The stories behind big Cannes Lion winners and the riskiest advertising moves of the year
At the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Ad Age sat down with some of the brightest minds in advertising and marketing to discuss some of the bravest and most talked about ideas of this year, some of which also scored big Lions last week.
One of the most celebrated campaigns at Cannes was Droga5’s “The Truth Is Worth It” campaign for The New York Times, which earned the Grand Prix in both Film and Film Craft--the first time a single campaign has ever won both honors in the festival. The work was a testament to the power of deep collaboration between the agency and the brand it is creating for. The project wasn’t just about teamwork between creatives and marketers—it enlisted the help of the New York Times reporters themselves.
"We spent a lot of time with our journalists really trying to understand the process that went into it,” New York Times Senior Vice President of Marketing Amy Weisenbach said. “It was this perfect marriage of: Do they have the assets, do they have photos on their iPhones, is there audio, what’s the material we have to work with? Is it timely, was it interesting, was there an impact from the reporting?”
Collaboration is key especially when you are taking big risks, like when Skittles decided to produce a Broadway musical to run on advertising’s biggest day of the year, Super Bowl Sunday. That campaign, which scored Gold Lions at the festival, required the brand, agency DDB and production company Smuggler to hold hands and jump in together to create something that had never been done before in the marketing world. Also, like the New York Times project, it was a testament to the power of craft and resulted in a production that felt truly authentic on the Great White Way.
“I think there was always a little bit of anxiety around [the fact that] we’re entering a world where advertising doesn’t really belong,” said Colin Selikow, ECD at DDB Chicago. “We were very conscious about if we were getting into this world, you really have to be true to Broadway.”
The idea, as well as its authenticity, led to real results. “2.5 billion impressions, and we have comparables in terms of other traditional Super Bowl that we actually beat, and we weren’t even on the Super Bowl,” said Mars Global CMO of Chocolate Rankin Carroll. “We had sales response that was very healthy in terms of raising our run rate in the season. We expect to get a bump in the Super Bowl, but we got beyond what we usually expect, so [there was ] very good performance and the talk value and the amount of social sharing on the brand drove up, so overall a great result.”
“To be honest I do get concerned about the media talking to the media about the media, so I’m always gratified when I go into the consumer feeds and you see what people are saying about the brand,” Carroll added. “That’s what you hope for, that consumers can be that engaged, and they started feeding ideas about what we should do next year as well.”
Adidas and TBWA/Chiat/Day New York also partnered with a living legend, tennis Billie Jean King, on another Gold-winning campaign, “Here to Create Change,” which included an activation in which the brand transformed all kinds of shoes into the athlete’s signature striped kicks as well as vibrant posters that depicted her in super-hero style wearing tracksuits from the brand. At first, it took a while for King to get into the shoot (plus she’s more used to wearing pantsuits, not athleisure).
“In the beginning, Billie was a little standoffish, but we curated a playlist for her and she eventually got into it,” said TBWA/Chiat/Day ECD Amy Ferguson says.
As with the NYT and Skittles teams, the activation portion of the campaign also required persistence to make it all happen, given the complexities the moving parts and uncertainties that go hand-in-hand with experiential. “We had to think like Billie Jean King to make it happen,” Ferguson says.
HBO’s "Game of Thrones" #FortheThrone campaign from Droga5, which included the Westeros meets “Dilly Dilly” Super Bowl spot with Bud Light, was shortlisted at the Festival and was testament to how both risk, trust and collaboration are the formula for a winning brand idea. The effort including partnerships with multiple parties—including brands such as Bud Light, the Red Cross and the Minnesota Timberwolves, and agencies like Wieden & Kennedy, Giant Spoon and 360i.
The intent of the campaign, according to Alex Diamond, HBO’s director of consumer marketing, was to give something to the fans who have stayed loyal for so long. First and foremost, “It was a love letter to the fans,” he said. “Fans are what made the show what it is today.”
The marketing itself, ultimately added entertainment value for the fans to the experience of anticipating the show’s final season. “At the end of the day, 26 percent of the social conversation leading up to the premiere of the show was about the marketing,” Diamond said. “People were interacting with this platform we created.”
Some might wonder why a franchise like “Game of Thrones” needs marketing at all, given such a strong fan base. “We have prequels in the works, licensing initiatives, and there’s an opportunity for us to sit alongside the other great entertainment franchises, from Star Wars to Harry Potter,” Diamond said. “For us, it was about cementing a legacy and bringing people into the “Game of Thrones” ether. Sure, there’s never likely going to be another 'Game of Thrones,' but there might be a 'Game of Thrones' spin off.”