Blog :

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Our success at the Cannes Lions – Hear Us Roar

Last week in Cannes our work received a highly coveted Cannes Lions award in the entertainment category for our factual, feature-length documentary, Wildlands. A hugely competitive sector in which we were the only BTL agency to be represented.

Cannes is undoubtedly the creative pinnacle in global marketing comm’s. It sets the benchmark and showcases the most remarkable work from around the world. To not only appear but to win among them is a phenomenal achievement.

In 2017, we premiered Wildlands at BAFTA to a global media audience. The documentary assesses the war on drugs in Bolivia and South America as told through the eyes of those from both sides of the law who have helped shape and determine that war. Narrated by NY Times
Best selling author, Rusty Young (Marching Powder, Colombiano) the film has now been distributed globally through multiple digital platforms (Amazon Prime, iTunes, GooglePlay).

We created Wildlands to promote and support the launch of our client, Ubisoft’s, new video game; Ghost Recon: Wildlands. In fact it was the idea that won us the pitch. The game depicts Bolivia as a narco-state, gripped by a drug cartel which gamers must take on and defeat.

Wildlands served as a companion documentary to the game. It asked you to ask the question; is it conceivable that a fictitious video game portrayal of a drug war could be mirrored in a factual reality? Also in a western civilisation where cocaine use is prolific, what questions must society ask ourselves to stop this insidious and destructive drug?

In a world where the likes of Narcos, Sicario, etc. captivates global audiences, we knew we could bring new gamers to Ubisoft through non-gaming platforms, providing an entertainment experience with depth, substance and integrity. Digital VOD platforms then also leveraging algorithms to serve content to those people most predisposed to consume it.

What started life as a UK marketing asset for Ubisoft, was quickly adopted as the lead global marketing asset. Our client’s belief allowing Wildlands to grow to become what we wanted it to be.

All winning work in Cannes is embossed with these three tenets; courage, vision and emotion. They make you feel, make you care, make you think and make you do something. They make you pause, reflect and react.

Wildlands was complex, challenging, riddled with issues and at any one point, we could have said enough. But we didn’t. We didn’t because Stripe, Chief Productions (our production partners) and Ubisoft knew this work was special. This work would present a landmark in video game marketing communications and this work would make you feel, make you care and make you act.

Wildlands has now scooped a D&AD pencil a Clio award and now a bronze Cannes Lion. But it’s most important function is to prove to us all that courageous, visionary and work that moves you will always win. You just need to do it.

To the Wildlands and back

To the Wildlands and back

“Let’s make a feature length documentary on the war on drugs and release it alongside the launch of the video game.” When I sit on my sofa with my laptop and write that it sounds easy.

A couple of points to note. We had never made a feature length documentary film. We knew nothing about film distribution. We had a great idea but no idea on how to translate that into something you could sit and watch on a Saturday night.

This week, Wildlands premiers on iTunes and Amazon Prime, followed by GooglePlay, and following an international film premiere at BAFTA. It’s still hard to believe we dared to achieve that.

The term branded entertainment content covers a multitude of sins. Some examples in our industry barely doing those three words justice, some genuinely making a step towards how brands can create meaningful connections to their consumer.

Ubisoft – one of our founding clients in London and one for whom has defined for me, a collaborative partnership, visionary marketeers and a true desire to innovate in a dynamic and fiercely competitive category – tasked us to launch Ghost Recon Wildlands, a video game exploring a fictional narrative of Bolivia in the grips of a drug war and on the cusp of becoming a narco state.

From this brief, we recognised the opportunity to harness global interest in a morbidly entertaining subject matter and create a companion documentary to enable real life comparisons with a fictional video game world, realised from the stories of those who shaped it in Wildlands, the documentary.

The journey to make Wildlands was like going horse riding for the first time and they hand you Desert Orchid. It bolts off at 100 miles an hour and you hope you have the courage, desire, concentration and instincts to finish the race. It turned out we won the race. Wildlands won a D&AD pencil at this years’ awards, followed by a Silver Award at the Clio awards for Branded Content. We hope many more will follow.

We travelled to the slums of Medellin, the coca fields of Bolivia, and small-town America to discover the stories of those who have shaped the war on drugs from both sides of the law. Our real-life characters mirrored to and characterised in a video game. We created branded entertainment content to accompany, celebrate and elevate our clients’ entertainment product – what we achieved was genuinely innovative and won critical acclaim from a notoriously cynical industry.

We hope you enjoy the film (and buy the game).

It’s not black and white: Restoring integrity in the Academy Awards

It’s not black and white: Restoring integrity in the Academy Awards

We will shortly see the arrival of the 88th Academy Awards. Rather than celebrating the great and good of the motion picture world, the lack of diversity in this years’ awards is taking centre stage. This issue has been simmering for a few years and has now reached boiling point with the seemingly glaring institutional bias against minorities in this 2016’s nominees. This follows the same outcome in 2015. High profile individuals including Rebel Wilson and Sasha Baron-Cohen have condemned the Academy Awards as racist. Here at Stripe, we know a thing or two about the business of reputation management and the value of a positive reputation to an organisation. Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” So how has 88 years of building a reputation been dismantled and more importantly how can it be rebuilt?

If your perception is that a group of white, wealthy, big wig Hollywood directors sit around a smoke filled board room deciding the fate of the nominees, you’re wrong. The voting process that determines which films and actors become Oscar nominees involves more than 6000 voting members and hundreds of eligible films, actors, actresses, directors, cinematographers, editors, composers, and more. To even be eligible for a nomination involves a strict procedure governed by specific guidelines.

The votes are then calculated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who have handled the duties of mailing out ballots and tabulating the results for the last 80 years. They post the ballots of eligible nominees to members of the Academy in December, then calculate the votes in January. Hmm, I hear you say.

Regardless of the how, with damning, high profile condemnation of the Academy Awards and the lack of recognition of some exceptional performances and pictures involving minorities – CreedStraight Outta Compton and Beasts of No Nation – The Oscars has not only lost integrity and respect from a global audience but increasingly raises the issue of why is this happening and how can it be addressed?

The Academy in June invited 322 new members, with many reflecting the Academy’s push for greater diversity among its membership. But the current membership — overwhelmingly white and over-50 — won’t see a fast overhaul soon, due to strict membership rules.

How do they promote diversity? How do they change? More importantly, how do they survive and reclaim the integrity that they have spent 88 years cultivating and that has been severely eroded in the past two years?

The Academy need to look in the mirror, look at its membership, look at the box office, look at society and change. As communications consultants, this is a fascinating issue. You take a call from the Academy, asking you to tell them how to help fix this problem? What is your answer?

This will be the question keeping Cheryl Boone-Isaacs up at night, as President of the Academy Award and a former Public Relations officer, she knows only too well that she is navigating stormy waters.

She will know that piece meal change and a little here and a little there will no longer cut it. They need to demonstrate systemic change and this will only start with an Academy member panel that is more representative of US society. Small steps have been made but people now want to see bigger change, faster. What’s more, the Academy needs to be seen to be helping to cultivate greater diversity in the creative industries, ensuring that those who are capable of being judged for the awards in the future, have been afforded equal opportunities to fulfil their talent.

For now, the Oscars sit in a period of damage limitation and the world will eagerly anticipate the 89th Academy Awards nominees.