Cannes 2018: And the Outdoor Grand Prix goes to…

Cossette and McDonald's simple solution to crummy navigational signage just bagged the big one for Canada.

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It’s been more than a decade since a Canadian agency left Cannes with a Grand Prix. Until today.

During the second awards gala at this year’s festival, Cossette and McDonald’s “Follow the Arches” campaign was awarded the coveted prize in Outdoor for helping ravenous drivers locate the QSR through cross-sections of its golden arches. The boards came from the desire to replace inconsistent place-marking billboards (haphazardly managed by franchisees) with more uniform creative.

This is the first time a piece of Canadian-led work has picked up the top prize since Ogilvy & Mather’s “Evolution” campaign for Dove in 2007 (not counting the PR Grand Prix picked up by MSLGroup and Leo Burnett Toronto for Always’ “#LikeAGirl” in 2015, which credited the New York PR shop as the entrant).

The campaign’s reductionist and telegraphic approach is what granted the traditional billboard series (comprised of four pieces: “Next Exit”; “Just Missed Us”; “On Your Left”; and “On Your Right”) one of two Outdoor Grand Prix awarded this year, Chris Garbutt, jury president and CCO at TBWA told strategy at a press briefing earlier today.

“I think there’s a difference between good and great, and great and iconic, and I think this piece, because it’s so simple, elevates itself right to iconic,” he said.

“Directions” was given the Grand Prix Campaign, while an ambient piece by Comedy Central, called “The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library,” was awarded its own Grand Prix.

According to Cannes rules, the festival gives juries within certain categories the license to be a little more generous with its Grand Prix titles, as traditional media (such as McD’s wayfinding billboards) is more difficult to compare and judge against progressive and complex ambient pieces (like Comedy Central’s pop-up art gallery). Film follows similar guidelines that permit dual Grand Prix’s for long and short-form pieces.

Garbutt further lauded the McDonald’s work for essentially creating a “gamified experience where the audience closes the loop.” He added that because people can instantly decode the billboard upon seeing the signature mark of the QSR, it was much more rewarding for consumers.

“I think when you’re an iconic brand like McDonald’s, you should behave iconic and in a confident way,” said Garbutt. “We were very aware of not over-indexing on work that was just trying to stand for a cause. It was refreshing to see brands just doing work that was a great idea, that encouraged people to simply go to a McDonald’s. [That piece] was unashamedly simple and cunning.”

The jury president also noted that this year’s Outdoor category was rife with brands tackling social causes, a common and  ever-growing theme at Cannes. The narrative, said Garbutt, was brands following in the footsteps of public demonstrations that incite social change by taking to the streets with their billboards. “A lot of the work had a high moral compass to it [and proved that] brands can solve major tensions in the world [with outdoor],” he added.