25 Brilliant Ad Campaigns That Will Win Lions in Cannes

Pre-festival favorites, from Fearless Girl to Louise Delage

Louise Delage, a trendy young Instagrammer, turned out to be a fraud in a devious social media stunt by Paris agency BETC.
Headshot of Tim Nudd

One bronze statue will be chasing lots of gold ones on the Croisette next week, as McCann’s Fearless Girl enters the Cannes Lions festival as a heavy favorite for hardware. But it’s hardly the only brilliant work that will be jostling for attention in the jury rooms.

Leo Burnett is out with its 30th annual Cannes Predictions list, which you can see below. If there’s a common thread that connects them, it’s the power of the unexpected, from a completely new way to talk about organ donation to an overnight Instagram success who hid a troubling secret.

Visit adweek.com/cannes all next week for real-time reports from the festival, including the big winners, video interviews with top executives, trends, analysis and much more.

Channel 4, “We’re The Superhumans”
Agency: 4Creative, London

Best ad ever made about disability? It might be Channel 4’s joyous three-minute musical for the 2016 Paralympics—a follow-up to Film Craft Grand Prix winner “Meet the Superhumans” from 2012. The top Film winner at The One Show this spring, it would be an upset if it didn’t win at least one of the two Film contests in Cannes.


State Street Global Advisors, “Fearless Girl”
Agency: McCann, New York

Cannes will surely be a coronation for this hugely inventive and spectacularly executed corporate feminist icon, which could win any number of Grand Prix—from Glass, PR and Outdoor early in the week all the way to Titanium on Saturday. Look for our video interview with its young creators during Cannes week on Adweek.com.


Ikea, “Cook This Page”
Agency: Leo Burnett, Toronto

Find new foods intimidating? Ikea made it easy with “Cook This Page,” featuring fill-in-the-blank recipes printed with food-safe ink on cooking parchment paper. Add the ingredients right on the page, roll it up and throw it in the oven—and you have a meal. An inspired and useful merger of food and design.


Transport Accident Commission, “Meet Graham”
Agency: Clemenger BBDO, Melbourne

The year’s most visually striking safe-driving campaign imagined what humans would look like if we evolved to withstand car-crash forces. Artist Patricia Piccinini’s avant-garde creation went mainstream, as Graham’s odd visage was unmissable in social feeds—and made people consider, paradoxically, the frailty of today’s human body.


Nike, “Unlimited Stadium”
Agency: BBH, Singapore

The beautiful footprint-shaped design of this running track, which Nike built across a whole city block in Manila, was just the start of its coolness. The 200-meter track was lined with LED screens, inviting runners to engage in a virtual race against avatars of themselves. Experiential sports marketing at its very best.


Coca-Cola, “The Line-Up Song”
Agency: FP7, Cairo

After six years away from competitive play, most Egyptians didn’t know their own national soccer team. But Coke found an ingenious way to get them to learn the players’ names. It took a nursery rhyme all Egyptians grew up memorizing, and changed the words to include the team’s lineup.


Donate Life, “The World’s Biggest Asshole”
Agency: The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

Can even the most wretched person be redeemed? They can if they’re Coleman F. Sweeney, a horrible human being through most of Donate Life’s three-minute spot who ends up saving lives, upon his untimely death, by being an organ donor. A great counterintuitive idea from Martin, brought to life expertly by actor Thomas Jane.


Sony PlayStation, “Gravity Cat”
Agency: Hakuhodo, Tokyo

Two sisters try to capture a gravity-defying kitten as their apartment very literally turns upside down in this crazy crowd-pleaser from Japan for the video game Gravity Daze 2. The set actually flipped, thanks to some inspired production design, and the handheld camerawork lent this four-minute film an urgent indie vibe.


Amnesty International, “The Refugee Nation”
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, New York

Ogilvy took home Best of Show at The One Show for designing the lifejacket-inspired flag of Refugee Nation and its Olympic team, and coming up with a national anthem and a program to recycle old lifejackets into flags. The brilliantly simple design, and the global urgency of the work, will wow the judges in Cannes, too.


Addict Aide, “Like My Addiction”
Agency: BETC, Paris

This sneaky social campaign put a dark twist on influencer marketing, as BETC made a fake Instagram account for a fictional woman, Louise Delage. She seemed like another chic Parisian, but her endless selfies slowly revealed a troubling drinking problem, shocking the 17,000 unsuspecting followers she amassed in a few months.


H&M, “Come Together”
adam&eveDDB, London

Wes Anderson directed this delightful Christmas spot for H&M, starring Adrien Brody as a train conductor who organizes an impromptu celebration on board when delays on the line derail everyone’s scheduled holiday plans. The trademark Anderson quirkiness and gorgeous design are all here, along with a very poignant ending.


