoke of topics that are otherwise considered controversial. But this played a critical role in more people speaking about the show and taking it to the heights that it did.”
The audience was completely taken by the candidness, packaged with just the right degree of humour that Huffington showed. Replying to a question on what made Huffingtonpost.com the brand that it is, she said, “Because of the growth in media, it is easier to create a brand today even overnight than what it was years back, when it took 20-30 years to create brand.”
On a few points that worked, Huffington said that in the digital medium, the first thoughts were the best thoughts, as in this medium one had to speak to the audience as one would speak to a friend, unlike the print medium. Her tools in addition to the use of humour and satire in everything where they could be used were to innovate constantly. Going after the obvious is a setback, for wining content the target has to be the icons. Huffington was clear that content creators or writers should take on only what they had passion for and punch it up with obsession.
Speaking on content loyalty, she again painted a secure picture saying that loyalty came with marriage and that was the kind of relation one must have with the audience. However, affairs should be allowed for a long relation. She said, “People will try new things but that doesn’t mean they can’t be loyal.”
When Davis questioned her on how this winning content could be used for brands, Huffington was again clear that interruptive advertising was suicidal. She commented, “We are looking at advertisers who can create interaction much in the manner that we have created interaction. Imagine a relation in which you are doing all the talking, how long would it last!”
Search for audiences in new places and recognising them is the way for content and this can be leveraged for brands as well with some smart planning and advertising. Having established that, Davis took on Michael Patrick King, Executive Producer of ‘Sex and the City’. New and provocative would be first words King would say came as no surprise, given that one of his masterpieces were working on these two words. However, he had a word of caution as well. King said, “Now matter how bizarre it has to be real. TV is a dream state where you like to be, but the moment it is something that doesn’t really happen, the audience is switched off.”
Creative freedom is instrumental in shaping creative expression and for King, this held true in any kind of communication. In regards to how the popularity of content could be leveraged for brands, King mentioned from experience that some products fitted with the content and it made sense to use these products, but some didn’t and to use them was detrimental to the show and would affect its longevity.
In all, the panelists believed that while there were various reasons that had led to success stories, there were some basic things – don’t be discouraged and push a little more than what you have been asked for are just some of them. The audience’s reaction suggested that this was clearly one of the best seminars of the day.