Communicating on behalf of a brand can be tricky business. A decent idea once passed through the brand’s filter and massaged and molded to hit key messaging targets can come out the other side a shell of its possible self. Then there are the great ideas that hit the right note with viewers not just as consumers but also as humans. It’s this latter work that global think-conference TED (underway now in Long Beach, CA) is celebrating with its Ads Worth Spreading honors.
Added to the organization’s growing repertoire three years ago, Ads Worth Spreading supports the overall TED mantra ideas worth spreading. As Ronda Carnegie, Head of Global Partnerships at TED, says, "The best ads are excellent content—driven by ideas. Culturally relevant content with strong storytelling has the power to spark change, raise awareness, and communicate new ways of thinking."
This year’s 10 honored ads and brand content ideas range from comedic to profound, from socially responsible to inspirational, and fall into one or more of six categories: Talk, Social Good, Cultural Compass, Creative Wonder, Brand Bravery, and Education.
"The ads selected have a common thread around human connection," says Carnegie. "They create contagious emotion around wonder, imagination, culture, humor, and ingenuity. We think it is an exciting beginning of a larger conversation about brands as curators of content that creates a playful connection." (See the ads in the slide show above).
Laurie Coots, chief marketing officer of TBWA Worldwide, says the selected ads are all bound by a common theme. "They are brave, they are honest, they capture a sense of meaning. I think of ads worth spreading as ones that set out to ignite something more primal in the viewer—to get them to think something or most likely to do something. While this is the same challenge that we hold regular advertising to, when we ask people to buy something, Ads Worth Spreading operates in a more humanistic level."
As one of 25 industry advocates—a list that included famed brand man Jim Stengel, creative leader David Droga, WPP creative chief John O’Keefe, and Starcom CEO Laura Desmond—Coots was tasked with nominating work across all categories from around the globe. TED also briefed six teams of two—one renowned TED speaker paired with one rising star from the advertising industry—to seek out work in each category.
"It is clear that the world is tired of the hamster wheel we have been on—we want meaning, we want context, and we want to laugh," adds Coots. "I think most of the work this year tapped feelings, not in a manipulative way, but in a familiar way, like when you hear a great story from a friend—it’s true, it’s honest, it can be funny and you can’t wait to repeat it to everyone you know."
Ari Kuschnir, CEO and executive producer of creative production company m ss ng p eces, says that what sets the Ads Worth Spreading winners apart is how they echo TED’s aspirational point of view. "It’s a filter they are imposing on the industry and on the work itself. Is this something that is worthy of spreading? Does this make you feel something new? I think back on a lot of TEDTalks and what they’ve given me over the years—it makes me want to create and highlight content that has that energy, and makes people look at the world differently once they experience it."
"I call it making meaningful content," Kuschnir adds. "It doesn’t have to be super serious, but it communicates an idea and a story in a meaningful, emotional way that offers consumers a chance to connect with a brand or cause by feeling it."
See all the ads in the slide show above.