20 Ad Campaigns That Will Win at Cannes

From Apple to Nike, a look at the work to watch

Apple HomePod's 'Welcome Home' spot from director Spike Jonze and TBWA\Media Arts Lab is sure to be a Cannes Lions favorite. - Credit by Apple
Headshot of David Griner

Tens of thousands of marketing campaigns are submitted each year to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Only 10 percent will make it to the shortlist, per festival organizers, and a mere 3 percent will win a Lion.

So one might think that predicting any winners, much less those likely to claim top honors, would be an impossible mission. But agency Leo Burnett has been issuing such predictions for 31 years now—and last year’s forecast was spot on: All 25 of its picks came away with a Lion. And this year, the agency is sitting out the awards circuit as part of parent company Publicis’ one-year trophy hiatus, making it a truly neutral oracle of the Riviera.

Here are the agency’s 2018 Lions predictions:

Apple HomePod, “Welcome Home”
Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab

Showered with Lions in 2017, Spike Jonze’s frenetic ad for Kenzo starring Margaret Qualley was a sensory-overloading masterpiece. But this year, he created something even more wondrous in “Welcome Home,” a four-minute spot for the Apple HomePod following dancer FKA twigs through a metamorphosis that reshapes both her mood and the very world around her.

Tide, “It’s a Tide Ad”
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi N.Y.

Meta ads referencing other ads are nothing new, but Saatchi N.Y. flawlessly executed the extreme version of this approach with its 2018 Super Bowl campaign. Perfectly cast with Stranger Things’ David Harbour, the effort won a Black Pencil at D&AD and stands to claim more hardware at Cannes (with client P&G picking up the entry fees during parent Publicis’ fallow year).

KFC, “FCK”
Agency: Mother London

What do you say when you’re a chicken chain that’s run out of chicken at hundreds of locations? KFC U.K. and agency Mother London found the perfect response to that exact PR disaster with “FCK,” a minimalist and unforgettable ad headline that conveyed humility and regret, along with a good bit of classic British cheek.

Palau Legacy Project, “The Palau Pledge”
Agency: Host/Havas

If an island nation’s children asked you to not damage their homeland’s lush environment, wouldn’t you say yes? That’s the simple premise behind an otherwise massively ambitious campaign called “The Palau Pledge,” which requires all tourists to sign an environmental-stewardship pledge, stamped right into their passports. The bold work included permanently changing its immigration policy and creating a video about the pledge, which all visitors must view during inbound flights to Palau.

The Times, “JFK Unsilenced”
Agency: Rothco/Accenture Interactive

On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was on his way to give a speech at the Dallas Trade Mart when he was assassinated. In March, British news outlet The Times and agency Rothco recreated the speech Kennedy never gave, using AI to build the audio based on his prepared statement and an analysis of 831 recordings.

Ikea, “The Ikea Human Catalog”
Agency: BBH Singapore

Ikea has built a wealth of advertising ideas around its catalog, but this campaign actually made the entire periodical obsolete. World-champion memory expert Yanjaa Wintersoul memorized the catalog’s every last detail, then fielded questions from dubious agency reps and, eventually, the public via a live chat to prove her skills.

Nike, “Nothing Beats a Londoner”
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London

For non-Londoners, this three-minute spot may feel impenetrable at first, jumping pell-mell from one slang-slinging athlete to another, each one-upping the last with descriptions of how hard it is to pursue his or her passion. But the Megaforce-directed ad is one you’ll quickly want to watch again and again in hopes of finding and deciphering all the details you missed on the first viewing.

National Safety Council, “Prescribed to Death”
Agency: Energy BBDO

“To fight the problem, first we need to face it.” That’s the premise behind this campaign, which intricately carved faces of opioid overdose victims onto 22,000 pills to represent the number of fatal overdoses in 2017. One pill was carved every 24 minutes—or the average time between each overdose in America.

Procter & Gamble, “The Talk”
Agency: BBDO New York

In one of the boldest pieces of U.S. advertising in 2017, P&G illustrated the emotional heartbreaking conversations many black parents have had with their children across several generations, trying to help them understand the inexplicable: Why the world will treat them unfairly simply because of their skin color.

Edeka, “The Most German Supermarket”
Agency: Jung von Matt

Amid a rise in nationalism across many countries, German grocer Edeka and its agency made a powerful point about the real, easily overlooked benefits of global commerce. The supermarket removed all foreign goods from its Hamburg location, creating “The Most German Supermarket”—which also turned out to be nearly empty.