Samsung, “The Ostrich”
Leo Burnett, Chicago

A flightless bird soars, thanks to virtual reality, in this spot by Burnett that’s racked up 24 million YouTube views. Dramatizing the joys of VR in advertising is notoriously difficult, but this inspired concept and lovely execution added up to a charming bit of storytelling.


Sandy Hook Promise, “Evan”
BBDO, New York

The mother of all rug-pulls happens at the end of this 2:30 film, which appears to be about a high school romance, but turns out to be a memorable PSA warning indeed. The masterpiece of misdirection is likely to compete strongly in both Film contests.


Nike, “Time is Precious”
Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

This clever, claustrophobic text-only video campaign encouraged viewers to get away from the screens—movies, TV shows, social networks—and go for a run. The execution is pitch-perfect, and it’s great to see W+K, maker of so many Nike blockbusters, pack such a punch with the simplest of building blocks.


Gatorade, “Serena Williams’ Match Point”
TBWA\Chiat Day, Los Angeles

The first in-app Snapchat video game featured 22 levels of gameplay, each representing one of the 22 Grand Slam singles titles Williams has won. In each level, players attempt to win the “match point” of one of those matches. In the most ephemeral of mediums, this work drew remarkable engagement—an average of three minutes per player, an eternity in Snapchat time.


Old Spice, “Smell ‘Em Who’s Boss”
Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Actors Thomas Beaudoin and Alberto Cardenas starred in this campaign, which broke during Cannes week last summer. The spots, offbeat in the classic Old Spice way, included one with Beaudoin going on the most anatomically freaky job interview ever.


Geico, “Condensed Ads”
The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

Geico has been entertainingly hacking the lowly YouTube preroll ad ever since “Unskippable,” the celebrated 2015 campaign that won the Film Grand Prix and Adweek’s Ad of the Year award that year. This year’s installment—ads that get crushed so you don’t have to watch them—worked so well, they aired on TV too.


Mexico Tourism, “Tequila Cloud”
Lapiz, Chicago

Lapiz concocted a truly unique weather event—a cloud that rains tequila—in this stunt for the Mexico Tourism Board. The activation went down in Berlin, Germany, during the rainiest month of the year, to promote Mexico as a vacation destination.


Spanish Lottery, “December 21st”
Leo Burnett, Madrid

In the latest much-anticipated ad for the Spanish Christmas lottery, retired schoolteacher Carmina mistakenly believes she and her community have won the draw—the day before it actually happens. Lovely storytelling from the client and agency that made the enormous hit “Justino” the previous year.


Apple, “Stroll”
TBWA\Media Arts Lab

Lil Buck strolls down the street and is suddenly freed from gravity as he gyrates through Mexico City to the lilting tune of “Down” by Marian Hill. The reason? Apple’s wireless AirPods headphones, which have allowed the freestyle dancer to become unbounded in every sense.


John Lewis, “Buster the Boxer”
adam&eveDDB, London

A year after the somber “Man on the Moon” campaign, John Lewis and adam&eveDDB went for pure, unbridled joy in their hugely anticipated annual Christmas ad. The two-minute spot was incredibly charming, and offered a nice ending to what had been, for so many, a very difficult 2016.


Tourism Ireland, “Doors of Thrones”
Publicis Worldwide, London

In January 2016, The Dark Hedges—a centuries-old avenue of interlocking beech trees in Northern Ireland, where HBO’s Game of Thrones has been filmed—was hit hard by a storm that leveled some of the trees. Over ten weeks, Publicis and Tourism Ireland used the fallen wood to make 10 bespoke doors each depicting an episode from Game of Thrones Season 6. Beautifully crafted out-of-home work.


Kenzo, “My Mutant Brain”
Framework, New York

Margaret Qualley spasms to a fevered beat, and eventually shoots laser beams out of her fingers, in this ludicrously entertaining four-minute film from Spike Jonze for fragrance brand Kenzo. Easily the wildest acting performance in any ad over the past year—set to the original track “Mutant Brain,” from Jonze’s brother Sam Spiegel and Ape Drums.


Samsung, “Pocket Patrol”
Leo Burnett, Sydney

Burnett worked with Samsung and Surf Life Saving Australia to create an AR app that helps raise awareness of the No. 1 hazard on Australian beaches—rip tides. The app enables users to visualize identified hazards (rips, and also submerged rocks and shallow sandbanks) by using a combination of data uploaded by lifeguards and surf lifesavers as well as AR, GPS, compass, gyroscope and image recognition.


Burger King, “Burning Stores”
David, Miami

Burger King made an incredible series of print ads from agency David that showed real emergency-scene photos of actual BK restaurants on fire. The point? To remind people that BK always flame-grills its burgers.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.