News & Views

Contagious Team: Cannes Contenders

by Contagious Team

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is looming large on the horizon, so here are the campaigns and creative ideas that the Contagious editorial and Insider teams will be keeping our fingers crossed for. Read below to find out what wed be fighting for if we were on a jury and discover why we think the creators deserve to parade along the Croisette clutching the advertising industrys most precious metal. 

Sophia Epstein / Researcher

One of my favourite things about this campaign is imagining the guys at Clemenger BBDO in Melbourne suggesting the idea: ‘So we want to get two actors…’ ‘Right.’ ‘Dress them up in gold Lycra…’ ‘Riight.’ ‘And then have them pretend to be testicles.’ ‘Riiiiiight…’

Whether it happened like that or not, it was a very ballsy move, and it led to Australian underwear brand Bonds devoting over six months of advertising to The Boys. Rob and Dennis, as they’re individually known, have featured in several TV spots produced by Guilty Content. The videos showed the boys in various situations, such as trying to convince ‘The Brain’ to go and speak to a girl, giggling during a trim, the violent reality of going for a bike ride and – most importantly – the comfort that Bonds pants have to offer.

More recently, they ventured outdoors. A seven-storey, weather-responsive billboard had the boys thrown around when the wind picked up speed and aggressively pulled to the top of the billboard when the temperature dropped. The judges at Cannes will definitely appreciate that much cojones.

Chloe Markowicz / Deputy Editor 

I love Barbie and I’m not ashamed to admit it. For me, Imagine the Possibilities, encapsulates everything that’s so great about her.

The online film, which has racked up more than 21 million views since October, uses hidden cameras to capture people’s real reactions to girls enacting their dreams of being veterinarians, football coaches and business women. The objective behind this campaign, created by BBDO New York and San Francisco, was to demonstrate that when a girl plays with Barbie she imagines everything that she can become.

I can’t think of anything more empowering for young girls. It reminds me of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media’s mantra: ‘If she can see it, she can be it.’ The images that young girls see affect their journey of self-discovery. But we need to recognise the fact that Barbie isn’t just a pretty face. In her 56 years, she’s also racked up a pretty impressive resume. Sure, she’s been a fairy princess and a mermaid. But she’s also been an astronaut, a doctor and an entrepreneur. If Barbie can do all those jobs, it tells girls that they can be anything too. As Kristina Duncan, vice president, global Marketing Communications at Mattel, told me, ‘The benefit of Barbie lies not within the doll but with the imagination of the child who plays with her.’

Emily Hare / Managing Editor

This audacious idea, dreamt up by Y&R New Zealand, was years in the making. How better to raise awareness of Peace Day, a global day of ceasefire, than for two longstanding rivals to collaborate? So Burger King extended an olive branch to McDonalds, inviting them to join forces and create an ultimate burger together – the McWhopper  increasing brand buzz and purchase consideration along the way.

McDonald’s turned down BK’s request, but the PR generated from the exchange gained prominence worldwide. Y&R reports that the campaign earned $138m in media and 8.9 billion media impressions, not to mention a 25% increase in purchase consideration for Burger King.

But the campaign isn’t only impressive for its incredible results, it gets my vote because of its epic levels of planning. This meant each potential outcome – from McDonald’s declining to rival burger chains wanting to join the party – was considered and could be reacted to in real time. The campaign’s strength and appeal lies in its sheer ballsy and unexpected nature, shown by Burger King giving up control of its most famous product and brand iconography and challenging McDonald’s to do the same.

Georgia Malden / Director of Projects, Contagious Insider

‘Leftover woman’. That’s what you’re called in China if you reach your late twenties without getting married. At which point your parents start posting ads about you in outdoor ‘marriage markets’ – essentially trying to sell you off through physical classifieds. The stigma, if not the practice, is one that many women outside China will recognise.

So to spark a debate it about it, both in China and further afield, high-end Japanese cosmetics brand SK-II decided to subvert the tradition.

Its Marriage Market Takeover film – through Forsman & Bodenfors, Gothenburg – documents how the brand took over the famous marriage market in Shanghai’s People’s Park, and used it to post different kinds of ads – pictures of strong, single women proudly promoting their independence. The film shows their parents’ emotional reactions, as well as moving interviews with the women themselves. A month into the campaign, and the video has had 37 million views around the world, made the top ten list of ads on Weibo resulting in more than 7 million social interactions and been featured on more than 2,000 media outlets.

