Cannes Lions

Apple and Xbox nab Cannes Lions Experience Grand Prix

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Apple and Microsoft took innovative avenues to capture consumers' hearts (and dollars), earning Grand Prix in a newly minted Cannes Lions experience track composed of the categories of Brand Experience and Activation as well as Creative E-Commerce.

The Brand Experience and Activation jury, led by Rob Reilly, global creative chairman of McCann Worldwide, awarded the big Lion to Apple's "Today at Apple" program, which brings education experiences to Apple's 500-plus stores, allowing consumers young and old to learn about how to create on Apple's various products.

This category honors creative brand building through channels such as experience design, immersive, retail and activation.

"We're at a time when people accept brands more than ever before," Reilly said. "They worship them, they get tattoos of them, they post on social for them. On the flip side, people expect a lot more from brands."

Regarding Apple, Reilly cited the comments of fellow juror Vicki Maguire, joint chief creative officer at Grey London. "Vicki said it best when she said 'This Grand Prix is 28 years in the making.' For two decades, this brand has been bringing magic in a box and today, this brand is figuring out how it will be meaningful in people's lives today, in another hundred years."

Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior VP for retail, said in a Cannes talk before the awards were handed out that "Today at Apple" is partly an attempt to make each Apple Store more important to people than a simple retail outlet. "It has to serve a bigger service than just selling," she said Wednesday afternoon.

"It's taken years it costs a lot of money, but we do believe [Today at Apple] can have a big impact on the role these stores play in the community," she added.

Nick Law, chief creative officer of Publicis Groupe Global, served as jury president of Creative E-Commerce. New at the festival this year, this category celebrates how innovation in the customer's journey leads to more brand engagement and business success.

"This is the engine of our industry," said Law of this category. "It's also a battleground for the new economy. If people don't figure out their strategy for e-commerce, they won't have a brand or business."

The jury awarded the top prize in the category to Microsoft XBox Design Lab's "The Fanchise Model" campaign, created out of McCann London. The challenge for this effort was to get more consumers to buy customized Xbox controllers. The problem was that the customized versions were far more pricey than ones bought straight off the shelf. To incentivize gamers, Microsoft allowed them to reap profits when other consumers purchased their original designs -- which included a Minions theme and Trump themes. The latter included a patriotic, red, white and blue-themed design from a consumer creator who called him a "smart, straight-talker" and another, of a different hue, from a designer who said of the the POTUS, "He looks like a Cheeto." Those original designs then went on to feature in other elements of the campaign.

"What I loved about this is it's like a Mobius strip and you're not sure where it begins and ends, because everyone is getting what they want," said Law. "It was very elegant, flawless. There were other Grand Prix contenders, "but nothing was quite as perfect."

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