Cannes 2013

Dutch Funeral-Insurance Company Dela Snares Top Media Lion at Cannes

Win Brings Ogilvy's Grand Prix Total to Three

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The media Grand Prix was awarded to a small Dutch funeral-insurance company that encouraged people to say something wonderful about the people they care about while they're still around to hear it.

The campaign was done by media agency MediaValue and Ogilvy & Mather, Amsterdam, giving the Ogilvy network three Grand Prix in the eight competitions judged so far this week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. (Ogilvy Brazil won the promo and activation Grand Prix with an organ-donor campaign for a soccer team, and Ogilvy France and IBM took the top outdoor prize).

What it is: Drawing on its insights from being in the funeral-insurance business, Dela knew that a huge regret among the bereaved is often not spending time and talking more with a loved one. That led to the campaign "Why wait until it's too late? Say something wonderful today." Dela gave people the chance to share their thoughts and feelings on websites. Those stories were made into TV commercials and online documentaries and posted on billboards. Newspapers ads appeared with the single word "Dear ..." to inspire people to fill in the rest. Dela took over a TV channel for an evening to broadcast the stories.

Why it won: "It checked all the boxes -- it's very human, very measurable. And every piece builds toward the next," said Doug Ray, president of Carat. "It brilliantly touched everyone's heart, and the results were fantastic."

The campaign was also a business success, with Dela reporting the amount of insured capital grew 50%. Other judges noted that the campaign was a brave one for a category that is generally about death. "And it took user-generated content to a new scale … into the mainstream for a brand," said Melanie Varley, chief strategy officer-global, at MEC.

The jury: After the controversy surrounding last year's media Lions' judging, the Cannes festival took pains to revamp the judging process. In 2012, accusations flew that jury members were conspiring to support their own holding companies and vote down others. And many complained that the jury, no matter how many judges the festival added, just didn't have enough time to review more than 3,000 detailed submissions.

This year, the festival split the media judging into two stages, and called in Jack Klues, VivaKi's about-to-retire chairman to chair the whole process. In the first stage, 40 judges went through 3,031 media entries (down from 3,247 last year) for three days last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to arrive at a 300-entry shortlist. Saturday, the jury dropped to a carefully-calibrated group of nine senior media executives, one each from the top seven global ad holding companies, plus two from smaller agencies. They spent a marathon Saturday -- from 8 a.m. until midnight -- and all of Sunday and Monday whittling the shortlist and picking winners, Mr. Klues said.

Controversy or clear winner: There were six contenders for the media Grand Prix. Two were campaigns that did take the top prize in other categories, like Metro Trains' "Dumb Ways to Die," the Grand Prix winner in both PR and direct, and IBM's "Smart Ideas for Smarter Cities," the outdoor Grand Prix winner. Coca-Cola had two campaigns in contention for the Grand Prix: "Small World Machines" by Leo Burnett from Australia, in which Coke machines from Pakistan and India interact, and "A Million Reasons to Believe in Thailand" by Initiative Bangkok. More of a dark horse was a campaign from Mayo DraftFCB in Peru that featured a billboard in a drought-stricken area that pulled in humidity from the air and created a water source. The client was the University of Engineering and Technology. In the end, it came down to Coke in Thailand against a small insurance company in the Netherlands. "You say, what's the message you want to send -- that elephants can fly [meaning big brands can be creative] or you don't have to be a big budget advertiser?" Mr. Klues said.

Lions awarded: The jury handed out 18 Gold Lions, with the U.S. picking up just two—the same number as Peru and Thailand each won. Australia took home four. There were 38 Silver Lions, and 58 Bronze Lions.

What's next: For Mr. Klues, the next step is leaving Publicis Groupe's day-to-day payroll at the end of this month, he said. This summer, he plans to "find that health club I joined two years ago. And take golf lessons." Then it's back to school to take classes in organizational behavior, and possibly work with an acquaintance who runs a small executive-coaching business.

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