The film defies the usual conventions of skincare advertising in China, which is dominated by rational product benefits and celebrity endorsement. I challenge you not to be moved when watching a mother say about her daughter (who’s sitting right next to her): ‘We always thought our daughter had a great personality. She’s just not that pretty. That’s why she’s leftover.’

But heartstrings aside, what I like most about this campaign is the sensitive way it gives women a platform to talk about something that is both deeply entrenched, and not openly discussed. That’s why this is my tip for a Glass Lion – launched last year to recognise work that sets out to positively impact ingrained gender inequality. The freedom to choose how you live, work and marry (or not), unencumbered by limiting social expectations, is something we should all be championing.

Paul Kemp-Robertson / Co-founder and Editorial Director

isn’t the first outdoor clothing brand to take a stand against the crass consumerism of Black Friday – that post-Thanksgiving starter gun for the US holiday shopping season, when retailers famously slash their prices and bargain hunters frenziedly step on the heads of babies in order to grab a cheap telly or swanky juicer. Patagonia was the first, encouraging Americans to opt out of the craziness and repair old clothes rather than buying new ones.

But, hey, if it’s to do with the environment, then recycling’s ok, isn’t it? (It’s certainly never been an obstacle to award show juries in the past). That’s why I predict that the REI #OptOutside initiative will snare a pride of Lions. The Washington-based company has pushed the sanity commitment much further than any other brand; not only encouraging its customers to spend Black Friday enjoying the great outdoors instead of recreating Hades inside suburban shopping malls, but also by shutting its stores for 24 hours, thus giving its 12,000 employees a paid vacation day. That’s a pretty grand gesture in a country where 10 days annual leave is fairly standard. (Quite what American Cannes Lions delegates think of their strike-happy, ‘35-hour working week or we revolt’ French hosts every June is another story.)

The #OptOutside mission is further endorsed by REI ceo, Jerry Stritzke who deadpans his way through a wry video, where he opines that ‘a life lived outside is a life well lived’  while seated at an office desk perched on a snow-capped mountain.

The integrated campaign, nimbly executed by Venebles Bell & Partners in San Francisco includes print ads directing jaded shoppers to a microsite where they can enter their location and receive suggestions for nearby national parks or trails. Those who then join the cause, can share their decision to #OptOutside by uploading images of their activities into a gallery or spreading them onto social media.

Feels like the first steps towards a Green Friday alternative.

Alex Jenkins / Editor

2015 was the first year of the creative data award at Cannes. There was no Grand Prix. Apparently the jury spent the two months before judging sharing articles and thought pieces about what the category should be about. Fair enough, given that the award category had no less than 11 subcategories. We felt there wasnt anything that was representative of everything, commented jury president David Sable, Y&Rs global CEO, at the time.

Trying to pick a winner in such a diverse category is a bit of a risk but, if youre a betting kind of person, you could do worse than to stack a few euros on The House of Clicks. Created by Prime PR, Stockholm, for property site Hemnet, the project transformed data from 200 million clicks on 86,000 properties on the Hemnet site into a 3D mock-up of Swedens most sought-after home. The design was created by crunching through a range of data, including image analysis of the most-clicked properties to determine interior design, info about square footage, number of bedrooms, bathroom surface materials, etc. When we reported on the campaign in July 2015, Hemnet was in the process of transforming the design into real homes.

Weve all seen examples data viz in the past, but visualising data as an actual house  well, that sounds pretty creative to me.

Patrick Jeffrey / Senior Writer

Three years ago, we all got a bit teary-eyed as Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches swept the board at Cannes. By the time it picked up the Titanium Grand Prix (and 18 other Lions) it had already become the most watched online ad in history, clocking up 165 million views. But here’s the thing: while no-one is doubting the success of that campaign, they also can’t deny that it took a huge media spend and many months to clock up those numbers.

Three weeks ago, Taco Bell launched a piece of ‘content’ that was viewed 224 million times – in one day. The fast food chain partnered with Snapchat to create a lens that essentially turned your head into a giant taco (using augmented reality), and launched it on Cinco de Mayo, the annual Mexican celebration.

I’ll be the first to admit that mobile advertising has been anything but Lions-worthy up until now. I wince at those stupid banner ads in my news app every day; I curse as some brand tries to take-over my entire mobile screen for ten seconds; and I even dislike any adverts in Facebook’s Newsfeed.

But then I log onto Snapchat and my tune changes. Do you know how long the average user played with Taco Bell’s lens for? 24 seconds. They could skip it at any time – they weren’t being forced to watch it – but they chose not to. That, surely, represents something just a little bit different: an ad that puts the user in control, is fun, shareable and completely ridiculous. Suddenly, mobile advertising looks good enough to eat.

UPDATE: This campaign isn't being entered into Cannes because it ran after the submission deadline. But it's still awesome. 

Arif Haq / Senior Strategist, Contagious Insider 

Two reasons why this 60-second commercial for British fizzy drink Lucozade should win stuff:

Technical brilliance  Director Nick Park seamlessly blends CGI and live action in a way that actually adds to the story, rather than distracts from it. Every shot displays an unerring pin-point sense of humour, keeping you interested all the way through to the virtuoso bottle grab and “Nice” VO at the very end.

Planning smarts – Grey London translate the long running proposition of ‘Lucozade gives you glucose energy which powers your brain’ (which honestly these days just sounds like ‘it has lots of calories) into ‘Lucozade keeps you in “flow”’ – nicely stealing language from the recent meditation trend while side-stepping the sugary elephant in the room.

Kate Hollowood / Staff Writer

In April, ING Bank launched a campaign that may have changed the way we think about science and art forever. The Next Rembrandt, created with J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam and Microsoft, is a ‘new’ painting by the Dutch artist made from data gathered from his existing paintings, or 168,263 painting fragments to be precise. The extremely complex process (that apparently brought developers to tears) involved 3D scans of Rembrandt’s existing paintings, machine learning algorithms and a paint-based 3D printer. The campaign generated more than 1,400 articles and 1.8 billion media impressions. It ignited debate about the relationship between data and art and ruffled the feathers of many hard-core Rembrandt fans in the process. Even more impressively, the technique is now being used to restore old masterpieces.

I love this campaign for its bravery. The team had no guarantee that their theory would work, as ECD behind the project Bas Korsten told me. ‘The biggest challenge was hoping that it was all going to be alright and not give us something that looked like a Mr Potato Head […] Being naïve and just saying “we can do it!” kept the project going. It was based on nothing other than enthusiasm.’

Will Sansom / Director, Contagious Insider

According to Wikipedia, in 2005, Food Network rated Hamburger Helper (a dried, boxed pasta product) #3 in its list of ‘Top five fad foods of 1970’. In 2016, the brand’s mascot (an anthropomorphic white glove) released a Hip Hop mixtape, Watch the Stove, that was described by an LA Times Music critic as ‘Absolute Fire’. Ladies and Gentlemen – I give you my contender for Titanium Grand Prix.

The LA Times weren’t alone in their praise – respected online magazine HipHopDX rated the release 3.7 out of 5 and described it as ‘an attention getter from a brand totally removed from the culture’. Perhaps more profound, however, was the reaction of the general Hip hop-loving public that imploded in a cloud of hysterically positive memes and emoji-laden tweets. Had a culturally-irrelevant FMCG brand really dropped a credible mixtape?

In reality, Hamburger Helper’s success was no fluke. After identifying a specific target audience (young, urban music-loving men) the brand went about an artful hearts and minds projects on Twitter, establishing a credible tone of voice for the mascot and then responding to a direct challenge to do better than the rappers it was frequently rating and trolling. To do this, General Mills’ in-house agency reached out to local up and coming MC talent in its home state of Minnesota and enlisted the production skills of a team at the McNally Smith College of Music. Hence why Watch the Stove sounds fresh and credible, not stale and try-hard.

Watch the Stove is a wonderful example of a once-irrelevant brand doing what all others aspire to – genuinely impacting culture. It has slightly slipped under our industry’s radar so I doubt it will win Titanium Grand Prix; not that that matters though because it has already won the hearts of young consumers across America, and that counts for a whole lot more.

Silvia Antunes / Senior Consultant, Contagious Insider Brazil 

Alex has already made a pitch for one data-driven campaign, but my choice would be Rio de Janeiro-based civil rights organisation Criola’s attempt to shame online racist trolls by publishing abusive posts on billboards in its Virtual Racism, Real Consequences campaign. Created by Porto Alegre-based agency w3haus, it is a fresh solution and has an interesting take on geolocation – the outdoor ads were placed close to where the offences took place. The theme is relevant and a pressing issue so it should win in this category.

