Brand Film Awards US 2021: Practice Area categories

The complete list of winners and honorable mentions from the 2021 Brand Film Awards US Practice Area categories.

Brand films span myriad topics and practice areas, from employee engagement and corporate activations to diversity issues and purpose-driven initiatives.

Employee engagement: Best use of film for internal purposes to connect with employees.

WINNER: Together in 2020

Weill Cornell Medicine

At the end of a year that tested the Weill Cornell Medicine community, Together in 2020 offered a celebration of its achievements and its resilience. The institution’s year is represented through a combination of still photos, live footage and animation, as the film also incorporates the voices of employees and students. 

Produced for just $6,250, the short doesn’t depend on expensive production values to bring Weill Cornell Medicine to life. Instead, the contributions of researchers in the searches for COVID vaccines and treatments and the roles of doctors and nurses in caring for the sick are presented simply and directly, without fanfare. After touching on the adjustment to remote work and learning and the responses of Weill Cornell Medicine to the murder of George Floyd — while portraying everything from daily challenges and moments of exhaustion to achievements and triumphs — the film ends with moving messages of gratitude and reflections on the meaning of community, spoken directly to the camera by employees and students at Weill Cornell. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Grit & Heart

Pike Corp. and Essense Partners

Watch the film here.

Corporate: A corporate film that supported a specific goal and delivered significant results.

WINNER: The Debater

IBM and Epic Digital/Vox Media

Games — chess, poker and even the gameshow Jeopardy! — have long presented areas where artificial intelligence has been developed and fine-tuned. With their specific rules and finite number of situations, they present a clear, yet often enormous task for programmers. 

However, debate offers a challenge on a different scale. How can any AI program respond to all the different nuances of human conversation, even if it’s in the structured format of a debate? The Debater follows IBM scientist Noam Slonim as he and his team create a program that can face off with one of the world’s top human debaters. 

IBM’s program and the film reveal that the effort is much more than a stunt. The multi-year program shines light on how we process information, present arguments and persuade others. Graphics effectively present the intellectual processes of debate while the narrative — driven by the ups and downs of writing a new AI program and complete with many lighter moments along the way — holds viewers’ attention.

HONORABLE MENTION: A Better Plant-Based Future Documentary Series

Upfield and APCO Worldwide with G-Graphic and Automated Creative

Watch the film here.

Issues & crisis: Best use of film to respond to a reputational crisis or social issue.

WINNER: Dictators

RepresentUs and Mischief @ No Fixed Address with PlaytimeMedia.TV and Dini von Mueffling Communications

Get out the vote efforts can often feel like staid efforts appealing to a vague sense of civic engagement, with perhaps some nods to the Founding Fathers. Instead of using the words of Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson to encourage people to vote, Mischief @ No Fixed Address chose two very different and surprising figures — North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Using deepfake technology, AI simulations of the two leaders explain why they don’t need to do anything to undermine America’s democratic institutions, because we are doing their jobs for them. 

By creating an environment marked by extreme partisanship, where false and misleading narratives are common and widespread apathy exists, democratic rule is being compromised without any need for outside interference. The unsettling ads proved too controversial for the networks who chose not to air them during the first presidential debate of 2020, but thanks to a paid social program and their viral success, they still secured 1.2 billion impressions.

HONORABLE MENTION: Call Me Blood

Google/Google Brand Studio with Anchor Light

Watch the film here.

Purpose: Best film created to highlight brand purpose efforts.

WINNER: Cockblocker

OkCupid and Mischief @ No Fixed Address with Sanctuary Content

Mischief @ No Fixed Address created this memorable spot for OKCupid that, at first glance, appears to be a documentary-like spot with two farmers discussing how they care for their chickens and, specifically, how they keep roosters and hens apart. The “trick” these farmers share is that by hanging a “not registered to vote” sign around the neck of a cockerel, hens lose interest.

The spot was part of OKCupid’s larger #VILF campaign built on data showing that users who indicate they are registered to vote are 85% more likely to receive a message and 63% more likely to get a match on the app. Cockblocker reached half a billion impressions and helped double the mentions of OKCupid on Instagram and Twitter. Equally important for the company, the ad increased the level of conversations around voting (by around 24%) on dating profiles. 

HONORABLE MENTION: On the Line

Ford with Film 47, Civic and GTB

Watch the film here.

Diversity, equity & inclusion: Most effective film in highlighting DE&I issues and/or impacting society at large.

WINNER: Cooperation Beyond Words

Jennie-O Turkey Store and Hormel Foods with Attention Span Media.

Hormel Foods approached the challenge of representing the immigrant experience of many of its employees by focusing on one particular plant and its workers. When Jody Long, a plant manager at a Jennie-O Turkey packaging plant in Faribault, Minnesota, encourages his line manager Tung Truong to consider a deaf Somali immigrant for an opening, initial skepticism gives way to amazement at how quickly the applicant understands the process and work. Another dozen deaf hires would follow, many of them Muslim immigrants.

Hormel Foods’ short begins with images that may feel expected for a film about the immigrant experience — fireworks illuminating a Fourth of July celebration — but Cooperation Beyond Words goes on to focus on the unique experiences of the individuals in this particular community. The result is a story that provides hope in a world that can, in the words of a deaf interpreter in the film, feel very broken. This work was part of Hormel Foods’ larger Inspired Stories series and was created in part as a response to increases in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments. 

HONORABLE MENTION: They Will See You

Procter & Gamble and Courageous Studio

Watch the film here.

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