10 Branded Content Innovators Who Turn It Up to 11

Raising the bar for storytelling and artistic integrity, not to mention vulva care

What are the limits of branded content? Don’t ask this year’s honorees. With a sharp focus on delivering entertainment and meaning, plus a deep knowledge of both their audience and their brands, these innovators expanded the boundaries of branded content—much to the delight of consumers.

Caio Giannella and Diego Oliveira
associate creative directors, Apple

Thinking different: Giannella and Oliveira were the AMV BBDO copywriter-art director pair behind an educational—and funny—campaign for feminine-hygiene brand Libresse called “Viva La Vulva” (the spot was set to Moby’s “Praise You”), which cleaned up at awards shows last year, winning a coveted D&AD Black Pencil for Direction. At Apple, the two recently created a poignant ad featuring people describing how Apple Watch’s technology helped save their lives.

How they got started: The Brazil-born creative directors met at Africa São Paulo nearly 15 years ago and went on to work together at a number of London agencies, including BBH and Mother, before landing the Apple gig last year.

To their credit: At AMV BBDO, they helped win and lead the joint Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays account for the agency. —Minda Smiley

Mark DiCristina and Sarita Alami
head of brand, Mailchimp Studios; director of programming, Mailchimp Studios

Current work: Building a massive in-house content studio for developing podcasts, documentaries and fictional series. The goal is to produce free entertainment that is “artful, tasteful and a little bit quirky” for an entrepreneurial audience. “It’s been more important for us to just focus on a bunch of people who are doing work that we both really enjoy and also just really believe in,” Alami previously told Adweek. “And the storytelling integrity and artistic integrity behind the work.”

Titles they’ve produced: An animated series called Outer Monologue, which plumbs the inner thought processes of creatives like playwright Ngozi Anyanwu and actress Joy Bryant; a short-form original series for Vice called Second Act, which follows people who quit their day job midcareer to follow a dream.

Storytelling philosophy: “One thing is that great storytelling travels,” DiCristina told Adweek. “The best stuff tends to rise to the top, and we obviously experienced that with Serial and other podcasts we’ve sponsored over the years. We’ve always been really supportive of and attracted to the types of stories that are resonant.” —Patrick Kulp

Adam Morgan
executive creative director, Adobe

What he’s been up to: “For the past year, we have been creating a series of big interactive story experiences. Think a long scrolling narrative packed with a learning path and a ton of content, videos and interactivity,” Morgan says. “These interactive stories have been super successful internally in building a b-to-b pipeline.”

On crafting brand guidelines that go above and beyond the norm: “In most brand standards, it’s all about the logo with a single page on writing. … We created a massive guide that digs deep into all aspects of writing around voice, tone and style—everything from parallel construction to a hierarchy of pauses. Any agency or partner who works with us is blown away at the depth of our writing guide and makes comments that they wish things like this existed for all their clients,” he says.

Side projects: Writing a book called Sorry, Spock: Emotions Drive Business and hosting a new podcast and webinar series titled Real Creative Leadership. —P.K.

Matthew Kobach 
head of social media, Intercontinental Exchange

Why he was bullish about joining the New York Stock Exchange: “It’s a 228-year-old institution in an industry that—at the time I joined—was not completely embracing social media,” he explains. “It was a unique opportunity to forge a new path and move the needle in terms of how financial institutions communicate with the public, their clients and their shareholders.”

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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