Ad of the Day – July 2 (Mumbai)

Your daily dose of advertising awesomeness from around the world!

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: Taproot
  • Location: Mumbai
  • Client: Mumbai Mirror (newspaper)
  • Name: “I am Mumbai”
Note:  (The quality is not great, but it’s the only one I could find with subtitles. Please watch it in full-screen format. And put the volume up loud, or wear headphones. You’ll get the full effect that way. Trust me.)
  • Why I like it: Of all the work I saw at Cannes this year this one was the one that got the loudest, most admiring spontaneous applause. Of the whole festival. This was shown during a talk given by BBDO on “craft”, where 3 ECDs dissected a favorite piece of recent work and showed us the attention to detail that went into it. This made it all the richer for me, but even upon first viewing I found this…just stunning. And the hundreds of people that broke out into awed applause were on the same wavelength. What emotional power! What gripping cinematics! What a haunting, building score! What immersive storytelling that draws you in with curiosity and keeps you guessing! What a deeper, touching message that stays with you long after the viewing! I mean, just awesome. To think that this is what advertising can be at its best…that’s inspiring. And what of the linkage to the product being advertised?(if not it would just be a short film, right?)The way it’s handled through the slates introducing each sequence, and then through the train shot at the end with the building score – masterful. This one goes right to the pantheon of the greats. Un-surprisingly, it won a Gold lion in the “film craft category”.


Cannes Dispatch – What wins at Cannes?


Last week I had the chance to see literally hundreds of pieces of work. The finalists for Press, Outdoor, PR, and Design are all exhibited on posters in a sort of gallery on the lower level of the Palais, so it’s easy and comfortable to view them at one’s leisure. What’s even better, this year they had an app which permitted you to scan the work that you liked and have it sent to you. Amazingly convenient! The film work was exhibited in a huge screening room, where they basically played a continuous loop of all of the finalists and you could sit there, along with hundreds of others, for as long as you liked. Other categories such as Cyber lions were shown in computers that were set up as interactive kiosks. Importantly, only the finalists (“shortlists”) were shown, so all of the hundreds of pieces were the best 10% or so of the 32 thousand submissions – thankfully the jury did the pre-editing job for us!

As you look through so much great work, patterns begin to emerge in separating the good from the truly great. What are some of the common elements that I found among the Lion winners at Cannes? Said otherwise, what wins at Cannes? (mind you, this is not an all-inclusive list or a formula…that one I’ll sell to you for a lot of money!)

1. Humor wins: Based on what I saw in the film category, one of the sure ways to increase likability and chances of success is by making people chuckle. I sat through 2 hours of screenings for film category shortlist, and some of the greatest spontaneous applauses were reserved for the ads that struck the funny bone. This reaction is no guarantee, but it matters a lot…more than people will admit to. If they laugh, it sets you apart, people instantly open up their mind, let their barriers down, and then look for reasons to like your ad even more.

This whole campaign is hilarious. DirectTV “House”, from Grey NY. It won a Gold lion.

We can all relate. Axe “Brainy Girl”, from BBH London. Awesome. Won a Silver lion.

God I love this one! From Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, Buenos Aires. It took home a Gold Lion.

2. Emotion wins: The other way is to touch the emotions. This is always a slippery slope because nobody likes to be manipulated. But if done right, what can I say…advertising people are a bunch of softies! I’m not kidding, the two biggest applauses I heard for work the whole week were for emotional ads. (note: one of them is a stunner for the Mumbai Mirror, called “I am Mumbai” I can’t find it online with subtitles, I will post it here as soon as I do!)

Coke “Security Cameras” by Wunderman Argentina. Won a Silver lion. Great music!

Barnardo’s “Life Story”, by BBH London. Also took home a silver. Heavy stuff.

3. Trying to make the world a better place wins: Perhaps advertisers have a chip on their shoulder about what they do. Maybe some guilt about the fact we spend part our careers selling the “new & improved!!” soap, when the old one could probably do the job. So when the chance comes around to do something good, to improve the world a little bit…people react pretty strongly to it. This is also a slippery slope: I admit that I’m pretty tired already of the usual “pro bono” type of ads for Unicef or for anti-drunk driving, or road safety, or whatever. It can start feeling a little formulaic. But when you do something in a way that hasn’t been done before…the public can be very welcoming.

