Senior creative leaders and up-and-coming talent from all over the world pick their favorites going into this year's festival, from REI's Black Friday game changer to Burger King's daring Peace Day idea. They also share thoughts on the festival's expansion and how to make it better. Their responses have been lightly edited.
What will win big this year and why?
Kim Nguyen, associate creative director, BBDO New York: "#OptOutside" from REI was incredible. For REI to have the gumption to actually close all their locations on Black Friday? That's insanity. They showed a deep understanding of their consumer base and created massive PR buzz with a totally on-brand message. They also created a huge amount of goodwill by giving their employees a paid day off on what is normally the most hellacious retail day of the year.
Sinead Roarty, senior creative, J. Walter Thompson Sydney: "McWhopper" from Y&R New Zealand is a Grand Prix shoo-in. Creating the burger to end all burger wars for Peace Day was an epic move. I don't eat meat, but would have bought a Proud Whopper in a heartbeat, and now with "McWhopper" Burger King really is walking the good walk.
Samuel Estrada, creative VP, McCann Erickson Colombia: I think there is a piece of work that has every element needed to be a big winner: DDB Export's "Brewtroleum" from Colenso BBDO. It is not only incredibly clever and smart but funny and culturally very relevant.
Felicitas Olschewski, senior writer, 72andSunny Amsterdam: The Volvo Trucks "Look Who's Driving" starring 4-year-old Sophie piloting a Volvo Truck will probably win. It's bringing an insight to life in a spectacular way, adding action, entertainment, feistiness and a bit of David-vs.-Goliath romanticism. Then, REI's "#OptOutside" campaign, an initiative that goes beyond a single campaign idea but is simply living the brand's mission and purpose.
Selma Ahmed, creative, Sunshine U.K.: I really hope Harvey Nichols' "Shoplifters" wins big. It's such a clever twist on a human truth. I'm also rooting for "Security Moms" by Ogilvy Brazil for Sport Club do Recife, a real issue tackled with a simple creative solution. And the "You Can Be Anything" campaign for Barbie. It's a challenge to turn that brand into something positive for girls, but to do it in such an inspiring and emotional way is pretty epic.
Adrian Skenderovic, senior copywriter, BETC Paris: In film, I like Paramount Channel's "Actors" from Grey Argentina and Under Armour's "Rule Yourself" with duplicated athletes from Droga5 will win big. You can't go wrong with well-written insights. I'm also in love with Currys' Christmas film "Jigsaw," where Jeff Goldblum teaches people how to act when they receive a shitty gift. I love "The Fairest Night" for Andes beer from Saatchi Argentina, with the fake casting call for the best-looking dudes in Mendoza one Saturday night, giving ordinary guys a fair chance to seduce the ladies. I just heard about the Wi-Fi alarm idea from Grey Brazil that turns every router into a motion sensor. If it really works, it's great.
Fran Luckin, chief creative officer, Grey South Africa: I love Ogilvy London's "Breathless Choir" for Philips. Geico continues to create fresh, watchable ideas in a space where many don't even attempt to be creative. And I think the audacity of Volvo's "Highway Robbery" deserves a medal or two.
Marc Duran, associate creative director, Wing: One of the boldest and most brilliant ideas of the year, from its simplicity and purpose to its thoughtfulness across media: the McWhopper. It's PR, guerrilla, social, print, craft, cyber, direct, outdoor and now it's pop culture. A meaty case that made me jealous and hungry.
Per Pedersen, deputy worldwide chief creative officer, Grey Group: Ideas like "McWhopper" and "The Swedish Number"—these are my absolute favorites because they're both extremely successful idea-driven campaigns that went to unchartered territory and are global cultural phenomena.
What's the best work from your region?
Teri Ng, senior art director, BBDO Hong Kong: Shiseido's "High School Girl?" from Japan [which showed glamorous high school girls who turned out to be guys wearing makeup]. It's very funny. It really demonstrated the products' effectiveness, what makeup can do, and it's a very entertaining video as well.
Mr. Duran: I love "Edible Six-Pack Rings" from the agency We Believers. Although it was developed by a Hispanic agency, it's a purposeful and innovative product that is relevant worldwide. It even has the potential to become a global business opportunity, if big brands implement its technology.
