Contagious Team

15 June 2021

Cannes Contenders 2021 (part two) 

The Contagious team predicts the big winners at this year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

If bookies took bets on Cannes Lions, we reckon our Contenders list would be the industry’s hottest tip sheet.

We’ve combined thorough, year-round research into the world’s best advertising with arrogant faith in our own good taste to predict the big winners at this year’s International Festival of Creativity.

We’re not interested in the Bronze and Silver also-rans here. These are the campaigns we think will storm the Palais (virtually, of course) and come out clutching Golds or Grands Prix.

Australian Royal Mint, Donation Dollar, Saatchi & Saatchi, Melbourne 

This campaign, which launched in the most trying of times (amid Australia’s first recession in three decades and the Covid-19 pandemic), appealed to people’s generous sides in an ingenious way.

If every Australian gave just one dollar a month, an additional $3bn could be raised for charities over 10 years. But as increasingly fewer people carry cash, the charities that rely on coin donations have taken a hit. Meanwhile national lockdowns and financial uncertainty caused fundraising events and donations to dwindle. To rectify the problem, The Royal Australian Mint worked with Saatchi & Saatchi, Melbourne, to launch the Donation Dollar, the world’s first currency designed to be donated.

The AU$1 coins can be spent like any other legal tender, but are stamped with the message ‘Donation Dollar: Give to help others’, to encourage small donations. The Royal Australian Mint minted 25 million Donation Dollars – roughly one for every Australian – and 53% of them were donated to charity in the first two months. And if those numbers don’t convince you, the campaign reached over 89.9% of the Australian population with a $0 media budget. That’s why my money’s on The Royal Australian Mint this year.

By Phoebe O’Connell, staff writer

Epic Games, Astronomical 

I know, I know. We’re all sick to the back teeth of hearing about Travis Scott’s ground-breaking concert inside Fortnite. It’s one of those ideas that quickly found its way into every best practice presentation, every 2020 highlight reel and every conversation about the ‘future of digital experiences’. So I’ll keep this brief.

Back in April – when most people were still figuring out how to work Microsoft Teams – Epic Games invited all Fortnite players to attend a 15-minute concert inside the game. A larger-than-life avatar of Travis Scott then appeared and performed against a futuristic, psychedelic backdrop. The show was a genuine spectacle, arguably as impressive as any mainstage performance in the real world, and it attracted a much bigger audience, too. An incredible 45 million people viewed it inside the game, with many millions more streaming it on platforms like YouTube or Twitch.When this launched, it felt like a taster of what was to come, as brands and artists figured out how to bring brilliant experiences to people in the digital world. But, over a year later, this still feels like the best-in-class example. Grand Prix in Entertainment for Music? I’d bet my Spotify subscription on that.

By Patrick Jeffrey, head of advisory, UK

Michelob Ultra’s Courtside, by FCB New York 

There’s something brutal and brawny about Michelob Ultra’s Courtside, which helped 300 fans virtually attend 124 NBA playoff matches in the midst of the pandemic, that deserves more than a nod from the juries this year.

With in-person attendance of sports paused, rather than play behind closed doors, the NBA and Microsoft activated their freshly announced partnership. Enormous 17-foot-tall LED screens that wrapped three sides of arenas were deployed and populated by fans watching the games in Teams. A new feature, the AI-driven Together mode, ensured that remote fans felt like they were sitting alongside neighbours and could interact with each other. Meanwhile on the court, players were motivated by a visible live audience reacting to the action.

To book their place at a game, fans bought and scanned bottles of Michelob Ultra, with the winners given a code to attend a live stream – cue a muscular 32% sales increase.

Truth be told, I don’t know what this says specifically about Michelob Ultra. But at a time when people were looking for a way for at least some elements of normal life to continue, the NBA, Microsoft and AB InBev threw together cutting-edge AI, some massive hardware and the passion of fans to keep the spirit of the NBA playoffs well and truly alive.

By Dan Southern, strategy director

Almacenes Éxito’s Most Valuable Promo, by Sancho BBDO, Bogotá 

There’s no glory in backing obvious winners and you don’t need Nostradamus to tell you Bodyform’s Womb Stories or Fortnite’s Astronomical tour will do well at Cannes this year.

Almacenes Éxito’s Most Valuable Promo, on the other hand, is a Grand Prix-calibre campaign that’s still obscure enough to have the caché of a connoisseur’s tip.

The Colombia retailer put discounts on the heads of three of the country’s top Call of Duty: Mobile players. The influencers changed their in-game usernames and profile pictures to descriptions of promotions (eg, 60% off a TV) and any player who managed to kill them could redeem the discount at Almacenes Éxito.

