Ice Bucket Challenge Wins 2 Gold Lions in Branded Content and Cannes’ Top Honor for Nonprofits

Viral campaign also won in Cyber and PR

Headshot of David Griner

CANNES, France—The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which took Facebook and other social networks by storm last year, has won two gold Lions in Cannes' Branded Content & Entertainment category and the coveted Grand Prix for Good.

Juries in each Cannes Lions category may choose to award a Grand Prix to the year's best entry, but nonprofits like the ALS Association typically do not qualify for the honor, which is reserved for brands.

In Branded Content, no Grand Prix was awarded this year (nor last year) because jurors felt the for-profit work in the category wasn't strong enough to deserve a top honor.

However, the festival also awards one Grand Prix for Good each year to the nonprofit or NGO that jurors feel created the year's best marketing campaign. This year, the ALS Association won the honor for its Ice Bucket Challenge, which was also honored in several other Cannes categories, including gold Lion wins in Cyber and PR.

The viral sensation broke the usual mold of branded content by crowdsourcing creation to supporters around the world.

Also taking gold was "The Gun Shop," a fake firearms store opened by Grey New York in New York City to raise awareness of gun violence statistics. The client was States United to Prevent Gun Violence, with production from Rival School Pictures.

The third U.S. campaign honored with a gold Lion in Branded Content & Entertainment was EA's "Madden Season" from Heat San Francisco and production firm Hungry Man Los Angeles. 

This marks the second year in a row that no entries in Branded Content & Entertainment have merited a Grand Prix, the top honor in any Cannes Lions category.

Jury president and BBDO Chief Creative Officer David Lubars said the jurors simply didn't feel any of the entries were strong enough to be remembered well into the future.

"We had many fantastic golds, but the golds are the best of what's this year. When you give a Grand Prix, that's like classic history forever. I don't think any of those quite hit that," Lubars said. "None of them had that classic, '30 years later still talking about it still' quality. And I do think it's party because it's a growing category."

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."