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Funnier and weirder – the future of entertainment according to the 2021 D&AD judges

Judges from Gaming, Entertainment and Radio & Audio categories discuss how brands are leveraging gaming and predict a resurgence of comedy in advertising

The ability to amuse and entertain became nothing short of a superpower over the last 18 months, which saw on-screen entertainment of all kinds soar in popularity as people sought lockdown escapism. Covid restrictions encouraged brands to invent new ways of connecting with their consumers, and prompted the beginnings of what could be a comedic revolution in advertising. 

In a discussion led by Simone Sebastian, Client Services Director at Dazed Studio, judges from the Gaming, Entertainment and Radio & Audio categories discussed what the future might hold for entertainment – including a new appreciation of oddball creativity and a more integrated approach to gaming. 

Brands must work with games, not shoehorn themselves into players’ worlds

Careful integration is the key to successful brand partnerships with games, according to the jury. Rather than layering themselves on top of game worlds, brands must carefully consider what their involvement offers players. Rosh Singh, Managing Director EMEA at Unit9, praised adam&eveNYC’s Samsung x Cyberpunk campaign for its integration of gaming mechanics and social networks, as well as its connection with the games community, describing it as an “all-around great piece of work”. 

DDB Group Germany’s The Uncensored Library also successfully traded off a game crossover, by using the world of Minecraft to allow a global audience access to banned content. According to Soraya Sobh, Head of Creator Management at Fnatic, the jury immediately recognised it as a great piece of work. 

“It was so brilliantly integrated into the game in a way that was really authentic to the time, and really conscious of the audience and community,” she explained. “It was so beautifully done that you almost didn’t feel like there was a brand associated with it, and that is the mark of great quality work.”

Sobh believes brands are starting to build their confidence with esports and gaming, and are moving beyond just “smacking a logo on Animal Crossing”. 

“This has been the year of brands really using gaming as a platform,” agreed Singh. “Basically brands hijacking games to create a brand message – I don't think that’ll last very long. Next year will be the beginning of a new era in which brands will look to create their own world.”

Tech-led campaigns don’t always need to be super polished

Covid forced many businesses to look for quick solutions and new ways of connecting with consumers, as the majority of in-person experiences and events were put on hold. This pushed tech to the forefront, but didn’t always mean projects were 100% polished. Danny Robinson, Chief Creative Officer at The Martin Agency, chose FCB New York’s Michelob ULTRA Courtside as a standout project which used a special build of Microsoft Teams to bring a remote audience onto the court. 

“I loved that it was a little sloppy and messy,” he explained. “It wasn’t beautiful in the way it looked… someone on our jury was part of the experience, and explained that if you were part of it you actually felt like you were there.”

He emphasised that projects involving new technology don’t necessarily need to take years to come together, and that brands can make work quickly, and still create a connection with consumers – even if there’s still a few rough edges.

Great entertainment reframes what’s hiding in plain sight

Pencil-winning ideas don’t have to reinvent the wheel. For Nadja Lossgott, Executive Creative Director at AMV BBDO, McCann London’s The Birth of Gaming Tourism took something obvious and turned it into an idea that “went down a storm” with the jury. 

“What was brilliant about the idea was that it just strategically reframed something that was hiding in plain sight,” she explained. “Gaming is always so focused on the experience of action and skill, and the reframe was seeing gaming as an experience to just be there and look at the beauty of the worlds that have been created.”

“It’s one of those things where you go, of course,” she continued. “Of course you should experience gaming in that way. But to actually focus in on that and make it a whole idea in itself… made it overall such an exciting piece of work. Everyone was so inspired by that refresh and reframe of thinking.”

Long-form entertainment is only going to become more popular

Alexander Kalchev, Chief Creative Officer at DDB Paris, predicted an influx of “more interesting long-form storytelling”, much of which might be delivered through audio. 

“Radio has always been a very fascinating medium. If you go back to War of the Worlds and Orson Welles, it’s had the power to entice us and take us to places we’ve never seen before,” he said. “There’s something very pure about the experience. I think we’re going to see more long-form content, more series, more showrunners and creators that are going to branch out into long-form audio experiences, because it’s super simple and super hard at the same time. There's something quite interesting about that mix.”

The comedy and feel-good resurgence

For Robinson, the branding and ad industry has an opportunity to “get back to entertainment that isn’t focused on [companies] being there for you as a brand”. While Covid has given rise to some heartfelt pieces of work, he said he’s craving the kind of entertainment that can provoke laughter. 

“I hope there’s going to be more ‘let’s just make things people want to see and enjoy’,” he explained. “Let’s make it really well and tie it into what we do as a brand. I think the world needs more smiles… and how am I going to judge the work? If I’m not entertained, I’m probably not going to give it an award. So I’m looking forward to some big, bright, fun, silly, stupid type of work.”

Lossgott agrees, saying she’s anticipating a “comedy and feel-good resurgence”, as well as “a lot of lightness, entertainment and escapism".

Make space to be weird

As well as humour, the judges predicted the return of a weirder form of creativity, such as Biscuit Filmworks/Revolver’s Starr Park – a campaign Singh said he’s still thinking about weeks after first seeing it. 

“There needs to be more space for weird, oddball, quirky work,” agreed Kalchev. “I’m hoping to see more of that as we start going back to normal. Gaming in particular has always been about subcultures… and there’s something beautiful about that. When you look at Minecraft and Roblox, there’s so many different subcultures and communities. We should hopefully see more work that celebrates this diversity. Maybe we don’t get it, but it speaks to a certain niche audience. And it’s not just this overarching generous message that doesn’t really touch anyone. So I’m hoping to see more weird work."

Watch more D&AD 2021 jurors unpack the work that captured, provoked and entertained them, and debate what creative excellence looks like.

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