The gold winners in the 2018 WARC Awards’ Effective Content Strategy showed brands that successfully seeped into or borrowed from culture, writes WARC’s Managing Editor, Case Studies, Lucy Aitken

It’s a higher goal of brands to supersede advertising and have their message incorporated into the vernacular. Work that has achieved this over the years is many and varied, including Budweiser’s Whassup and McDonald’s’ I’m Lovin’ It, though it’s notoriously hard to achieve credibly through music. Yet Coke in Egypt, through its agency, FP7 Cairo, pulled it off. And scooped the Grand Prix for the Effective Content Strategy category in the 2018 WARC Awards.

At the heart of the campaign is an entire song featuring all the names of the new players in Egypt’s national football team that were, prior to the song, completely unknown. A ridiculously catchy track became a national earworm. I’ve seen the merest snippet of the song played at Dubai Lynx and the MENA Effies. As soon as it’s played, any Egyptians in the audience immediately start chanting along.

Coke, not an official sponsor of the African Cup of Nations – unlike Pepsi – also instigated a jersey swap, where an Egypt national jersey would be given in exchange for any other kind. There were countless other parts to this campaign which made it a Grand Prix winner but essentially Coke got the nation singing to its tune and wearing a jersey adorned with its logo.

One member of the jury, Lennie Stern, Head of Creative and Entertainment Strategies, BETC Paris, commented: “This is about more than the content and the music video and the web documentary they did. It owned the movement they created.” Chris Wall, Head of Creative, Ogilvy Public Relations, added: It feels bigger than a content campaign to me. They did a catchy song which everyone loved, the video performed well and it caught everyone’s attention. And people were wearing the shirts at matches. That’s the dream.”

Rethinking content communities

Another campaign from Egypt, also through FP7 Cairo, saw a beleaguered character, Oufa, at its heart. The Chronicles of Oufa, for EG Bank, touched a national nerve when Oufa’s pushy dad was constantly infantilising his son and not giving him any credit to speak for himself. Given the high numbers of millennials in Egypt, this campaign resonated with them and EGBank saw a 100% increase in the number of accounts opened versus. the entire previous year. 

John Dokes, CMO Accuweather and chair of the jury said: “They really understood the community. This campaign provided insights on why there are better, more structured choices and how those can really connect.”

Becoming part of culture

Campaigns from the MENA region were in abundance when it came to golds in this category. Few judges will forget the sight of the Harlem Shake and the Ice Bucket Challenge as performed by Lebanese internet users whose connection is so slow those trends have just hit the country. That campaign, Slow Trends, for telco Connect, resonated with judges who understood the difficulty that telcos have in differentiating. “It seeped into the culture,” said judge Aliya Hasan. “People created memes featuring the characters from the videos and the brand language became part of culture.”

Brand language and culture is a two-way street, and FP7 Tunisia’s campaign for Orange borrowed from local culture to great effect. The brand created a game called Hammam Fighter that featured Harzas, the women who work in the Turkish baths (Hammams) and compete for customers, as the main fighting characters. This campaign helped Orange to increase sign-ups by 24%. It also hugely entertained and impressed the jury. I've never ever seen gamification locally done,” said Unilever’s Namita Mediratta – Global CMI Director, Content.

The final campaign from the Middle East to claim gold was JWT Saudi Arabia’s Unveil Saudi for the Saudi Telecom Company. To reinforce its claim to have the widest coverage across the Kingdom, STC used photographers to capture never-before-seen content to be used across social media assets, OOH advertising and TVCs. The success led Saudi ministries to use it to highlight the country’s assets and the perception of network strength increased by 17%. Daniel Shepherd, Director, Digital Planning, PHD UAE, said: “Rather than just telling people they had the best wi-fi, they genuinely showed it.”

Silvers were more geographically diverse, one being awarded to the dating app Hinge, (pictured) another to Brazilian beer brand Antarctica for its web series. The final two silvers came from Asia: Malaysian telco Maxis and The Live, Laugh Love Foundation’s Ask Again initiative.

Our thanks to an incredible jury, spanning Sydney to Stockholm, who did such an excellent job.

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a judge for any of WARC’s Award schemes in 2019, please contact