Downtown Records, “Live Looper”
Agency: BBDO New York

Latency, that frustrating gap between real life and what you’re seeing in a live video, is normally a frustration. But Irish band The Academic turned it into an art form with the “Live Looper” version of their new track “Bear Claws.” A promotion for NY-based Downtown Records and created by BBDO New York, the video intricately builds layers of audio (and video) by using the slight delay in Facebook Live streaming. It’s easier to understand once you’ve watched it, so take a look below:

Orange Telecom, “Now Or Never”
FP7/CAI, Cairo

At last year’s Cannes Lions, agency FP7’s “Lineup Song” for Coca-Cola was an underdog hit, celebrating the return of Egypt’s soccer team after six years of being sidelined from competitive play. This year, the agency has a sequel of sorts, though this time the client is Orange Telecom, and the song goes for more of a dark-humor take on elderly Egyptians hoping for a World Cup appearance in their lifetime:

Nike, “Breaking2”
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Many campaigns get described as “ambitious,” but most seemingly risky marketing stunts don’t have much risk of failing. With Breaking2, Nike’s push to help a runner complete a marathon in under two hours, the brand faced the very likelihood of not reaching its goal. And sure enough, the daunting barrier remains in tact, despite all the brand’s best efforts alongside agency partners like Wieden + Kennedy and Dirty Robber. But the innovations developed along the way could still change running forever—and might someday help reach the now-seemingly-obtainable 1:59.

Audi, “Clowns”
Agency: BBH London (entered by Audi UK)

The roads are filled with a bunch of clowns, and your safety depends on avoiding them. That’s both the figurative and literal message in Audi’s visual ballet of narrowly avoided accidents via buffoonish drivers. Although BBH parent company Publicis has prohibited entries in Cannes this year, Audi UK is reportedly footing the tab to cover the entry fee.

Skittles, “Exclusive the Rainbow”
Agency: DDB Chicago

Is a Super Bowl ad still a Super Bowl ad if only one person gets to watch it? That’s the existential riddle at the heart of “Exclusive the Rainbow,” a sly stunt from DDB Chicago that created (and heavily promoted) a Super Bowl ad that would be viewed by only one random person: Marcos Menendez. Skittles promoted the effort wtih teasers starring David Schwimmer, and while we still haven’t seen it, you can at least hear Menendez’s description of the spot.

Cadbury, “Mum’s Birthday”
Agency: VCCP, London

Had your fill of sarcasm, skepticism and snark in ads? Then you might be in the mood for this lovely little moment created by agency VCCP. It’s refreshingly simple, beautifully crafted and leaves you feeling the way a good bar of chocolate should.

Snaptivity, “Snaptivity App”
Agency: R/GA London

What is this wizardry? Snaptivity, an app and AI platform backed by R/GA’s IoT Venture Studio UK, uses a combination of robotic cameras and nearly instant visual analysis to take pictures of the most exciting moments during a sports match. Stadiums integrate the cameras, and the app lets you enter your seat number, then receive selfie-like photos of your reactions to the most dramatic bits of each game.

Burger King, “Scary Clown Night”
Agency: LOLA MullenLowe Madrid

When Stephen King’s It became 2017’s biggest Halloween hit, Burger King cashed in brilliantly with “Scary Clown Night,” which offered free Whoppers to anyone who came into a location on Halloween dressed as a clown. A not-so-subtle dig at rival mascot Ronald McDonald, the stunt was the brainchild of Francisco “Pancho” Cassis, executive creative director at LOLA MullenLowe in Madrid. (Cassis was recently honored in Adweek’s Creative 100 for this and other innovative marketing ideas.) From concept to execution, the global stunt was pulled off in mere weeks, with most of the minimalist planning taking place via a WhatsApp chat between Cassis and his client, Burger King Global CMO Fernando Machado.

LADBible and The Plastic Oceans Foundation, “Trash Isles”
Agency: AMV BBDO, London

Sometimes a serious problem calls for a ridiculous solution. Confronting the global epidemic of plastic waste crowding our oceans, a London-based creative team lobbied the United Nations to create a new country called “Trash Isles,” which had its own currency (in denominations such as 50 Debris), passports, stamps and flag. Al Gore became the first “official” citizen, and entertainment site LADBible claimed the nation as its own.

Pedigree, “Pedigree SelfieSTIX”
Agency: Colenso BBDO, Auckland

If you’ve got an adorable dog and a smartphone, there’s roughly a 100 percent chance that you’ll occasionally want to take a selfie with your canine friend. But, as anyone who’s tried such a photo knows that dogs couldn’t care less about a lens and will typically look at just about anything else rather than stare wide-eyed into the camera for that perfect shot. Pedigree and New Zealand agency Colenso BBDO solved that (first-world) problem with a brilliantly simple creation: SelfieSTIX, an attachment that lets you mount a treat on top of your phone and get your dogs’ eyes looking in the right direction. Hey, it’s not solving a global crisis, but sometimes you have to celebrate the little victories.

This story first appeared in the June 11, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."
Publish date: June 12, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/creativity/20-ad-campaigns-that-will-win-at-cannes/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT