Procter & Gamble Co. appears to have found a way to prequalify Super Bowl ads creatively on a road that runs from Buffalo to Cannes.
For the second year in a row, P&G won film Lions at Cannes for U.S. ads that hadn't run outside a small test market. And for the second consecutive year, that work could end up on the Super Bowl, long after its debut with International Advertising Festival juries.
According to a person close to P&G, one or more of the Gold-Lion-winning "You can say anything with a smile" ads for Crest, which got only minimal test media play prior to Cannes, may be destined for a larger marquee media play -- possibly the Super Bowl -- after the company used a similar testing tack with its Silver Lion-winning "talking stain" Tide To Go ad of a year ago. Both are from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York.
The Crest campaign includes three 45-second ads showing people smiling their way through tense situations. One shows a man preparing to bulldoze a playground and another shows a man and his lawyer presenting a bride-to-be with a prenuptial agreement.
"Right now we are testing the consumer appeal of the advertising," a P&G spokeswoman said, "and then we'll decide from there how and whether to leverage that advertising further."
She and a spokeswoman for Saatchi declined to say precisely where the ads were being tested or had run prior to the April 30 Cannes deadline.
There's one thing for sure: P&G, which has seen some of its past Super Bowl efforts for Charmin and Gillette panned by critics or fare poorly in game-related consumer polls, knows it has some ads likely to get decent reviews should they make it to the game. The Crest ads were among the crowd favorites at Cannes, getting a considerably warmer reception than the dual Grand Prix-winning entries for "Halo" and Cadbury from McCann Worldgroup, San Francisco, and Fallon, London, respectively.
Saatchi and P&G won a Silver Lion last year for an "Interview" ad that at the time, as a P&G spokesman put it, "was aired very minimally in one small market: Buffalo, New York. The reason for that was to meet the minimum requirement for Cannes entry."
That ad ended up on the Super Bowl, along with a fairly extensive digital campaign, including a YouTube contest seeking consumer-generated knockoffs of the spot.
Testing the rules
Most Cannes winners from major advertisers are for ads that have already run widely in national markets. But the practice of entering "test" ads still complies with festival rules, provided the ads are approved by the client and ran somewhere on TV.
The test ads helped P&G to its best showing in decades at Cannes. In prior years, the company was able to win high honors for work in smaller countries or in print and outdoor but struggled to win in its biggest medium -- TV -- in its biggest country, the U.S.
Besides the three Gold Lions for Crest this year, P&G also won two Silver and one Bronze Lion for Old Spice TV ads from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and a Silver for work on Ariel in Argentina from Saatchi, all for ads that ran widely before being entered at Cannes.