Last year Google's Cardboard, its low-cost VR viewer, won the top prize in the Cannes Lions mobile category, in part because it enabled so many other campaigns to experiment with VR.
This year, Cardboard is central to this year's winner: The New York Times has won the Grand Prix for its VR app that incorporates stories from the Times as well as efforts from GE and Mini.
In November, the Times distributed 1 million Google Cardboard viewers to home-delivery subscribers, along with the paper -- the biggest ever project for Cardboard. The VR was downloaded more times in its first few days than any previous Times app, exposing viewers to "The Displaced," a VR story about how war has displaced 30 millions children from their homes. Viewers also saw GE videos including "Nature Is Inspiring Our Industrial Future" and Mini's "Backwater," among others. "Backwater," for instance, is the story of a diamond heist and highlights the Mini Connected system.
Mobile is "undoubtedly the most exciting thing that's happening in the world of marketing today," said Malcolm Poynton, global chief creative officer at Cheil Worldwide and mobile jury president. He said that the jury was ultimately looking for ideas that connect consumers with brands in meaningful ways. New York Times' VR efforts, he said, were transforming an industry.
The New York Times, he added, like all of its peers, is facing very challenging times moving from an analog to digital world. "But the truth is that it's leading the way and inspiring other people."
While he said the New York Times' VR work was the clear winner, there weren't as many VR campaigns submitted as the jury had expected. But the ones that were submitted were largely well done, creating "things we hadn't thought of or were inconceivable a year ago."
The New York Times T Brand Studio created the VR work for GE, while VR studio VRSE.works produced "The Displaced." largely responsible for the work, but it did enlist others for production, including VR studio VRSE.works, which produced "The Displaced."
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CORRECTION: Based on information provided by the Cannes Lions, an earlier version of this article credited the Grand Prix in the mobile category at Cannes to The New York Times T Brand Studio. A New York Times spokeswoman said the winning VR experience was created by the Times, with the videos created through collaborations among the Times newsroom, the company's T Brand Studio, GE, VRSE.works, Mini and others.