This was the Grand Prix Winner in Film and also in Branded Entertainment. Chipotle’s “Back to the Start”, by CAA Los Angeles

This outdoor ad from Y&R Mexico won a Gold Lion, for “Save the Children”. Powerful.

And Droga5 won a special “Grand Prix for Good” with this for Help Remedies Bandages.

4. Craft wins: Craft refers to the skilled use of art direction, copywriting, music, editing, special effects, etc. in the service of providing a pleasurable aesthetic experience. In fact there’s a whole category called “Film Craft”, where they judge the craftsmanship independently of the idea. But even outside of this category, it’s amazing how detailed workmanship and attention to detail can help elevate ideas. The big winners could not rely on the idea alone, (the what): they were all made better by  how they were executed.

Canal + “The Bear” was the Grand Prix winner in the Craft Film category, and deservedly so. It’s by Euro RSCG BETC.

And here’s The Guardian’s “Three Little Pigs”, by BBH London and winner of a Gold Lion

5. Long format storytelling wins: The most powerful stories in film were all told in long format of more than 30 seconds. Back in February I looked at all the Superbowl ads and also drew the same conclusion, and now if you look at the top 5 most impactful films of the festival, it’s pretty obvious that there is a rule forming. What this tells me is that we and our clients should seriously consider film length as part of the storytelling element – and should fight to do things the right way. Just like we fight for the right director, or the right location…we should fight for the right format to tell the most powerful story. Especially in today’s world: The Chipotle ad ran once…at full length. Word of mouth did the rest. The Chrysler halftime ad ran once…at full length. And so on. At a very minimum, if we produce a good 30 second version, we should always film a longer version that can live online and tell the story even more powerfully.

Check out Dorito’s “The Dip Desperado”, by AMV BBDO London. Won a Gold lion.

Our how about Nike’s “I would run to you”, winner of a Bronze lion for W+K Portland

6. Different wins: I spoke with a couple of people who were part of the jury, and a common thread was how much work there was to review in such little time. Inevitably, the human mind starts looking for shortcuts – “what can I discard quickly, so I can focus my thinking on the better stuff?” One of the first things that gets discarded is anything that has been seen before. It might be great, but if it has been done, or if it reminds the judge of a piece they saw last year…it’s probably out. Interestingly, the consumer probably uses a very similar filter to wade through the thousands of marketing messages they’re bombarded with. If it has been done before, it’s out. As more and more messages are done in more ways than ever, the bar is being set ever so high to really distinguish oneself from the crowd. Even successful, long running campaigns have to find a way to keep fresh, to offer a new spin somehow in either idea or execution…or risk irrelevance. Now, this does not mean that if you have a winning campaign you should scrap it and start from zero every single time you do a new execution…many iconic campaigns (Absolut Vodka, Marlboro) have run successfully for years and even decades. Just don’t expect to see them pick up a lion.

This one for Mercedez by Jung von Matt Hamburg picked up the other Grand Prix in OOH for it’s amazing use of innovative technology in communicating the product benefit

Flying Horse’s “Catoast”, from Ogilvy Brazil, took home a Bronze

This one from Wall’s Sausages called “Petrol Station” is by Saatchi & Saatchi London won a Silver. It’s…different:)

And finally, check out this great one for Getty Images by ALMAP BBDO Sao Paulo, which won a Silver lion

The cynics among you might think, “well, you’ve listed so many elements, what’s left?” But the sad truth is as far as your TV set. Go and watch an ad break and come back. You’ll see that, in real life, most ads are neither funny, nor well crafted, nor different, nor emotional…etc. Even ads that have aced quantitative tests measuring recall and persuasion will just pass on by like a ship in the night once they air, because they don’t aspire to anything other than a respectable mediocrity (I’ve worked on many of these!) Creativity with high ambition, like the examples above, they are the ones that truly stand a chance to get through to the consumer. And do note that many of these ads contain not just one of these elements, but many of them (and there are many more elements not listed!).

