10 Branded Content Masters Who Bring True Craft to Consumerism

The modern marketing storytellers of our Creative 100

Wendy's social media specialist Meredith Ulmer has helped the brand break records on Twitter engagement.
Wendy's

The idea that brands could create compelling and even artistic content used to sound laughable, but many skeptics have been won over—thanks largely to the work of a few elite talents who’ve taken corporate creativity to a new level.

Whether it’s quick and savvy responses on Twitter or gorgeous long-form videos, today’s best branded content can impress and inspire—oh and hopefully sell, too. This year’s Adweek Creative 100 features a blend of the industry’s big names and behind-the-scenes stars.

Here are Adweek’s 10 branded content honorees in the 2017 Creative 100:

 

Adam Aston
Vp, Executive Editorial Director, T Brand Studio

Three years since launching T Brand Studio, the brand marketing unit of the The New York Times, the team has grown from just five staffers to 150.

That’s a testament to what Aston calls “an ambition for innovation at The Times that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.”

The journalist-turned-marketer has been behind successful paid posts ranging from Netflix’s Women Inmates, which Aston says “set the standard for journalistic storytelling for a brand,” to GE’s How Nature is Inspiring Our Industrial Future, the Studio’s first foray into VR.

Aston now is looking toward ambitious stories that combine ”cutting-edge digital media, human influencers and real-world events.” He pointed to the Studio’s work for Kia’s Impossible to Ignore campaign, intended to provide the brand with greater engagement and readers with a more immersive experience.

Aston says his background, specializing in environmental reporting, is essential to making the Times’ marketing arm work for both brands and consumers. “Journalists help readers discover new ideas by distilling clarity from complexity, identifying narrative tension or by putting a product or a company into a larger perspective,” he said. “These same approaches can help brands bring better context and interest to their stories.”
Chris Ariens

 

Alex Bodman
Global Creative Director, Spotify

After learning the ropes about Spotify while working at Razorfish on the agency side, Bodman joined the music-streaming service as its first global creative director in 2015. Since then, the brand’s advertising has continuously highlighted interesting, unusual and often quirky tidbits about streaming data, crafting them into entertaining and creative out-of-home, print and TV ads.
“I’m part of building a brand that people truly love and feel passionately about,” Bodman says. “It’s an insanely fortunate place to be, and I feel like we’re only getting started.”

With a 30-person creative team, Bodman has worked on campaigns like creating a fake job posting offering Barack Obama a gig called “President of Playlists” and made out-of-home ads to reveal when Prince’s music became available on the streaming site.

But Bodman is most proud of last year’s “Thanks 2016, It’s Been Weird” campaign that focused on odd listening habits—like how 3,749 people listened to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” on the day of the Brexit vote. “It was the first fully integrated brand campaign we created completely in-house, and the response was so overwhelming,” Bodman explains. “Last year was a tough year and it felt like we found ways for people to have a moment and see the lighter side.”
Lauren Johnson

 

Alexandra Spunt
Head of Creative, Everlane

As a former journalist and an author, Spunt has built a career on telling transparent stories. At Everlane, she guides the creative for a company built on transparency. Everlane works directly with 24 factories around the world and openly shares information about their practices under the #KnowYourFactories hashtag.

With a history that includes time at American Apparel and having written a book about chemicals in beauty products, Spunt has directed Everlane’s creative for six years.

“There are three pillars to great brand storytelling: photography, copy and great design,” Spunt says. “I think where I might be different from other creative leaders is that I prioritize all of those.”

This story first appeared in the June 12, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.