Small Nation, Big Wins: ‘Palau Pledge’ Tops Cannes Lions With 3 Grand Prix

Campaign takes home a total of 7 awards

Palau Pledge, a vast, ambitious campaign wins big in Cannes. Palau Pledge

CANNES, France—Palau Pledge, the ambitious project dedicated to ensuring environmental stewardship for the small island nation of Palau, which had been tipped as one of the week’s top campaigns, took home two major Grand Prix awards at the Cannes Lions.

Winning the top honor in the Titanium and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Lions, the campaign created by Host/Havas in Sydney ended the week winning seven Lions, including a Grand Prix nod in the Direct category and a Gold Lion in Brand Experience & Activation.

The SDG Lion award is in its first year and, according to Terry Savage, chairman of the Cannes Lions, the festival received more than 900 entries. Proceeds from the entries for the SDG honor, in collaboration with United Nations (UN), are set to go to sustainable development causes in the coming months.

“You may think this is very un-Cannes-like,” quipped Savage. “But we really believe in this.”

Category jury president Mark Tutssel, global CCO of Leo Burnett and creative chairman of Publicis Communications, said that there was “one winner in this category, and that’s the human race,” noting that the UN’s 17 global sustainability goals are “must-fix” by 2030.

Creatively, Tutssel and his jury were looking to award work that has a lasting impact. A total of 29, with three gold Lions, were handed out.

“We were looking for acts, not ads,” said Tutssel. “We were looking for big and fresh ideas that wove their way into culture that changed behavior mindset and allow people to participate in an idea. [Palau Pledge] is so beautiful in its execution and concept—and rich in its potential.”

“When you look at the sustainable development goals, they are about people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership,” added Maher Nasser, director of outreach for the UN’s Department of Public Information. “[Palau Pledge] brought all of the elements of what the global goals are about, and that’s the spirit.”

For her part, Colleen DeCourcy, CCO of Wieden + Kennedy and Titanium Lion jury president, addressed the campaign’s potential and its ability to scale, pointing out that its multiple touchpoints create lasting impact.

“A lot of the things that were awarded were really about scaling of ideas hand to hand, but when you look at taking a passport (part of the Palau Pledge program) and stamping it, that becomes embedded as part of your life experience,” she said. “You take it away with you—so anybody who’s ever visited Palau will carry this idea with them and the values that it represents. This is now how they think about sustainable tourism. So many of the ideas that are passed hand to hand right now are slightly dangerous and highly unsubstantiated. This felt like something where you take a piece of it away with you.”

The Titanium Lion is hotly contested, and the six additional Lions were awarded to Apple for “Today at Apple” (Apple); Procter & Gamble for the “It’s a Tide Ad” campaign (Saatchi & Saatchi); Tourism Australia for “Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home” (Droga5); Essity for “Bloodnormal” (AMV BBDO) and Nike for “Nothing Beats a Londoner” (Wieden + Kennedy London).

“The Titanium Lion was created to honor work in any category that causes the industry to stop in its tracks and consider the way forward,” said DeCourcy. “As you can imagine, this was a hell of a year to take on that task—and, as one of our jury members said, ‘It’s what makes the show magical, irritating and confounding at the same time. [The winners] pulled the truth from all of them, and when you stop to think of what our industry can do, when you drop the shame of saying we work in advertising and say this is creativity, it helps change people’s minds and behavior in a world that’s full of rage, addiction and misinformation.”

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.