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Could This Be B-to-B's Big Year at Cannes?

Agency Execs Weigh in on What Work Should Be Honored

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Ads from b-to-b companies have not historically had a strong showing at Cannes, but that could -- and by some accounts should -- change this year.

With IBM winning a Grand Prix last year for its "Smart Ideas for Smarter Cities" effort, which featured outdoor structures designed to improve some aspect of city life, and now Volvo Trucks scoring a viral hit with its 'Epic Split' video, b-to-b ads may have their day.

Ad Age spoke to several top b-to-b agency execs to gauge their opinions on other business marketers' work and what could, or should, be recognized by the respective Cannes awards commitees.

Allison Womack, President, Doremus NY

I think "My Mom Works at GE" [aka GE's "Childlike Imagination" by BBDO] marks a shift in how we see working moms. This mom isn't a frenzied juggler; this mom is an inspiration. She makes things that were once the stuff of fantasy a reality and does great things for the world at the same time. Through this mom, GE gets the credit for not just its products, but for being a company where women in science and technology thrive and we all benefit from it.

Jim Radosevic, President, Y&R NY

Volvo Trucks' "Epic Split" [via Forsman & Bodenfors]: I may never be in position to buy a Volvo Truck, but I got the message. The whole way it plays out is super smart and if you think about if someone came to you with a brief, saying, "I want to demonstrate the precision steering of our trucks, and do to it so compelling and with suspense and entertainment," then you see this and just think on the outside: "Damn, I wish I thought of that."

Caterpillar's "Jenga: Built for It Trials" [from Ogilvy NY]: This is a terrific demo of a product, but it's done in a completely different way. The approach of talking about this very niche heavy equipment product, but doing it in a way that I can totally appreciate. There are hundreds of ways you could do this that would resonate with their target buyer, but you have a visceral reaction because you see the game, you know the game and we know that even if you move a piece the wrong way it all comes apart. You don't need to be an engineer to appreciate this 'business-to-people" approach.

David Lubars, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, BBDO

The "Epic Split" Van Damme film for Volvo Trucks is my winning pick. It's the ancient form of demonstration done in an entirely new and surprising way. It's very difficult to do that.

Patrick Godfrey, President, Godfrey Q

Like everyone, I'm also impressed by Volvo Trucks' "Epic Split." It's a powerful product demonstration and a daring physical feat wrapped in a beautiful piece of film. It even makes Enya sound fresh. The fact that it's the most-watched commercial ever on YouTube is also impressive. But I do wonder how many of those nearly 73-million-and-counting views are people who make commercial truck purchase decisions vs. people who like a cool stunt (and Mr. Van Damme).

Lisa Abbatiello, CEO, Leo Burnett Business

We are thrilled that the great work in the b-to-b space is getting recognition at Cannes this year. The best campaigns are those that demonstrate an understanding of the human side of the business audience. The Volvo Truck "Epic Split" video is a great example. It leads by entertaining, yet also provides rational reasons to believe. That makes it immensely shareable.

Lincoln Bjorkman, Global Creative Officer, Wunderman

Adobe Marketing Cloud: 'Click, Baby, Click' [from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners]: What a great little bit. It's cheeky, it tweeks the whole industry and just great on every level. It's a wonderful film that could be used for anyone contemplating click and measurability.

Dell "Beginnings" [via Y&R]: Here we are already with digital nostalgia. It's interesting someone took a step back for a great technology brand to show there's already digital nostalgia. I think Cannes will be ready to say, "Yes, this really resonates with me." We're all looking for authenticity and this brings it.

Caterpillar's "Jenga" was also great. When I see a piece of content like that it will get noticed and passed around. They are not usually a brand that has done that. I suspect it wasn't the easiest sell either, but the leads they want, the customers they want are drawn to the digital channel. That's where they are. This ad was unexpected and very welcome. CMOs at companies like this have awakened to the idea they need to be creative in this way.

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