If you want to glimpse the future in action, keep reading. Across the following pages, work from some of the brightest and best in-house marketing teams will shine a light on the direction disparate disciplines are taking - an ever-more convergent path as brands navigate an unpredictable media terrain.
These are the winners of Future 5, an initiative set up last year by Marketing's sister title PR Week and Octopus Communications to identify PR trends.
This year, reflecting the exponential blurring of the boundaries between techniques - and the growing importance of PR in an age when brands are expected to be on constant alert, and always answerable - we have extended the reach of the contest to encompass all marketing.
In addition, for 2011, the competition has been thrown open to readers of Marketing and the Brand Republic website.
Last year, the judges unearthed the five key trends that were shaping the PR industry and picked the campaigns they felt best tapped into each.
This year, we asked entrants to show us their most innovative output from within each of those Future 5 categories. These categories are: Big Creative Idea; Audience Participation; Research/Planning; Brand Partnership; and Technology. Each is critical to marketing in this second decade of the century.
Octopus Group chief executive Sandy Purewal says the Future 5 project is all about experimentation and ROI. 'In this rapidly changing world and with the economic climate the way it is, taking risks is not something you do lightly,' he adds.
'We want to highlight those brands that are actively trying to create campaigns that have cut-through and can signpost the future for others to follow.'
The judges (detailed below) sifted through a shortlist of 25 of the most-outstanding case studies submitted to identify the work in each category of which any marketing department would be proud. Congratulations to all the winning participants.
However, there is another challenge that no one should underestimate as we look to the future: the internal, structural recalibrations necessary within brand teams and their agencies as marketing and PR functions and messages collide.Find out more about Future 5 including video and details from the breakfast briefing held on 27th Sept 2011.
Nicola Green, head of PR, O2
Sandy Purewal, CEO, Octopus Group
Shakila Ahmed, comms director, Travelodge
Jon Lonsdale, managing director, Octopus Communications
Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief, Brand Republic Group
Suzanne Bidlake, consultant editor, Marketing
When Samaritans and Network Rail embarked on a five-year partnership, both knew it was a matter of life or death.
Last year, the charity, which offers confidential emotional support 24/7 to anyone in distress or at risk of suicide, linked in a far-reaching partnership with Network Rail that went well beyond track-side posters.
With a £5 million investment from Network Rail, the initiative set a target of reducing railway suicides across Great Britain by 20 per cent over the period.
By April 2011, signs of its success were already promising: the number had declined by 11 per cent in a year, from 233 to 207.
The innovative collaboration included: training for rail staff and British Transport police in how to identify and approach those who might be at suicide risk; Samaritans call-out service to stations; support for train drivers after a trauma; support for railway suicide witnesses; and an awareness campaign targeting those most at risk – working-class men between 30 and 60.
As part of the partnership, Samaritans took ad space at 200 stations across the country, mobilising its volunteers to put the ads up. Its "Men on the Ropes" campaign, featuring a real amateur boxer, aimed to encourage recognition that it's not a sign of weakness to talk about problems. It also gained traction in high-profile media such as The Sun (with a double-page spread) and Sky News.
Another partnership, between Samaritans and T4 Media which owns Ad Gates advertising on station ticket barriers, secured three two-week-long airings for this campaign for which Samaritans paid only production costs.
"This partnership is really clever," says Octopus Communications managing director Jon Lonsdale. "There's a good audience understanding and it also gives the charity a place in which to do things."
As for all marketing professionals, it's no longer "all about the logo and my brand, " notes Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of PRWeek and the Brand Republic Group. Rather, marketers are needing to work collaboratively with others to create meaningful conversations.
Shelter – Housing Benefit
In the marketing panoply, PR is often outplayed by advertising in its use of research and planning, admits Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of PRWeek and the Brand Republic Group.
"Research - to build credibility and measure campaign results; and planning - to work out who your audience is and then plan a campaign depending on what they consume and how."
In counter-balance to this truism, Shelter's housing benefit campaign used both data-heavy research and meticulous planning to give major traction on a limited PR budget.
The aim was to water-down the proposed coalition government cuts to housing benefit for households in private rented accommodation – cuts that Shelter believed would push many into rent arrears and homelessness.
First, it commissioned independent research into the impact of the cuts from Cambridge university housing experts. Shelter used this to deliver a robust report with strong headline statistics likely to gain widespread media coverage and parliamentary attention.
A series of national stories were fed in to high profile news outlets and magnified locally by more than 100 tailored local press releases and a bank of powerful case studies.
MPs were also briefed on the research in advance of key debates. Localisation of stories helped Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs look beyond party loyalties in support of their constituencies.
The result? More than 700 pieces of coverage later, all of Shelter's objectives had been met in terms of government policy amendments and a rebalancing of the media debate away from negative stories about claimants.
"The Shelter housing benefit campaign stood out from all the other entries as it was a through research based, structured, cohesive, news agenda leading campaign which delivered real results," says Shakila Ahmed, communications director at Travelodge.
Electrolux Design Lab - The Second Space Age
It's some challenge to make white goods sexy.
