In a move that may spark a welcome sea change in the snooze-worthy arena of pre-roll advertising, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Film Jury awarded one of its top prizes to a mold-breaker in the category: a spot from Geico's "Unskippable" campaign that dares viewers to try and stop watching ads in which "nothing" happens. The jury also bestowed the honor on a beautiful Leica film that brought life and historic weight to the challenged field of photography, while the Film Craft jurors gave the category's top prize to John Lewis' heart-tugging Christmas ad starring a boy and his pet penguin Monty.
In the Film/Television category, the Grand Prix went to Leica's "100" ad, created out of F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi and directed by Jones + Tino of Stink. The elegant two-minute film recreates classic scenes from 35 iconic photographs, linked by seamless transitions, to celebrate Leica's 100th anniversary and highlight the brand's historic importance in the world of photography. It also marked the opening of the Leica Gallery in Sao Paulo.
Geico topped the Non-Television category. Its pre-roll, "Family," created by The Martin Agency and directed by Park Pictures' Terri Timely, put a hilarious twist on the typically boring genre and features a family sitting at the dinner table with the Geico logo plastered boldly in the middle of the frame. Seconds into the ad, a voice-over announces, "You can't skip this Geico ad because it's already over," and mid-action, the family stops, except for the dog, who proceeds to devour every bit of food on the table. Although nothing much happens beyond that, the ad gets progressively funnier since it's blatantly obvious that the actors in the scene are simply holding their poses as the dog carries on. (See long version here, ironically, following a pre-roll.)
The Film Craft Grand Prix winner "Monty's Christmas" for John Lewis is the heartwarming tale of a boy and his penguin pal Monty, created by Adam&Eve/DDB London and directed by Blink's Dougal Wilson. Backed by John Odell's lilty cover of John Lennon's "Real Love," the film shows the inseparable pair as they wake up in the morning, play hide-and-seek and stroll through the park. All the while, however, the boy observes a tinge of loneliness on Monty's part when he notices the penguin looking longingly at couples they encounter. He solves all that at Christmas time with a very special present for the penguin, leading to a tear-inducing twist.
Why they won:
In Film, Jury President and Global Chief Creative Officer of Grey Worldwide Tor Myhren said that in making their deliberations, the jury set out to find "something very new" to award in Cannes Lions' oldest category. Film launched the festival in 1954 and honors film produced for TV and cinema ads as well as film created for online and other screens. Honorees in this category demonstrate a powerful brand message, creative thinking and exceptional execution.
In the case of Leica, "It was nearly a unanimous vote" during the first round, said Mr. Myhren. "It's a nearly perfect piece of filmmaking, the visual storytelling is unique and stunning, the writing is absolutely amazing and importantly, it [addresses] a brand and category that is challenged now with cellphone photography." The ad shows Leica as "an incredibly sexy brand, telling their brand story of 100 years."
With Geico, the jury chose something "that breaks every single rule of filmmaking," said Mr. Myhren. "Instead of begging you to watch this ad, it challenges you not to watch it. Instead of a long story with a tenuous link to the brand at the end, there is a gigantic logo of the brand in middle of screen the entire time. To us it's a deceptively simple piece of communication and really showed us how film can reinvent the way we look at media, even the least-sexy media in the world, which is pre-roll."
Film Craft honors work demonstrating top-notch filmmaking technique and execution in a variety of areas such as directing, editing, copywriting and music. On awarding the John Lewis ad the Grand Prix, Jury President Joao Daniel Tikhomiroff, director and partner/founder of production company Mixer, said that the jury ultimately went with their hearts. He said judging the work "is about our minds, what's the best of the best, but then we started to think from the heart. All the Golds were brilliant in execution, but in the end our choice was what really touched our hearts."
Mr. Myhren oversaw what he called "the best jury ever," comprising 22 members from 21 countries. Out of the 3,070 entries, in addition to the two Grand Prix, the jury awarded 10 Gold, 35 Silver and 53 Bronze.
Mr. Tikhomiroff led a 10-person jury hailing from nine countries and a variety of backgrounds, including production, agency and post-production. Out of 2,205 submissions, the jury awarded 15 Gold, 19 Silver and 31 Bronze.
Controversy or clear winner?
In Film and Film Craft, decisions on Leica and John Lewis were mostly unanimous. The most-contested area was for the Grand Prix in the Film Non-Television category. Mr. Myhren said the jury had narrowed it down to three contenders: Geico; Always' "Like a Girl;" and "The Other Side" for Honda; but "at the end of day we felt that the Geico piece was such an innovative way of using film" in a space that the industry has "accepted as just sucking for so long. We must have watched it 20 times and laughed every single time, and the brand comes through so strongly."