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Cannes 2014: Canada empty handed on Day One

...though there may have been cheering in Montreal. Watch the Grand Prix winners

Before the judging even started for this year’s International Festival of Creativity, the odds of Canadians bringing home Lions from Cannes were a bit worse than last year.

While total entries in all competition were up nearly 5%, Canadian entries were down 10% for 2014 – fewer Canadian entries in a larger pool. On top of that, the degree of difficulty is only going up and, yes, the proliferation of powerful pro bono work continues to influence judges.

And when the first awards gala of the 61st Cannes Lions concluded Monday, Canada emerged empty handed, shut out in the Promo & Activation, PR, Direct and Creative Effectiveness competitions (though some Canadians were likely cheering after the Direct Lions were awarded. See below).

When the shortlists in those competitions were released yesterday, and Canada had eleven appearances across all four.

Creative Effectiveness

In the Creative Effectiveness Lions (which rates the business cases of past Lions winners), McDonald’s and Tribal DDB‘s “Our Food. Your Questions.” campaign was one of just 12 entries shortlisted. But while seven Lions were awarded, McDonald’s wasn’t one of them.

“We didn’t’ want to put anything on the shortlist that we wouldn’t consider for a Grand Prix,” said jury president and global chief executive officer, Y&R, global, David Sable, of the small winners list.

The Grand Prix in Creative Effectiveness went to an Australian campaign for passenger train company V/Line to “guilt trip” people into travelling by train. McCann Melbourne targeted young people who grew up in country towns in the state of Victoria and had left for the big city. Family and friends (particularly parents) could send those city dwellers a pre-paid “guilt trip” ticket to ride the rails home for a visit along with a humorous ad campaign that portrayed the different ways to make someone feel guilty enough to actually use the ticket.

WIth an initial budget of about $400,000, the campaign generated a 12% increase in off-peak sales and about $4 million in additional revenue.

“The insight was so fresh and so universal,” said Sable.

With so much discussion about the marketing value of great creative, Sable called the competition “one of the most important in Cannes.” The jury was very rigorous about reviewing the submitted business cases and wanted the winning work to be “game-changing in some way.”

“Guilt Trip” is the kind case study for effective creativity that should be taught in classes and shown to train and travel companies around the world, he added.


In the Direct competition, the Grand Prix went to British Airways and OgilvyOne London for “Magic of Flying.” To raise awareness of British Airways destination offerings and drive traffic to its website, the agency created billboards that pointed out British Airways planes as they flew overhead, where they were coming from and how to find out more about traveling with the airline.

“It’s the promise of travel…. It’s the joy of flying,” said jury chair James McGrath, creative chairman, Clemenger BBDO, of the Grand Prix winners.

Cannes’ official definition of Direct reads in part as “targeted direct communication, designed with the intention of entering into a dialogue with the respondent and to generate response or specific action whilst building and prolonging relationships,” and “must be able to demonstrate that it had some directly attributable effect on behaviour and must be concerned with obtaining a meaningful, measurable response.”

The campaign directed consumers “into the experience and the joy of flying [at] the time you are most feeling the sense of being in a plane–as it flies over,” said McGrath.

According to the official entry, the campaign increased traffic to the site by more than 75,000 unique visits in the first few weeks and generated another 1 million YouTube views.

Two Canadian entries made the shortlist: “Catnip DM” from Rethink and Grey’s “Skip Starbucks Saturday.”

Bimm’s Roehl Sanchez was on the Direct jury first in 2005 and returned this year. “The gravity of the idea did not have to be as strong,” he recalled of his last judging experience compared to the winning work of 2014. “I think we are putting more pressure on these pieces in this category to do more than put a smile on your face.”

“When you do a piece with a little catnip on it, It is cute and it makes people laugh, but that is not enough. And that is good, that is a really good thing. There are higher expectations.”

While not officially a Canadian entry, Sid Lee‘s Paris office took home a gold and silver for BNP Paribas’ “We Were There,” a campaign that collected first-hand anecdotes about the French Open tennis tournament to celebrate a 40-year partnership with Rolande-Garros.


Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow” was deemed the best PR campaign of the year. The campaign was launched with a slick, sharply produced animated short film, but it was also done so without any paid media. That was followed by a game and digital campaign.

“It was the storytelling again, that is what’s at the heart of public relations,” said jury president Renee Wilson, chief client officer, MSL Group, global. “There were many different integrated elements, with PR at the heart of it.”

At each press conference since the PR competition launched in 2009, reporters have invariably zeroed in on the preponderance of advertising agencies over PR agencies on the winners list. They did so again this year when it was revealed the Grand Prix was going to Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow,” which was entered by Creative Artists Agency with Edelman listed as the PR agency.

Wilson said entries from PR agencies were up this year (about 37% this year compared to 26% a year ago, confirmed Festival president Philip Thomas) but she also said the entries from ad agencies reflect that fact that “many folks have recognized the power of public relations within other types of agencies, and they are forming PR divisions. But this great thinking in PR only comes from people skilled in PR.”

When reporters pointed out that ad agencies still seemed to outnumber the PR agencies, Ann Maes, managing director of Ogilvy PR, Belgium, said they “didn’t really care that much.”

“We kind of feel PR is not a discipline, it is a state of mind,” she said “It is about bringing credibility, bringing conversation to the campaign. Anybody can do that. We want to be awarding good work that did just that. That is why we don’t’ really care that much about whether there are lot of PR agencies entering or advertising agencies. We do not want to take over the industry, we want to work together.”

Promo & Activation

In the Promo & Activation competition, the Grand Prix went to Harvey Nichols and Adam&Eve DDB London for “Sorry I Spent it on Myself” – a line of budget gifts like paper clips, elastic bands, and sink plugs that consumers could buy for others so they could spend the savings on the retailer’s fashion offerings.

Judges called the work “brave and risky” and “the most controversial,” but also credited its tongue-in-cheek humour and, most importantly, its effectiveness in reversing sales declines at a busy time of year when bricks-and-mortar retailers are struggling to come up with tactics to beat online giants like Amazon.

Canadian jury member Lisa Greenberg, senior vice-president creative director at Leo Burnett, said that Harvey Nichols was a strong contender for the top prize early on, though it faced some competition from the anti-racism concept “We Are All Monkeys” created for Brazilian soccer star Neymar, and Honda’s “The Sound of Honda.”

“[Harvey Nichols] got three golds, and was the only piece of work that kept coming up for discussion without any contentious points. In the end, it was really Harvey Nichols versus Harvey Nichols,” said Greenberg.

The campaign resonated with judges because it was “insightful” and built around a unique message with a “human truth” about the holidays: “You think ‘I really would like that bag for myself, but I have to buy Christmas presents…’ It’s about the fact that we’re all intrinsically a little bit selfish.”

Want the latest news and winners from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity? Visit Marketing @ Cannes.

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