The campaign, in which AmEx invented a shopping holiday for
American small businesses during the all-important Thanksgiving
weekend -- a period that had previously only been a big event for
national retailers and big-box stores -- was lauded for rallying
both business owners and public officials, after U.S. President
Barack Obama participated in it, taking his daughters to a
bookstore near the White House.
"It's not every day that President Obama will say 'Yes We Can'
for an advertising campaign," said direct jury chair Gideon
The campaign brought much needed business to proprietors hit
hard in the economic downturn -- one business owner in CPB and
Digitas' admittedly heart-wrenching entry video reported
year-over-year sales more than doubled. Congress later officially
designated the Saturday after Thanksgiving "Small Business Saturday
" for years to come.
"This is a great example of something that 's not temporary,"
Mr. Amichay added. "We're very proud that a marketing thing can
change society. In 10 years, it'll still be here."
For MDC Partners-owned CP&B, this
year's win of the promo & activation Grand Prix represents a
repeat of its 2006 win of the Grand Prix in this category for its
"Fast" campaign for Volkswagen. The win this year brings
the category's Grand Prix back to the U.S. after Romania was the
big winner last year. Romanian shop BV McCann took home a
pair of Grands Prix prizes in the promo/activation and direct
categories for its "American Rom" campaign for client Kandia
Though maybe not as sexy as categories such as cyber and film,
the promo and activation Lions have been steadily building interest
among agencies and saw a significant spike in entries in 2012.
There were 2,674 entries, up 26% from last year. Over the past five
years, the numbers of entries have more than doubled; in 2008 there
were 1,103. Entries were also up in the direct category.
Interestingly, for AmEx, the win a top award at Cannes comes as
the marketer is currently conducting a creative review on its Open business, as Ad Age
reported earlier this year.
WHAT IT IS: To help shoppers turn to smaller,
Main Street businesses during the shopping rush ahead of the
holiday season in the U.S., AmEx gave small businesses around
America a digital toolkit to help them participate in its Small
Business Saturday , held the weekend after Thanksgiving, with
instructions on how to build special Facebook pages, YouTube video
ads and Foursquare deals.
THE JURIES: Nick Worthington, creative chairman
at Colenso BBDO in Auckland,
New Zealand, chaired the promo & activation jury, which had
representation from another 20 or so countries, including Mexico,
Russia, Germany, Brazil, India and France. Besides Mr. Worthington,
only Damon Crepin-Burr of French agency Fullsix Group and Steve
Coll, who serves as executive creative director at EuroRSCG in
Australia, were vocal during the press conference.
The direct jury was chaired by Mr. Amichay, joint managing
partner of Shalmor Avnon Amichay / Y&R Interactive Tel Aviv. He was
joined by jurors from such countries as India, France, China and
Japan. The jury included two Americans: Tim Geoghegan, former
creative director of BBH New York's ZAG who has since
launched brand consultancy Timmonvations; and Alfonso Marian, chief
creative officer for Ogilvy One. Jury
members said they believe AmEx idea could work in a range of
countries, since so many are struggling economically and since
small businesses exist everywhere.
WHY IT WON: At the press conference discussing
the awards on Monday morning, most promo & activation jury
members seemed to agree that Amex's ability to create a day branded
in its honor was an achievement that any brand would covet. They
also took into account that AmEx and its agencies managed to
convince consumers to spend money with local businesses owners as
the economy is still recovering and many folks are still more
cautious and tightfisted with their disposable income than they
were several years ago. Given that the category is about activating
an idea so consumers will act on it, results and effectiveness were
given a lot of weight in the judging process. The case study that
CP&B and Digitas put together was thorough, showing
small-business owners testifying to double-digit sales as a result
of Small Business Saturday , and explaining the involvement of
government in backing the idea. The case study touted the fact that
even U.S. President Barack Obama tweeted about Small Business
Saturday , which seemed to impress the jury.
WHY THE DIRECT WIN IS DIFFERENT THAN THE PROMO
WIN: The direct category is essentially about marketers
building relationships, so the jury celebrated the effort for
fostering relationships on so many fronts: the credit-card company
provided tools and needed traffic to its small-business customers
and provided incentives to its cardholders and also strengthened
the relationship between those mom-and-pop stores and their own
Mr. Amichay opened the press conference by critiquing the
industry's very use of the word "consumers."
"They are people, not consumers," he said. "It's about time we
deleted this idea that they're people with wallets. So many
companies are trying to build a different dialog and relationship.
That's a good sign."
CONTROVERSY OR CLEAR WINNER: In the direct
category, the decision to pick AmEx's campaign for the direct Grand
Prix was nearly unanimous, with 20 of the two dozen jurors giving
it their votes. According to promo & activation jury chair Mr.
Worthington, about eight campaigns were seriously in consideration
for the Grand Prix at different points during the deliberation
process; in the end, it didn't seem an unanimous decision to hand
the Grand Prix to the Amex campaign. The difficulty is that unlike
other categories such as press or outdoor that are limited to a
single medium, work entered into promo & activation can be
anything from a digital-couponing campaign to an out-of -home
stunt, which made the debate pretty vigorous at times, the jurors
said. In the end, it was the scale and sustained growth of the
Small Business Saturday idea that put this one over the top. "The
more we talked about it, the more we fell in love with it," noted
TOTAL NUMBER OF LIONS AWARDED: In promo &
activation, 86 trophies were handed out. In addition to the Grand
Prix, there were 17 Gold Lions, 26 Silver Lions, and 43 Bronze
Lions. Meanwhile, the direct jury awarded 15 gold Lions, 25 silver
and 45 bronze.
WHO ELSE DID WELL? In the promo &
activation category, one other campaign was repeatedly singled out
for being a brilliant idea -- and to everyone's surprise, it was an
annual report for a solar-power company. The execution, for Austria
Solar by agency ServicePlan in Munich, Germany, was a great example
of engaging content that was totally on-brand since the ink would
only show up to read the report if you took it out into the sun.
While the judges were enamored with the work, they ultimately
awarded it only a Bronze Lion; they felt it wasn't quite
appropriate to win a Gold or a Grand Prix in the activation
category. Although it forced an action, it wasn't consumer facing
and didn't lead to any sales results for the company. The jury
seemed hopeful that the campaign might do well in the design Lions.
As an agency, Colenso BBDO (the firm from which the jury president
hails) seemed to do well, taking home two Gold Lions and two Silver
Lions for work for Pedigree and a local brewery. Belgium's Duval
Guillaume Modem, based in Antwerp, did well, too, taking home a
trio of Gold Lions, two of which were for the "Push to Add Drama"
stunt it rigged on a small Belgian town. You can see that on Creativity Online if you're not familiar with
In the Direct category, the jury called out gold winners "Mini
Maps" for the BMW car brand from DDB Paris and
Coca-Cola's Polar Bowl from Wieden & Kennedy Portland for the
campaign that found the brand's iconic mascots commentating on
Facebook during the Super Bowl this year. Social media was a big
part of many of the top winners, however Mr. Amichay cautioned that
honoring these platforms in a category open to any media -- from
outdoor to TV to flat mail -- was not about buzz words, but new
tools to engage people in better ways.
WHAT THEY DIDN'T LIKE: A number of this year's
promo & activation entries related to vending machines, but Mr.
Worthington said quite firmly, "I think that 's a passing trend" --
suggesting he wasn't so impressed with those entries and doesn't
expect vending-machine-related projects to be considered standout
entries in this category in the future.
LOOKING TO NEXT YEAR: By choosing a campaign
that wasn't just a one-off and has had some sustained momentum, the
jury seemed to be making a statement about work that has the power
to go beyond its initial conception and become something bigger,
something embedded into popular culture. They want to see lasting
effects, and a campaign that has impact broadly, not just on a
small subset of consumers. "Over the next few years, we're going to
see many more these types of ideas in this category," said
Australia's Mr. Coll.