Not only did the Most Valuable Promo use cunning to reach an elusive audience of young gamers, it achieved arresting results, including a 78% coupon redemption rate.

If you want to nitpick, you could argue that Almacenes Éxito’s generous discounts – an expensive shortcut to attention and engagement – weaken its case. But the Most Valuable Promo is more than just a clever giveaway. It’s a model for how brands can infiltrate ad-free media without ruining anyone’s fun, and it would be a worthy winner in either the Mobile or Social & Influencer category. 

By James Swift, online editor.

Nike’s You Can’t Stop Us, by Wieden+Kennedy Portland 

No prizes for putting a punt on this one. If you ask a group of marketers for their favourite piece of creative (as I have multiple times over the past 10 months), I can guarantee that someone will pick this masterpiece of split-screen editing.

In less-skilled hands the idea of unity and perseverance might have risked coming across as hackneyed, but not so here. This is 90 seconds of pure magic that mesmerises and inspires.

What I love is that while it may have been fiendishly complex to put together – with Wieden+Kennedy, post-production house Joint and the visual effects team at A52 spending 1000+ hours researching 4000 pieces of footage and painstakingly mirroring 72 clips to create 36 perfectly synchronised pairings – for the viewer it is effortless. The craft becomes invisible. 

A relay runner moves as one with a rugby player. A child skateboarder becomes a surfing pro. A discus thrower’s spin morphs into a ballerina’s pirouette. Everyday athletes merge with pros – true to Nike’s purpose that says ‘if you have a body, you’re an athlete’. 

It’s an ode to the unifying power of sport in the face of momentous challenges, and through the combination of historical and new footage that packs so much in, Nike cements its place at the heart of this important moment, without it ever feeling laboured.  

The skill, finesse and commitment here is worthy of the athletes themselves. Surely a shoe-in for the Film Craft category.

By Georgia Malden, senior strategist

Burger King’s Stevenage Challenge, by David The Agency, Madrid 

While Moldy Whopper might be the more attention-grabbing of Burger King’s Cannes entries, I’d argue that its Stevenage Challenge campaign is actually the far smarter move from the brand.

In a bid to connect to the gaming community, the fast-food chain leveraged its sponsorship of UK football team Stevenage FC by inviting players of the popular FIFA 20 game to select Stevenage from the list of teams and complete a series of in-game challenges. Players could bring in high-profile, non-Stevenage players to play for the team, with every virtual footballer appearing in Burger King branded jerseys. Finally, fans were then encouraged to upload videos of their completed in-game challenges for a chance to win prizes, including free Whoppers for a year.

The comparatively low-budget sponsorship of a fourth-division football team paid out royally. Back in 2019, when we interviewed the agency team behind the campaign, they reported that the campaign had already resulted in 259 million global media impressions and generated $2.7m in earned media. However, the Stevenage FC blog reported last month that the club has become the most played team in the FIFA video game series. Bearing in mind that there are around 15 million FIFA 2020 players, I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see a boost to those media figures and might even get some sales results thrown in to boot.

By Alex Jenkins, editorial director

Beats By Dre’s You Love Me, by Translation LLC, New York 

If you’re not part of the community You Love Me speaks for, it’s an uncomfortable watch – this is not award-show ‘creative’ speaking to adland. This is two minutes of blunt home truths, delivered – not performed – with another audience in mind. ‘Beats, Translation and everyone involved wanted to create a piece that would let our next generation know that [Black people] are seen and heard and they are enough.’

If it feels a little foreign, that’s a symptom. Senior art director Cas Desroches describes the film as ‘celebrating Black existence at its most everyday –shooting scenes that felt entirely familiar but otherworldly in the sense that they’re often unseen on screen. We sought to prove that even the most larger-than-life Black celebrities are, at their core, the same as the names we don’t know.’ The dissonance you feel watching it is telling.

You Love Me is a million miles away from the awkwardly empty gesture of brands dutifully posting their black squares on last June’s #BlackoutTuesday.

I can’t think of another brand that could have made it – that had the credentials and the appetite to tell the world ‘it’s not us it’s you.’

It’s shameful that they felt they had to.

By Katrina Stirton Dodd, editor at large

Cannes Deconstructed 

Want to know about the best work and key trends from this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity? Book a Contagious Cannes Deconstructed briefing for your team and we’ll deliver a week’s worth of festival insights in one hour. These can be delivered in person (depending on Covid restrictions) or virtually. Contact [email protected] for more information.

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