The Lions that show the way

Which award-winning innovations signal a clear direction for advertising? We pick our favourite Cannes Lions.

by Mark Tungate , Adforum

At the new human-sized Cannes Lions gathering, the advertising industry seemed determined to reassure itself of its power to create change by patting itself on the back for a number of campaigns “for good”. While these may have set out to save the world, few of them solved any knotty problems for real clients.

Which is why our top pick is the #bloodnormal campaign from AMV BBDO in London, for Libresse and Bodyform. The work sets out to demolish something that seems ridiculous in 2018: the taboo around menstruation.

At its core is a riveting film – directed by a man, Daniel Wolfe – that shows blood. Real blood. Not fake blue blood. Why do viewers accept swathes of gore in Game of Thrones but get all faint at the thought of a sanitary towel? Well, they’re going to have to get used to it – because Libresse just made every other female hygiene brand look dated. And that’s the point: here’s a campaign that uses creativity and strategy to give a brand a leadership position, while also having a positive impact on society.

Let’s move on to another area consumers are squeamish about: data. Fortunately, the creative use of data does not just involve sucking up reams of your personal habits in order to sell you a pair of shoes.

The Grand Prix winner in the Creative Data category was JFK Unsilenced, from Accenture-owned Irish agency Rothko, for The Times. To illustrate the point the good journalism can lift the silence, the project uses data from speeches by US president John F. Kennedy to recreate the speech he was due to give the day he was assassinated in 1963.

Not only does the speech sound eerily real, it also makes a disconcertingly topical point.

There were other very high-minded Gold winners in this category, notably Destination Pride from FCB/Six Toronto.

But let’s talk about Marmite, the gooey salty British breakfast spread that has for years used the slogan “You either love it or hate it.” London agency Adam & Eve/DDB pushed this idea to the next level by commissioning a scientific survey that proved certain people were predisposed to love or hate the spread. Then they allowed consumers to order gene-testing kits to find out whether they were natural “lovers” or “haters”. The project underpinned a witty TV ad.

Meanwhile, you might assume that the E-commerce category was one of the least exciting in the Lions line-up. But you’d be wrong. Nick Law, Publicis Groupe chief creative officer, who headed the E-commerce jury, said: “It’s all about the intersection between the ease of e-commerce, the mechanics of helping somebody buy something, and how that overlaps with the creative piece…and I was pleasantly surprised how juicy that combination was.”

The category’s Grand Prix winner, for instance, is stunning in its effectiveness. From McCann London, the campaign for Xbox allowed gamers to customize their own game controller, “claim” the design, and then sell examples of it on line, reaping a cut of the sales. Using e-commerce to collaborate with and empower your customers? That’s a “learning”, right there.

If you thought that was cool, try this: the CEO of a small consumer electronics brand in Argentina became a hero when (thanks to his agency DAVID) he promised all purchasers of a new TV that they could have their money back if the country failed to qualify for the World Cup. But then the unexpected happened, and the suspense racked up a notch…

Turning a potential negative into a positive – one of the oldest rules of great advertising. And with that we’ll leave you, because we’ve got a match to catch.