Adweek’s Arc Awards: These 22 Campaigns Raised the Bar for Brand Storytelling Excellence in 2018

From Trivago's touching 'Honeymoon Sequel' to Skittles' ambush-style 'Exclusive the Rainbow'

These award winners span emotion, humor, compassion, politics and societal pain points. Adweek
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In advance of our inaugural Brand Challenge conference last month, we also launched the Adweek Intelligence Report, a new survey product we are rolling out this year in advance of our key tentpoles to get a better sense of the priorities of the communities we serve with our content and events. The first survey of 200 marketing executives uncovered dozens of interesting insights into both established and challenger brands.

One of the clearest signals to ring through the report was that as consumers continue to have more control over their digital destiny in terms of content and advertising, narrative-based marketing—storytelling—will increasingly be the path for brands of all kinds to take if they want to achieve lasting consumer interest and loyalty. We first caught wind of this shift away from interruptive advertising almost four years ago and have followed the story with interest ever since. Last month’s survey confirmed we were right to take notice.
Now in its third year, Adweek’s Arc Awards once again brings you storytelling gems for clients ranging from the U.S. Navy to Skittles. While the arc of these campaigns spans emotion, humor, compassion, politics and societal pain points and woes, they all engage with a powerful narrative rather than a cold interruption.
In a significant shift this year, we are publishing Adweek Arc Awards in concert with SXSW and will host a celebration of the winners on Saturday, March 9, in Austin. Our sponsor Screenvision Media will return as well and help us reveal our Grand Arc Award winner. I’d like to thank our panel of 24 jurors, especially jury chairperson Shannon Pruitt, CMO of The Honest Company, for taking time out of their jammed schedules to thoughtfully vet the 253 submissions.
These campaigns and activations represent the future of marketing, and we’ll continue to tell the story of the stories as they unfold. —James Cooper
Agency: VMLY&R
Client: Wendy’s
Campaign: “webeefin?”
Award: Best Use of Audio Storytelling

Client: Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.
Campaign: “It All Begins With a Song”
Award: Best Use of Long-Form Film

A documentary about Nashville songwriters and a hip-hop EP devoted to fast food have more in common than it would first appear.
Both VMLY&R projects intended to connect with consumers on a visceral level, looking more like brand anthems than traditional calls to action, which is key in getting traction with marketer-backed content in a binge-heavy, overstuffed media environment, says John Godsey, the agency’s chief creative officer.
“It has to be good enough that people seek it out. Otherwise, you’re wasting the money,” Godsey says. “It needs deep entertainment value. Watchable isn’t enough.”
Or listenable, as in the case of the five-track EP that turned the Wendy’s social voice into a recording star. For “webeefin?” the agency used the marketer’s rap battles with its competitors on Twitter as a springboard for a hip-hop release, featuring what Godsey called “sick beats” and legitimate (tongue-in-cheek, self-aware) lyrics.
Not an exercise or a stunt, the “webeefin?” tracks were “extremely competitive,” Godsey says, sprinkled with product messages and well-placed jabs at McDonald’s, Wingstop and other rivals.
The EP caught fire, instantly and organically, with 800 million earned impressions in 10 days, and listeners streamed 76 years’ worth of “webeefin?” across platforms.
“It All Begins With a Song,” for the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., generated a different kind of heat, Godsey says—“the emotional variety”—with interviews of dozens of diverse songwriters who toil in relative obscurity while churning out hits for world-famous artists like Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Kiss, Little Big Town and Pink.
The feature-length doc uses the Southern city as a character without resorting to “an overt brand play,” Godsey says.

This story first appeared in the March 4, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.