Ms. Nguyen: I admire the gun control campaigns from Grey New York. Grey attacks the issue at different angles with each campaign. This year they gave victims of gun violence the chance to vote on gun issues with "The Ghost Vote" campaign. And with "Gun Crazy," they created a fake movie using real graphic footage of real victims of gun violence. All to make us question the media's gory glorification of guns in America.
Mr. Estrada: I love the thinking behind MullenLowe Colombia's "Chocó to Dance" for Fundación Juan Pablo Gutierréz Cáceres. It's not just a fantastic fundraising idea, it is also a sustainable business model that can actually produce money out of a cultural reality, that people in Chocó are simply great dancers. And if they can teach the not-so-skillful—sorry about the honesty—First World dancers, well, then there is something worth an award.
Ms. Olschewski: KLM's relentless mission to better the travel experience of its customers led to its latest coup, adding KLM to Facebook Messenger. It's simple, it's relevant. There's hardly any other brand people would let get so close to them handling personal things. It's a powerful brand statement.
Ms. Ahmed: The Guardian's "The Counted." Truly powerful work. Hello Play's "The Future of Music." Truly beautiful work.
Frédéric Raillard and Farid Mokart, creative CEOs/founders, Fred & Farid, Paris, Shanghai, New York: From China, the best work is probably from Ogilvy Shanghai spot/film "LandDivers" for Agoda.
Mr. Skenderovic: I love the "Shoplifters" film for Harvey Nichols from Adam & Eve/DDB, featuring real-life CCTV footage of shoplifters to promote its new rewards app. It's smart how they turn one of their everyday problems into an unexpected and funny film.
Ms. Luckin: Qatar Islamic Bank's "Seat Belts" is up there for me. KFC's "Sound Bite" from Johannesburg is a fun and innovative way to enhance the KFC in-store experience.
Ms. Roarty: I have a soft spot for Western Sydney University's "Deng Adut" film about a Sudanese child soldier turned human rights lawyer. Alumni stories are a category cliché, but VCD and We Collective have created a campaign that rips your heart out while Australian politicians rage against refugees. It does so much more than plug the university and raises the bar for creating longer-form content.
What trends will we see from winners?
Ms. Nguyen: "Lady empowerment" campaigns have been and will continue to be a winning trend.
Mr. Estrada: I think the use of data is getting, every day, more space in the creative world. Not only to show results or tracking, but as a point of inspiration and a way to be more focused and more keen on the way we create and execute ideas.
Ms. Olschewski: Culture-shifting topics like diversity and social consciousness will be the trends to spark conversation, as proven in campaigns from Thinx starring a menstruating trans man or Google's global Translation initiative. The biggest trend this year regarding technology will be VR and 360 video. We'll see the technology implemented in the first consumer campaigns like the "Together We Are Stronger" campaign using VR to help people with MS to reconnect with their passions.
Messrs. Raillard and Mokart: This year will confirm that the story of the story has become more important than the story. Agencies could almost assign their "normal" creative talents to produce the campaigns, and their great creative talents to produce the video cases. This year, the advertising industry will keep apologizing to advertise by rewarding massively the charity or charity-like projects.
Mr. Skenderovic: This year will confirm that video is king. The good old commercial is definitely not dead. Social media is all about video now, and a stunt is only good if it becomes a video that you want to share.
Ms. Luckin: Brands that find creatively effective ways to do social good will continue to be recognized. In particular, I'm expecting to see a lot of work that tackles Europe's refugee situation. We'll continue to see the rise of PR as a powerful tool capable of taking a brilliant, localized idea and transforming it into a social media juggernaut.
Mr. Duran: To me, Geico and Domino's winning Grand Prix last year was a game changer. I think this year big brands will be back. For good.
Mr. Pedersen: We will see even more innovative solutions that expand the utility of an idea. We will also see more brand-entertainment mashups that transcend culture into societal popularity. Taylor Swift on the treadmill for Apple Music is just one great example that will win big.
If anything, what does Cannes need less of?
Ms. Roarty: The radical feminist in me has loved seeing all the campaigns that have put gender equality and female empowerment on the radar, but now we're seeing a lot of brands jump on the bandwagon with cringe-making femvertising campaigns that have gone from pro-women to patronizing women.