So the work by Stockholm-based manufacturer Electrolux to give a competition huge and widespread appeal is worthy of praise indeed.
The Electrolux Design Lab is an annual contest, began in 2003. But in 2010, the in-house Electrolux team really rolled back the boundaries of audience participation.
A YouTube video by head designer Henrik Otto called for students to design products to cope with the ultra-compact spaces we might be inhabiting in 2050.
A blog followed on www.electroluxdesignlab.com, plus a Facebook page and a partnership with well-regarded blog Yanko Design (with 50,000 followers of its global contributors).
In 2010, the contest attracted 1,300 entries – a rise of nearly 50% - providing Electrolux with a print reach in Europe of 190 million people.
"We made more effort to push the project further this time, bringing all the channels together and going out to a broader spread of countries," says Tom Astin, Electrolux's PR manager Europe.
The eight shortlisted entries were mocked up into high quality concept designs, to scale, and presented to the world's press at the flagship Oxford Street John Lewis store. They remained in-store, along with back-up literature, for a week-long display to consumers, who were encouraged to watch the presentation online and vote for a "People's Choice". They cast 2,500 votes.
Winners were chosen in a "Pop Idol"-style final in front of a jury and global audience at the 100% Design Fair, before the shortlisted designs embarked on a global tour taking in schools, stores and exhibitions.
There was crowd sourcing too – asking Facebookers what annoyed them in the kitchen. More mainstream media included CNN and the Financial Times.
"They pushed this much further than you might have expected, going well beyond the traditional design niche and positioning themselves in the mainstream as a design-oriented company," says Suzanne Bidlake, consultant editor, Marketing.
Lundbeck - "Lean On Me" Friend-Clip
There are times when making the medium the message is more than just an interesting technique.
When it came to encouraging people to talk about feelings of depression, the Friend-Clip technology was the very thing that opened up conversations with friends and family.
As makers of Cipralex, a treatment for depression, Lundbeck wanted to raise awareness of the condition as part of its European expansion strategy. It went about building a campaign based on the insights that people find it difficult to talk about depression and that approximately half of the 33 million people in Europe who are affected by depression are not diagnosed.
A further fact – that recovery is heavily dependent on the support of friends and family – added weight to the decision to create a conversation on the subject via a digital channel.
The result was Friend-Clip, an interactive face recognition application in which people could star in a video accompanying the Bill Withers track "Lean On Me" – with a friend, a celebrity or on their own – and then share with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter or email. The patented technology allows for movement of eyes and lips within the user’s photo as the track plays.
As they created the Friend-Clips, users were exposed to messages of support and by uploading their photo to the Wall of Friends community, they pledged to be a friend to someone affected by depression. Those who received the videos saw similar messages of support.
The campaign piloted in Ireland in October last year and rolled out to Switzerland in April 2011. By the end of July, 9,709 Friend-Clips had been made.
Fredrik Jerre, head of global marketing for Cipralex at Lundbeck, says the Friend-Clip technology has "proven to be a valuable tool for engaging with our target audiences".
The judges agreed that this was not just clever technology for its own sake. "It’s an incredibly interesting way of using technology at the heart of a campaign," notes Sandy Purewal, Octopus Communications’ CEO.
Big Creative Idea
National Trust - MyFarm
You may not know that oats grow on trees and bacon comes from sheep, but that's what nearly a third of under 16s would tell you.
For the National Trust, this is even more worrying than for most. If people don't understand how the land is farmed, then they won't understand the organisation's role in looking after it and are less likely to engage with its work in that area.
The country's biggest farmer (though only 26 per cent of people know it) set about increasing awareness through the world's first mass engagement farming experiment.
In MyFarm (www.my-farm.org.uk), the National Trust tapped into the popularity of the online game Farmville by recruiting "farmers" - at £30 a go - to help make all the major, real-life decisions online for one of its working farms in Wimpole, Cambridgeshire. Those decisions were then carried out by the farm managers.
The campaign's main targets were "explorer mums" who like to get out and about with their families.
With a minimal, £45,000 budget, the campaign sought to engage journalists, bloggers and tweeters, with the backing of senior figures from other rural organisations such as the National Farmers Union and the Soil Association.
Eye-catching imagery, supported by a trailer drawing the comparison between real farming and online farming games, resulted in 26,906 unique hits on the MyFarm web site and 106,990 page views within the first 48 hours of launch last May.
Between May 4 and 13, there were 88 million opportunities to see MyFarm coverage across newspapers, TV, radio, trade press and online.
On launch day, the National Trust trended on Twitter in the UK for the first time. There were 2,584 mentions of MyFarm online and the project went global with coverage in Australia, Canada, India and the Far East.
Impressively, 1,300 paying subscribers signed up.
The judges praised the simplicity of delivery of this strong creative idea.
"MyFarm made farming interesting and engaged children who are often most into technology," notes Shakila Ahmed, communications director at Travelodge.
Charging £30 gave involvement a value, adds Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of the Brand Republic Group. Not only that, notes Nicola Green, the head of PR at O2, the campaign virtually paid for itself with entries.