Cannes Lions

Blurred Lines: 'Cheeky' McWhopper Wins Media Grand Prix

Jury President Says Campaign Had Heavy Dose of PR, but Used Media to 'Whip Up' Change

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McWhopper was named the king of all media at the Cannes International Festival of Creatitivy, walking away with the Grand Prix in the category just two days after scoring the top prize in the print and publishing category. Interestingly, jury president Nick Waters, CEO Dentsu Aegis Network, Asia Pacific, brought up the Association of National Advertisers' U.S. inquiry into media rebates when discussing the jury's choice, noting the investigation has cast a "slight shadow" on the media business and that McWhopper reaffirms the "quality of brilliant thinking" in the industry and "serves as a reminder that the ad industry can be an amazing force for good."

Burger King Open Letter. Credit: Burger King/Business Wire

WHAT IT IS: The campaign from WPP's Y&R New Zealand, asked burger enemy McDonald's to make peace with Burger King by creating a combination Whopper and Big Mac. Media outlets ate up the story and – once the Golden Arches refused the offer – consumers started making their own "Peace Day" burger mashups on social media.

WHY IT WON: Mr. Waters said this was a case of "a big brand taking on an even bigger competitor, moving quickly and being bold and acting cheekily" to bring in consumers. He said "this could not have happened without the brilliant use of media."

CONTROVERSY OR CLEAR WINNER: The jury looked for work that connected with the consumer in the right way, balancing the use of data, technology and creativity rather than being purely experimental or focused simply on "shiny new things" said Mr. Waters. That said, McWhopper was not a slam dunk. "There was good debate," he said, noting there were other gold winners that "were genuine contenders, but when we discussed that it emerged relatively quickly that this was the Grand Prix winner." One of those strong contenders was Brewtoleum by Colenso BBDO for DB Export which earlier picked up the top prize in Outdoor.

HOT TOPIC AT PRESS CONFERENCE: Whether McWhopper was too reliant on PR and social media. "What it did was bring in consumers with a lot of user-generated content," said Mr. Waters. "It did perform in PR, but we operate in an industry where there are blurred lines," he said. "It could have been done in ways that were much flatter," but the push "used media to whip up change" and amplify the message.