Cannes 2009

Nike's 'Paper Battlefield' Wins Cannes Design Grand Prix

Simplicity Trumps Innovation so Far at Ad Fest

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CANNES ( -- There was no lack of technological innovation among the 1,100-plus Design Lions entries this year, but in awarding the Grand Prix to Nike's "Paper Battlefield," the 2009 jury saluted a platform that dates back to the 10th century: the silk screen.

Nike: Paper Battlefield
Nike: Paper Battlefield
Created by McCann Worldgroup, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, Paper Battlefield is a series of posters made by and featuring the teenage stars of the Nike Basketball League. The posters were designed to capture the energy of basketball competition as well as promote the games.

Photos of the league's top 10 players in action formed the templates for the posters. The players themselves were then invited to a studio to create custom poster designs -- silk-screening the images on top of one another in various combinations. As the case-study video and the judges noted, the "posters became the battlefield."

The design jury, lead by Sylvia Vitale Rotta of Team Creatif in France, cited the campaign for its simplicity, its culture-spanning communication power and for embodying the marketer's brand values. Jurors also lauded the effort for pushing the idea of what a poster can be.

"It was a new way of approaching poster design," said Jennifer Morla of Morla Design, San Francisco.

"It was a socially distributed design process," said juror Marc Shillum of R/GA. "It allowed the players to experiment and to have a battle as they would on the court."

The design jury was reasonably generous, awarding a total of 22 Gold, 23 Silver and 37 Bronze Lions. Among the four U.S. Gold winners: the Nokia Vine brand identity and mobile application from R/GA; Fallon's social-media aggregator, Skimmer; a style guide for Buick from Leo Burnett, Chicago; and Sapient's interactive touch-screen vending machines for Coke. The U.S. won 11 Lions in all.

More winners from ad side
Gold Lions also went to BMW's Kinetic Sculpture from Art & Com, Berlin, which has scooped up a host of prizes this year including a Black Pencil at the D&AD. Germany won 12 Lions in total, making it the most awarded country in design. The Zimbabwean's "Trillion Dollar Campaign" effort, which won the Outdoor Grand Prix, was also awarded a Gold Design Lion.

The design winners list is notable for the number of ad agencies credited vs. design companies, and many of the winning entries do tend, as they did last year, to originate more in the advertising space than in design.

Ms. Vitale Rotta said the overall caliber of entries was high in this, the second year that Cannes has recognized design as a category (and entries in the design category were actually up this year, in contrast to awards entries in general, which have dipped with the economy).

There were three other entries in contention for the Grand Prix, Ms. Vitale Rotta said, though a cagey jury wouldn't reveal their identities. In selecting "Paper Battlefield," the design jury seemed to echo other Cannes juries' predilection for simplicity over technical virtuosity or category-busting innovation.

"We liked that it was actually kind of low-tech," said one of the design jurors. "It was just full of life and joy and energy. If we could have taken one thing home with us, that would have been it."

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