Ms. Nguyen: We need fewer entries of projects that didn't reach that many real people or that didn't have a real message. If only 53 people saw it, did it really happen?
Mr. Estrada: I would say fewer statistics. Less thinking that a bronze is three points and a gold is seven. We are turning the most exciting week of the year in advertising into a bean-counter frenzy of points and rankings.
Ms. Olschewski: Fewer campaigns that blind with technology instead of a strong idea or are made for awards' sake only, instead of putting the brand or the consumer first.
Messrs. Raillard and Mokart: We need less guilt. Guilt to be Mad Men. It's just the best job to help companies sell their products and grow. We also need fewer account people in juries. Cannes should remain a creative award show. We need less opacity from inside the juries. Agencies spend so much money on award shows. All juries' deliberation should be public.
Ms. Luckin: Bad ads. And I'm not referring to some of the ones on the entry reels! I know that essentially Cannes is a trade show and, therefore, a place for people to promote their products and services to the industry, but, hell, you see a lot of bad advertising in and around the Palais. It's always astonished me how many tacky, tawdry, cheap attention-grabbing tactics and displays there are in Cannes. It really lowers the tone and I think it would help if there were some kind of quality control. It's the world's premier creativity awards show, after all.
Mr. Pedersen: I hope we see fewer "sad piano" case films. It's time for more brand work onstage. Cannes has always been a business, but I naively wish that the organization could turn down the commercialization a bit. I would hate to see the focus shift away from the creative core that legitimizes the festival in the first place.
What does Cannes need more of? What would make it better?
Ms. Ahmed: The Glass Lion is a step toward this, but I'd love to see more creative movements rewarded that aren't associated with a brand yet have still had a significant impact on culture. Creative efforts by organizations such as Media Diversified or Black Lives Matter have teams behind them who strategize, creatively develop and then perfectly execute powerful and meaningful campaigns—positively changing agendas, attitudes and priorities. I believe this sort of work should be rewarded on a world stage.
Mr. Duran: I would like to request something to the jurors: I know you guys have thousands of entries to go through and are tired, but please try to attend the Young Lions brief and judge this category conscientiously. It might not be a priority for you, but it can change someone's career.
Cannes has expanded in a big way. What are your thoughts on the addition of new categories and sub-festivals, like Innovation, Entertainment and Digital Craft?
Ms. Nguyen: In what category do we put a computer algorithm that makes Rembrandts? The "Next Rembrandt" thing that JWT Amsterdam did for ING Bank is crazy. I say "thing" because I don't know what it is. Is it data analysis or art? Things like these are hugely exciting and should be rewarded in their own categories, whatever that may be.
Mssrs. Raillard and Mokart: Please stop adding categories. God, please. Subcategories are such an insane business.
Ms. Luckin: Here's a fun fact: In the first 36 years of Cannes, only one new competition category was introduced (Press and Poster). In the subsequent 23 years, more than 19 new categories have been added. The expansion and proliferation of categories is a reflection of the changing landscape of marketing and brand communication. I think Cannes follows our changing industry—and also the money, of course.
If a category were to go away at Cannes, what should it be?
Ms. Nguyen: I found this on the Cannes entry website: "Design—Communication Design—Self-Promotion—Poster'" This is a real category? We don't need to reward ourselves for designing posters for our own agencies. We reward ourselves enough.
Ms. Ahmed: As long as there is good work in every category, they should all exist, right? It's a hard question to answer because every time I thought of one I'd get rid of, I'd look through last year's winners and find ideas I wish I'd thought of.
Messrs. Raillard and Mokart: Please kill charity in advertising. If you really want to help, change jobs.
Ms. Luckin: I've been in debates about whether it still makes sense to separate out Cyber. Digital isn't a medium the way radio is. It's all-pervasive. There's still a need to recognize and reward great tech, though, so perhaps it would be an idea to redefine the Cyber Lions to be more specific to tech.
Mr. Pedersen: I don't think it's about getting rid of an entire category, but more so trimming down subcategories to maintain the prestige of winning. With over 550 subcategories, I tend to think we're devaluing the Lion. I hope Cannes will continue to be the Olympics of creativity, awarding only those who truly earn it.