Cannes 2016: Canada brings home seven Lions

A good showing in Radio and wins in Direct and Promo balance out Canadian work being shut out of other categories.

cannes lions


By Harmeet Singh and Josh Kolm

UPDATE: The Lions previously awarded solely to MTV for its “Green Screen” campaign and credited to the U.S. should have also credited Toronto’s Jam3 for its work on the campaign. This story has been updated to reflect that campaign’s win in the Promo & Activation category. The story also excludes the two Radio Lions which strategy incorrectly counted in Canada’s tally as two single Bronze Lions for Cossette and J. Walter Thompson, when they were in fact Bronze Campaign Lions. 

A particularly good showing in Radio helped balance Canada being shut out of some other categories, with Canadians taking home seven Lions Monday.

Along with five wins in Radio from Tank, Cossette and J. Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett Toronto also picked up a Bronze in Direct for its work with Raising the Roof. Jam3, meanwhile, picked up Silver in Promo & Activation for its work with MTV.

Sadly, Canadian work didn’t place in the Glass Lion or Print & Publishing categories.

So far this year, Grey Canada also picked up a Silver at Lions Health.

Check back throughout the week for more on the winners, shortlisted campaigns and other news from this year’s festival.

A strong showing in Radio

Out of the eight chances Canadian campaigns had in the Radio category, three agencies pulled through to win three Bronze Lions. Tank won for its “Daycare” spot for Valda lozenges, as did Cossette’s shortlisted ads for Kobo and J. Walter Thompson Canada’s for Toronto Speakers Academy.

The Radio jury evaluated its work strictly this year, awarding Gold Lions to only three campaigns. Of more than 1,400 entries, 10% made it to the shortlist, which was whittled down to 3% that win Lions. Speaking to strategy following the conference, Tom Eymundson, director and CEO at Toronto’s Pirate and president of the Radio jury, says what kept a lot of work (both Canadian and global) from breaking through to a higher level was that many of the campaigns featured either strong technical craft or a strong creative idea behind it, but not both.

The Grand Prix in the category went to Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg for the three spots in its “Everyman Meal” campaign for KFC. Each spot featured a dozen different men questioning their manliness for doing typically “unmanly” things, only for the voiceover to assure them that, despite lifting small coloured weights they were still, in fact, men.

Eymundson acknowledged that many more campaigns in the Radio category are attempting to utilize digital platforms (like last year’s Radio Grand Prix winner) or capitalize on the popularity of things like podcasts. But he says what makes an effective Radio entry, as was the case with the Gold and Grand Prix winners, is if it understands what makes the medium an effective way to reach people, regardless of how much tech innovation it uses to do so.

“Radio that works, works because it touches the individual while it’s reaching for the mass,” Eymundson told a press conference about the Grand Prix winner. “It’s your friend, a passenger in your car. And that can be done through traditional script writing or innovative use of the medium.”

Direct gets back to business

Raising the Roof and Leo Burnett Toronto have earned themselves a Bronze Lion in Direct, the only Canadian work to win in the category.

The “Coming Soon” campaign took the prize in the Use of Print or Standard Outdoor sub-category. The stunt placed a notice in an affluent Toronto neighbourhood that a homeless shelter would be opening up. After a series of concerned calls from residents, the sign was replaced by one that said Raising the Roof didn’t want a shelter there either – or anywhere else.

Canada had picked up eight shortlist mentions in the Direct category, but they were largely focused on charity work or ethical issues rather than brands, which hurt us, jury member Steph Mackie, owner of Mackie Biernacki, told strategy.

“There was a big conversation about rewarding creativity for business results and that brands need to be rewarded,” she says, especially after last year’s sway towards more charity-driven work. “There was a feel that it became not only the charity show but that brands were starting to think there’s less worth in creativity for business.”

While Raising the Roof is of course a charity, the work executed on a “fantastic insight” and delivered on the direct, one-to-one connection needed in the category. “The execution was really clear, very simple,” she says. “It demanded a response and interaction from people and it got great results.”

The same could be said for the Grand Prix in the category, which went to the Swedish Tourist Association for “The Swedish Number” by INGO Stockholm. The campaign provided a single number that users from anywhere in the world could call and be connected with a random Swede.

The campaign was about more than just chatting about Ikea and was actually a celebration of 250 years of freedom of speech in the Scandinavian country, which introduced a constitutional law banning censorship in 1766.

Only 2.4% of the roughly 3,000 Direct entries received a Lion. “That just demonstrates that these [winning] ideas are really, really brilliant,” jury president and Leo Burnett Worldwide CCO Mark Tutssel says.

No-shows in Glass and Print, Jam3 and MTV get Silver in Promo

For the second time, a campaign out of India took the Grand Prix in the Glass category, first introduced to the awards program last year.

“6 Pack Band” for Hindustan Unilever’s Brooke Bond Red Label Tea brand, led by Mindshare Mumbai, was focused on promoting equality for the transgender community. The campaign was centred on launching 6 Pack Band, India’s first transgender music group, and normalizing the conversation around transgender people in the country.

Canada had several shortlisted campaigns in the Promo & Activation category, but similar to Direct, some were in the charity or non-brand category (such as John St.’s “#CoverTheAthlete”).

This year’s Promo jury had a goal of focusing on purpose-led marketing, but by big brands rather than charities, jury president Rob Reilly said during a press conference. The industry generally (not just Cannes) has been shifting to awarding more non-profit, charitable campaigns, he says. While awards like the Glass Lion (which is centred on gender equality) have a place, the jury wanted to get back to the basics of brands that have a purpose in selling.

Taking a Silver in the category was the “Green Screen” campaign MTV created with Jam3′s Toronto office to promote the 2015 VMAs. The campaign shot musicians and celebrities (including host Miley Cyrus) in front of green screen and let fan-art obsessed millennials create their own content showing the personalities doing any weird thing they wanted, like riding giant cats. The content was then utilized across the wider integrated campaign.

“#OptOutside” for U.S. outdoor retailer REI took the Grand Prix in that category. The campaign, by Venables Bell & Partners San Francisco, saw the retailer close its doors on Black Friday (the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S.) and pay its employees to go outside instead.

This year’s Grand Prix in the Print & Publishing category went to Burger King and Y&R New Zealand Auckland for its “McWhopper” ad, published as an open letter to McDonald’s from its QSR rival.

During the press conference, jury president Joji Jacob, group executive creative director at DDB Group Singapore, called the ad “the future of print” in that it created a conversation and had a viral element to it. Though it’s simple, he says the ad is “print work at its most powerful.”

While there were better written print ads, the open letter had a major impact and fit into the larger campaign, he says. “This became the linchpin of a massive campaign.”

Some of the best work was also on the publishing side of the category, Jacob also says. He points to “It’s Not OK” from FCB New Zealand Auckland, which is taking home a Gold for its “Paradise Hill” magazine spread, which placed scenes of domestic violence (such as broken furniture) within a photo spread of luxury rooms in Home Magazine.

Still, the category did have a lower number of entries than previously, with entries dwindling since 2012 (it had 3,775 entries this year, compared with 4,470 in 2015), with younger people drifting to “shiny new things,” Jacob says.

The jury’s goal this year was to find print work as engaging as anything in a social media feed, he says. Print advertising generally is still trying to figure out its role in this world of great distraction and two more Cannes festivals from now, we’re likely to see even better work, he says.