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Google in review: A look back on the innovations of Cannes Lions' Creative Marketer of the Year

By Published on .

Seven years after Google earned its first Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it has earned the title of Cannes' 2018 Creative Marketer of the Year.

The company joins a lineup of past honorees that includes Burger King, Samsung, McDonald's and Heineken. Since Google's first top honor at Cannes, for a groundbreaking interactive experience for the band Arcade Fire, it's won six other Grand Prix spanning a range of categories, including mobile, cyber and product design, among its 127 Lions in total.

"Alongside its obvious achievements as a technology company, Google as a brand has crafted a reputation for marketing campaigns that are bold, courageous and creative," said Jose Papa, managing director, Cannes Lions in a statement. "We're proud to be able to honour them with this prestigious award and also look forward to launching the Google Creative Campus at this year's Festival—another testament to their commitment to furthering creativity."

Google Chief Marketing Officer Lorraine Twohill will accept the award on behalf of the company in Cannes on June 22, but the brand will also cement its presence at the festival with the debut of its Creative Campus. The program will train and mentor 45 students for the week of the festival, with an eye toward helping them find a job in advertising and marketing. At least 50 percent of the attendees will come from groups that have been marginalized in the industry. Ten of the students will receive scholarships to help defray the cost of attending. Later in the year, the entire group will meet for another week of training at Google's Mountain View, California, headquarters.

"Our marketing campaigns must speak to people all around the world with different backgrounds, languages and points of view," Twohill said in a statement. "We want to support more talented newcomers who bring different perspectives into the industry. This isn't about 'multicultural marketing'; it's marketing in a multicultural world. Without this diversity, there is no creativity."

Here, a look back on some of Google's memorable Lions winners:

Arcade Fire "The Wilderness Downtown" (2011)

In 2011, Google Creative Lab nabbed the brand's first Grand Prix for the seminal interactive music video for Arcade Fire's "We Used to Wait" track. The interactive experience was one of Google's "Chrome Experiments," taking viewers on a trip through their own childhood memories using data, Chrome windows and Google Maps. The effort was a collaboration between the Lab's Aaron Koblin and director Chris Milk, produced with B-Reel.

"Project Re:Brief" (2012)

Google earned the inaugural Mobile Grand Prix in 2012 for this campaign created out of its Creative Lab and agencies including Johannes Leonardoand Grow Interactive. It took classic ads from brands like Volvo, Alka-Selter, Avis and Coca-Cola and reconceived them for various digital formats. Coca-Cola's "Hilltop," for example, became a mobile campaign that allowed users to buy strangers a Coke by activating a vending machine—entirely through display ads. The creation of the campaign was also documented in a film directed by Doug Pray and featuring the original ad's director, Harvey Gabor.

Voice Search Campaign (2012)

That same year, Google earned a second Grand Prix, for Media for an outdoor campaign promoting Google Voice Search. 150 executions were placed near London landmarks—a billboard that said "Sherlock Holmes" was placed near Baker Street, for example. To emphasize the voice search aspect (and add a bit of lo-fi interactivity), the landmark names were spelled phonetically. The campaign more than doubled voice search in London.

"Dear Sophie" (2012)

Often listed as one of the best ads of all time, this montage film of a father's memories of his daughter tugged at heartstrings and earned a Silver Lion in 2012. The spot helped move the perception for the company from one grounded in technology to one focused on human experiences.

Virtual reality (2015, 2016)

In 2015, Google Cardboard's low-cost VR headset earned the brand its second Mobile Grand Prix, and the company picked up the same award the next year for its virtual reality campaign with the New York Times, "The Displaced." The latter showed the lives of three children driven from their homes by the ravages of war and violence. The story was made more intimate with the use of the Cardboard VR viewer and let readers stand in the rubble of bombed out buildings or in fields as children worked to help feed their families.

Google Deepmind Alphago (2016)

Google won the 2016 Innovation Grand Prix (and may have bested Watson) with its DeepMind AlphaGo, a computing system that for the first time ever beat the best human player at the classic Japanese game of Go, known for being far more complex than chess. The A.I. system was created in the U.K. by Deepmind, which Google had acquired in 2014.

Project Jacquard (2016)

2016 was another double Grand Prix year for the brand. That year, it also took home the top award in Product Design for Project Jacquard. Created by the company's Advanced Technology and Product Group, it's a cloth woven with conductive yarn or thread, allowing the most mundane things—like shirt sleeves and bedsheets—to become touchscreen-like surfaces.

Tilt Brush (2017)

Google won an Innovation Gold Lion in 2017 for Tilt Brush, its VR tech that allows artists to create on a a 3D digital canvas, painting and drawing with light in dimensions impossible using traditional tools.

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