Winning hearts & minds: The inspiring Cannes Lions winners of 2016 – part 1

It's impossible not to be blown away by Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The awards celebrate creativity and innovation at it's best so here's our picks

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It’s impossible not to be blown away by Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. For eight days, tens of thousands of people from all corners of the marketing and creative world descend on the French Riviera. The beaches and hotel frontages of La Croisette are transformed into the places to be during the week and Le Vieux Port is filled with super-sized yachts that become a home-from-home for the ad-tech giants. It’s a true spectacle and one that Team Openr were immensely proud to be part of having won the Lions Innovation Start-up Competition.

Spend a little too much time reflecting though, and you’d be hard pressed not to feel a little squeamish at how much money is thrown around. You only have to get a glimpse of the Daily Mail yacht for example (and see the guest list that makes it on to the yacht) to feel a little disheartened by the money going around. This hit me after a long day on Wednesday. But that was before I was lucky enough to attend the awards night for the Innovation, Media, Mobile & Cyber Lions.

Getting to see the awards is a sensory overload – one minute you’re laughing, next nearly crying, as the Gold winners and Grand Prix winners submission films are played. This is creativity and innovation at it’s best. Winning a Lion is the crème de la crème of the industry, and seeing the work truly revives ones belief in the industry as a whole. So yes there is a lot of lavish, extravagance in Cannes – but it is in celebration of brilliance, it inspires brilliance – creative brilliance that is solving real business and world challenges – so long live the celebration.

To share this inspiration we’ve selected our favourites from the Lions awards night we attended and are featuring them here. You’ll also find the remaining Grand Prix winners from across all the other Lions categories in part 2. Harking back to my earlier point, it’s interesting to see just how many of the Lions were doing ‘good’ – either the client was a charity/cause, or there was a cause sewn into the creative for the commercial brand. It’s truly inspiring to see marketing campaigns making a real difference to peoples lives (see the Lions winners tackling breast cancer and blood donation below). There’s some chatter about whether charity and commercial entries should be split, since charity entries can always tug at the heart strings more easily. However, considering REI’s #OptOutside and Unilever’s #sharetheload below, I’d argue that the creative challenge really comes alive with a mix of the two – read more on this in the Cannes Trends piece.

The Team’s headliner Lions

Every single one of the team favourites are Lion’s winners – most received Grand Prix or Gold Lions, and often had a few additional Silver and Bronze ones along the way too. Inevitably there were some heart string-tugging cause-related campaigns but also some incredibly impactful commercial brands being brave and bold with their creative campaigns, and we hope that our top picks give you a flavour of the inspirational work across the board. If you can’t watch all the films in this two part series, then please do be wowed by the select few in part one here.

From the cause-related side of the camp, it was fascinating to see the different creative responses to two real world challenges – breast cancer checking and blood donor shortages. The NHS and Engine, London produced The Missing Type to become an earned media hit – see it in action here – where the world was taken over with miss-spelt road signs and brand names.

Pay with Blood from the Untold Festival, National Institute for Blood Donation and McCann Romania was a high impact and highly collaborative response to resonating with a younger generation – you can see it here. And our favourite (though it was a close call) given it’s impact was Hashtags for life by the Peruvian Red Cross and McCann Lima which you can see here:

Dealing with the breast cancer checking challenge were two high impact winners but they took very different approaches to encouraging women to check their breasts. Check It Before It’s Removed: Naked Breasts on Facebook Against Breast Cancer by Pink Ribbon and BBD Group Germany exploited the very constraint that limits breast checking education by building a campaign around photos and film that they knew would be removed. It inevitably gained the virality they hoped for so it is well worth a watch below. You can also see the award submission is here.

By contrast, Manboobs by Macma and David, took the humourous approach and used manboobs to educate women on breast checking – simply brilliant. The award submission is here and the ad is here:

Perhaps the most controversial  was Behind the Leather by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Ogilvy & Mather, Bangkok. The award submission is here and the film is here:


The Second Scoreboard by Teletica, Inamu, Fedefutbol and J. Walter Thompson Costa Rica was an impressively integrated campaign – I can only imagine how long this was in the planning stages. The award submission is here:


The subversive #OptOutside by REI and Venables Bell & Partners was coined the anti-marketing marketing campaign. REI (an outdoor clothing brand) made the bold, disruptive move of closing their stores (and online stores) on Black Friday and instead encouraged everyone to get outside instead. The root of the idea is so brilliantly aligned to their brand and got the earned media reaction it deserved as a result. An array of Lions followed suit including the Lions Grand Prix winner for Promo & Activation and the Cannes Lion Titanium. The award submission is here and the ad is here:

For sheer gut-wrenching impact it has to be SMS Last Words by Global Road Safety Partnership and Havas, Shanghai – there are no words, just watch it. The award submission is here and the film is here:

Proving that strategy is just as important as creativity was FU 2016 by Netflix’s House of Cards and BBH New York that won the Integrated Lion Grand Prix by launching a spoof political party campaign at a key point in the US elections.  I’d love to know the back story to planning this campaign and pulling it off with such success. The award submission is here and the ad is here:

Similarly bold was the Layzell Brothers’ animated work with adam&eve DDB London for Harvey Nichols which won the Grand Prix Lion for Film. The advert runs actual footage of shoplifters pilfering their way through the store with irreverent animation anonymising and lampooning the thieves. Shoplifters by Harvey Nichols and Adam&Eve BBD London can be seen below and the award submission is here.

Dad #Sharetheload by Proctor & Gamble India and BBDO India is a wonderfully cultural campaign. The award submission is here and the film is here:

The Field Trip to Mars by Lockheed Martin and McCann New York is Virtual Reality made for the real world: I’m a cynic when it comes to VR.  Frankly I think you look a bit silly with your VR visor on, and would rather do experiences in the real world. Or perhaps I just don’t have the vision to truly capture the implications of VR for the future. Then I saw The Field Trip to Mars school bus and got it – as did many others judging by the many won Lions. The award submission is here and the film is here:

That’s our round-up but you can see all the Grand Prix Lions winners that didn’t make our team shortlist here in part two.

If you’d like to find out more about content-sharing tool Openr that won the Cannes Lions Innovation Start-up Competition take a look here.


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