Cannes Lions

Harvey Nichols, Volvo Win Film Grand Prix at Cannes Lions

Retailer's Holiday Campaign and Beloved Viral Film Earn Top Honors on Festival's Final Night

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The film jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity exercised its right to grant two Grand Prix, bestowing the honor on both Harvey Nichols' "Sorry I Spent It on Myself" and Volvo's "Epic Split."

The British retailer and Adam and Eve DDB proved to be the unexpected big winners in 2014, nabbing a fourth big Lion for broadcast film. Earlier in the week, the advertiser also earned the top awards in promo/activation and press and, on the final night of the festival, the campaign earned both the top prizes in integrated and film. Volvo's "Epic Split," created by Forsman & Bodenfors, also earned its second Grand Prix of the week following its Wednesday cyber Grand Prix win, taking the film Grand Prix for online film/film for other screens.

What they are: Volvo's "Epic Split" was the culmination of a years-long "Live Tests" campaign for the automaker's line of commercial trucks. The hugely viral film, directed by Andreas Nilsson, starred action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme performing an incredible split between two moving Volvo trucks, set to an unexpected, quirky soundtrack, Enya's "Only Time." The online video capped off a series of other incredible real-world stunts showing off the various features of Volvo trucks, including one demonstrating the trucks' precision steering by putting a hamster at the wheel and another that showed the strength of the vehicles' hooks by dangling the company president from a truck suspended above Sweden's Gothenburg harbor.

Harvey Nichols' "Sorry I Spent It on Myself" film, directed by Outsider's James Rouse, was one element of a hilarious integrated campaign that invited shoppers to give their loved ones a branded line of cheapskate Harvey Nichols presents like paper clips and sink plugs -- so that they could more easily indulge themselves during the holiday season.

Why they won: In the case of Volvo, juror Al Mosely, chief creative officer at 180 Amsterdam, said, "It kind of had everything. It had the product at the heart of the story, it was a fantastic demo. But it was more than that. It was a spiritual meditation, had a huge emotional punch as well as the product message, which we found extraordinary. Obviously, it's not just confined to our jury, as it's certainly been the most successful piece of film at least over the last 12 months."

Juror Pete Favat, chief creative officer at Deutsch, Los Angeles, explained that the Harvey Nichols campaign earned the honor first and foremost for its bravery. "We believe Cannes gives Lions for clients to take big, bold steps. And if you look this in the marketplace, the holiday selling season is probably the most lucrative time in the year for retailers and to take this strategy and go the other way, when all the other competitors are going down the sale route and trying to push as much merchandise as they possibly can," he said. "So for this client and agency to go with a bold strategy and also convey it in such a human way -- to take greed and make people laugh and smile about it -- I think is extremely difficult. And as a piece of film, we felt unanimously that it was a perfect piece of film."

The jury: Jury President Amir Kassei, global chief creative officer at DDB Worldwide, presided over 21 jury members from a broad mix of regions including the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. Mr. Kassei jokingly called them "the greatest film jury of all time ... this group happened to become a very close family in terms of fighting for integrity and the best ideas. We had substantial discussions about trying to make a statement in terms of the status quo of film and where it is heading."

Other contenders: Mr. Kassei said that in online/internet film category, two others stood out. The first was fashion brand Wren's "First Kiss, also part of the Saatchi New Directors Showcase, for which director Tatia Pilieva brought together complete strangers to engage in extended smooching sessions. Mr. Kassei described the film as a "completely different way of telling a story and bringing up emotion." The second was "Sound of Honda -- Ayrton Senna 1989" from Dentsu Tokyo, which recreated a record-winning lap by the F1 driver to promote the brand's Internavi driving navigation system and also earned the titanium Grand Prix. Mr. Kassei noted how the latter was an example of how you can create a story using technology, a "great example of how you can redefine film."

In the traditional broadcast category, Mr. Kassei said there were about four or five contenders for the top prize. Among them were a pair of spots from Wieden + Kennedy, Portland: Nike's "Possibilities," a spot narrated by Bradley Cooper that refreshed the "Just Do It" tagline by celebrating the everyman, and Old Spice's "Mom Song," the hilarious ad that took the already celebrated brand in a new direction by focusing on a new target.

Controversy: During the press conference, the jury was questioned on the choice of the comedic Harvey Nichols film as one of the top prize winners, specifically in the case of film, given the selection of other well-crafted and strong pieces. Mr. Favat reiterated that "at the end of day we decided we needed to make the statement that our industry needs to take a brave, bold step. Some categories demand certain executional styles, and with this piece I think they flew in the face of convention around holiday advertising. For a retailer to take their highest selling season and do something like this is remarkably bold. We wanted to reward that."

Mr. Kassei added, "We should remind ourselves what our job is -- to use our creativity to solve a client's problem. You should have in the back of your mind it's not an art festival, but it's about solving marketing problems."

Looking forward: Mr. Kassei said that as the film category evolves, "I think you will start to see the Festival will adjust the category because technology will become more important." From the entries this year, the jury saw "a lot of different ways films work and how technology starts to redefine film. it's a slow trend at the moment, but I think you'll see in the next few years how more and more technology and film will interact with each other and redefine how film should work, but it's still about the most emotional medium you have in marketing communications."

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