So there you have it: the competition is fierce, and the task is daunting. This is, at a minimum, what it takes to aspire for a win in Cannes. Hey, if it was easy, then everyone would be able to do it, right?

Let me know your thoughts on this!

Come back tomorrow for the final Cannes Dispatch, where I will post the Adboarding Pass “best of the best” awards.

note: I’ve included mostly film examples because it’s more entertaining to watch – but trust me the rules apply across all categories.


Cannes Dispatch – Five lessons learned

What a crazy, wild, enlightening week it was: filled with learning, creativity, networking, inspiration, and yes: even victory.

Here is a look back at five things I learned:

1.   Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes – it’s truly a great time to be in the advertising business, because creativity and good ideas have so many outlets to be expressed in. An idea only becomes real once it’s produced, and today one doesn’t depend on the expensive tv ad: in fact many of the outstanding ideas I saw were in the areas of design, promotion and PR: check these out, for example:

LEGO “Builders of Sound” , by Serviceplan Munich. Won a gold lion.

VW “Sheep Alert”, by DDB Tribal. Shortlisted

“Sprite Shower”, by Ogilvy Sao Paulo. Won a Gold Lion

2.   But let’s be honest, the Film category is still king – Speculation on who would win the Film Grand Prix was actually a topic of conversation and anticipation, and this didn’t happen for any other category. (the broad consensus was that it would be The Guardian’s “Three Little Pigs”, followed closely by Canal+ “The Bear”, which I had as my favorite. I would say that everyone was pretty surprised when it leaked on Saturday morning that it would be Chipotle’s “Back to the Start”, although everyone thought “hmmm, that’s surprising…but ok, that’s a pretty good choice too, wonder why I didn’t think of it!”) Bottom line, film is still the most versatile of mediums – it’s universal, it can evoke any of the emotions, it shows off elements of craft very well (writing, direction, casting, music, editing, etc…) and it links up very nicely with other mediums as part of an integrated campaign. There’s a reason why it gets awarded on the last night, towards the end of the show. It’s just like the Oscars: they award a couple of  big ones like Best Supporting Actress towards the beginning, but they leave Best Actor/Actress/Movie/Director all for the end. The film category, agency of the year and network of the year are BIG awards among all the other big awards.

Here are some awesome film winners that you may not yet have seen:

Dos Equis “Sword Fight”, by Euro RSCH NY. Won a Silver lion 

Zonajobs “Grandma”, by Draftfcb Buenos Aires. Won a Silver lion

Ghandi Bookstores “Keep Reading”, by Ogilvy Mexico. Won a Bronze lion


3.   It’s so.damn.hard to win in Cannes – The folks at JWT on the 25th floor won a grand prix last year, and we won one this year, so it’s tempting to think that this is a fairly common thing. But it really, really isn’t. I spoke to accomplished creatives with many years of experience and all of them reach the same conclusion. It’s just extremely hard. The odds are daunting. As an example, let’s look at the numbers in the Outdoor category: there were 4,843 entries submissions in total. 588 (12%) made it to the Shortlist, from which there were a total of 112 (2.3%) winners. These winners were split into 50 bronze lions (1.03%), 35 silver (0.82%), and 25 gold (0.5%). And of course there’s the Grand Prix, of which two were awarded (0.04%!) It’s not just a matter of numbers, the reality is that you’re competing against the very best of the best. And, you’re being judged by a jury of your peers who is under tremendous time pressure. A whole year of work and your entry could get dismissed after being viewed for 5 seconds: It’s inevitably a form of creative triage, where they have to decide if you make it through, or you don’t. The lesson here is: a Shortlist is a great honor. Any kind of metal is a tremendous achievement worthy of celebration. And a Grand Prix is basically like winning the lottery (it’s impossible…yet somebody has to win it.) Now, that being said, there are things you can do to help your cause, see below.