Kristina Dimitrova / Researcher



Trust Sweden to show you how to promote a small country with a weird language that is not defined by a famous landmark. To celebrate 250 years of freedom of speech and encourage tourism, The Swedish Tourist Association with Stockholm-based agency INGO, Cohn & Wolfe Stockholm and Grey NY, gave the country its very own telephone number.

The Swedish Number is open to anyone around the world. When people call +46 771 793 336, they are connected to a random Swedish citizen (who has signed up to help) and can chat about any subject – from politics to culture, women’s rights to entertainment and all things Swedish. Even Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, signed up as a Swedish ambassador and was paired with people calling the number.

The agency shared that The Swedish Number has already received 150,000 calls from 180 countries. The campaign generated more than 9 billion impressions, and $146m media value. And, last but not least, it was mentioned by US president Barack Obama. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for a Lion.

Raakhi Chotai / Writer

The problem with cruises is that they’re boring. Or at least that’s what everyone thinks. And convincing people that cruises are for everyone (not just desperate singles and the elderly) is a pretty tough challenge. But it’s one that Royal Caribbean and MullenLowe, Boston, managed with aplomb in #ComeSeekLive.

The brand took to Periscope to showcase the awesome stuff you can do on a Royal Caribbean trip – zip-lining through the jungle and hanging out with green monkeys in Barbados and generally having a great time with social media influencers, High on Life. The live videos were streamed directly to Manhattan Transit Authority Billboards in the middle of the freezing cold winter, undoubtedly ensuring instant hatred and, more importantly, envy, from everyone crammed into the New York Subway bored stiff on the daily commute.

The campaign racked up 362,000 engagements on Periscope, a 52% increase in the number of followers joining Royal Caribbean’s Periscope channel, 7.4 million earned impressions on Twitter, and 91.8 million press impressions.

But the results aren’t why I like this campaign. Last year, Dr Erin Marie Saltman of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue told Contagious that the key to creating a strong narrative is getting the right platform, message and messenger. And this campaign does that, and does it well. The message  cruises are a fun  rings clear across the (pretty compelling) content. The messengers are perfectly chosen, and come with a built-in fanbase, ensuring reach. And the platform, Periscope, has a younger user-base that aligns with the brand’s target market. It’s win win… win.


Nick Parish / President, Americas, Contagious Insider

OK, this is all great work. So maybe as a final thought we can talk about the festival itself.

Last year, advertising hall-of-famer Jeff Goodby wrote a blog post comparing Cannes to an industrial roofing convention and announcing it might be his final trip. His lamentation? The work doesn’t resonate in culture (specifically with taxi drivers, or his friends at dinner parties). This year I’m looking forward to receiving a Goodby, Silverstein & Partners-branded ruler or other tradesperson-approved marketing tchotchke from members of its delegation when I run into them at their panel on innovation and startups or their cocktail soiree.

I would disagree with Jeff that Cannes is a trade show, at least for companies like his. Cannes and its ilk are mostly museums where the idea of advertising for advertising’s sake is still a relevant thing to be celebrated. Meanwhile the broader communications industry is finally coming to terms with the things you see on this page: great examples of technology, product and creativity coming together.

One surefire Lion-winner is Spotify's Discover Weekly, a marketing-side-driven product innovation at a massively-scaled tech company (Try saying that three times fast, or doing it once slowly. At any tech company, the engineers’ guardianship of product is not easy to overcome.)

Discover Weekly changed Mondays for Spotify users, and made the service more valuable, intimate and essential. Thirty million listeners used it in the first six months, and it drove over 2.5 billion streams, showing how creative data can drive engagement. That’s work, Jeff, that can resonate with your Lyft driver, or the dinner party crowd—they’ll love your great playlist and you’ll be more than willing to pay $9.99 a month for the service.

If, like us, you’re going to the industrial roofing museum this year, here’s one more thing to watch out for: more awards than ever will be going to creative people at creative companies committed to using modern communications to fulfill brand promise. But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be going to ad agencies. This might be the year that group's share of the pie begins shrinking.


Cannes Deconstructed