Adweek’s Arc Awards: Recognizing the Best Brand Storytelling of 2017

From #NuggsForCarter to reliving the Russian Revolution on Twitter

Adweek's second annual Arc Awards honor the best in brand storytelling.
Illustration: Ron Goodman

January is an interesting month for storytelling. At the outset you have the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This annual behemoth of a conference has traditionally focused on products and gadgetry.

Notably, as computing power steadily increases and the promise of 5G connectivity floats tantalizingly on the horizon, brands will increasingly have the power to effect near one-to-one marketing via things like AI and IOT. But the promise of such personalization will only really work with a good brand story—and one told in concert with the consumer’s own narrative created by, you guessed it, technology.

The bookend of the month is Sundance. This is the place where storytelling meets empathy and the spot where brands can showcase data-driven, non-interruptive creativity. Two years ago, Adweek saw this trend emerging and was lucky enough to partner with FPT Media, the producer of the BrandStorytelling@Sundance conference in Deer Valley, Utah, held during the Sundance Film Festival.

Last year, as part of that partnership, we created and hosted the inaugural Adweek Arc Awards to honor and celebrate the best brand storytelling of the year. We return this year with our sponsor, Screenvision Media, and our Arc Awards jury on Jan. 18, as part of BrandStorytelling, highlighting the truly amazing work profiled in this issue—and where we reveal our Grand Arc Award winner.

The consumer journey is full of technological and emotional twists and turns.  It will continue to be a fascinating story for brands—and Adweek—to tell. —James Cooper

Best Use of Animation
“A Balloon for Ben”
Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo, Toronto
Brand: Cineplex Entertainment

When a Pew survey found that 46 percent of fathers said they didn’t spend enough time with their kids, Zulu Alpha Kilo hit upon the sequel to its 2015 viral hit, “Lily and the Snowman.” In the animated digital short, “A Balloon for Ben,” an overtaxed dad learns that “there is more to life than work and to-do lists,” said the agency’s CEO and CCO Zak Mroueh. With Canadian singer Em Patrick covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” Mroueh said, the mini-flick—released over the holidays in 2016—“built emotional resonance for Cineplex, beyond its utility as a movie screen company.”

Stats: 13 million views; sold $650,000 in campaign-themed gift cards in 24 hours; drove a 77 percent increase in brand favorability; visits to passed 146,000, beating objectives by nearly 300 percent, with an average online engagement of 7.5 minutes.

Best Use of Viral
Agency: VML, Kansas City
Brand: Wendy’s

Last April, a tweet from 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson asking Wendy’s for free chicken nuggets took on a life of its own, becoming a viral sensation, stoked by the chain’s red-hot social media team and agency VML. Acting in real time while staying on top of the cultural conversation “has helped build us as a ‘brand for me’ with our consumers,” said Christina Miller, VML’s associate channel director. #NuggsForCarter became the most retweeted tweet of all time (3.5 million). Bonus: Wilkerson earned a guest appearance on Ellen (the previous retweet record holder) and, of course, free grub for a year.

Stats: #NuggsForCarter generated more than 2.5 billion earned media impressions from nearly 1,100 placements; along the way, Carter surpassed notable tweets from President Barack Obama and the boy band One Direction.

Best Use of Long-form Nonfiction
“The Mirnavator”
Production company: Let Media
Brand: REI Seattle

In a bid to make the outdoors “the largest level playing field,” REI chronicled Georgia ultra-runner Mirna Valerio’s first 50K race of 2017. In the mini-doc, “The Mirnavator,” the athlete battled mud, heat and pain along with body shaming and harassment. It lit up the internet, becoming REI’s highest-performing video with more than 6 million views and transforming Valerio into a role model in the process. Capitalizing on the film’s success, REI launched 10 more mini-movies during the year aimed at making outdoor activity more accessible and inclusive, across gender, race, body size and aptitude. Dovetailing on its campaign, REI began carrying a broader range of clothing sizes in its stores.

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This story first appeared in the Jan. 15, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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