4.   Good creativity rises to the top – This is definitely true. I know it because of all of the shortlisted work that I saw, (and I saw a lot) there was nothing that I considered outright poor. And, of all of the work that was awarded a gold, everything was simply quite excellent. There’s no way that you survive a jury of seasoned creatives from all over the world unless your idea is exceptional in some way (usually it’s exceptional in many ways!)

I mean, just look at this Film for Google Chrome, “Dear Sophie”, by BBH NY

Or this OOH poster for Maxam Toiletries, by JWT China, winner of a Silver lion

Or this Press ad for Ray Ban, from Marcel in Paris. Winner of a Gold lion

Or this Design entry for Google, by Johannes Leonardo in NY. Winner of a Gold lion

Or this amazing OOH for Getty Images, by ALMAP BBDO, winner of a Bronze Lion

None of it is bad, not even mediocre, in fact, it’s not even just good. All of it is pretty awesome, and that’s the minimum requirement if you want to compete for an award in Cannes!

5.   You have to be “in it to win it – Doing well at Cannes starts with great creativity. But beyond that, it takes work, dedication and savvy: agencies need to set objectives, hold periodic creative reviews to weed out the bad and encourage the good, enlist clients who believe in the business impact of creativity, hire top creative talent, encourage pervasive creativity among all of the staff, study how the winners create their submissions and follow the learnings, know what categories to enter in, adjust the entry so as to be eligible in multiple categories, participate in other awards shows, get involved in the juries, network, get the internal PR machine to help spread the work about your best work, etc. That’s only a partial list! But you can definitely tell that some people (such as the Brazilian agencies) have this as such a priority that it’s almost an art form. They are the number two country in number of submissions (behind the US and ahead of the UK) and they are very savvy about what/where/how they enter. Their dominance in the world stage is driven by brilliant ideas, yes – but they’ve also made this a priority and work hard at the business of award shows.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Cannes Dispatch 4, where I’ll share with you what I think are some of the key ingredients for winning at Cannes.



Cannes Dispatch – Day 1, Monday

Like a kid in a candy store, I enjoyed today to the max, walking around in full “sensory overload” mode during my first day ever at Cannes. The people, the great work, the old colleagues from all parts of the world, the lovely, unapologetic Frenchi-ness of Cannes (even when filled with thousands of foreigners), the excitement of the awards show, the lovely weather…I mean, what can I say. Awesome. A great time. And this considering it wasn’t a late night because everyone, including me, was pretty tired from the flight yesterday!

Some of the cool work I saw:

Awards news:

  • Tonight, shortlists were awarded for many categories, and the awards ceremony was for Direct/Promo/PR
  • This is a personal blog so I don’t talk much about work…but I’m very proud – we submitted one entry for Coca-Cola in the Out of Home category…and we got into the shortlist! This is a big honor, especially since we’re coming in to learn and be inspired…this is just…a cherry on top. Of course, now that we made the shortlist, it would be really nice to bring some “metal” back to Shanghai…please send good vibes:) Awards are tomorrow.
  • Big winners tonight that come to mind are some past Ads of the Day – in my mind the one that was unanimously admired was The Return of Ben Ali, by Memac Ogilvy. Just great stuff.

Lessons learned:

  • Good work rises to the top, more than ever in this age of internet, blogs, etc. It’s just hard for really good work to not get seen and spread around. This is, more than ever, an argument in favor of creativity as a strategy for gaining awareness!
  • If you pay attention to the Ads of the Day…you’re pretty well caught up on a lot of the best work out there. Many (most?) of them will take home prizes!
  • Some of the speakers were simply not as good as I would expect for an event of this caliber. More to come on this later but, really, if you’re not ready to deliver on this stage, I don’t know when you will ever be. Some of the highlights from today were Deutsch LA on controlling agency turnover, and Kraft on new ways of getting good work from agencies.

Party happenings:
Empty page. Went out to dinner after the awards with a group of clients and colleagues, and then took a taxi back, I’m writing this at midnight. So pretty civilized, which is good because tomorrow we have an early-ish start.

More to come tomorrow. If yo’re interested, follow the action at #CannesLions, or on my twitter feed on the left. And send some good vibes for CokeHands!