New York’s Droga5, Grey and McCann All Crushed Cannes With More Than 20 Lions Each

U.S.'s top performers explain their success

It was a good year to be a New York agency at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity with McCann New York, Grey New York and Droga5 all scoring some serious hardware in 2016. 

Droga5 finished out the week with a total of 23 awards: one Grand Prix, 9 gold Lions, 6 silver Lions and 7 bronze Lions. The agency's various Under Armour work racked up the most awards, 16 in total with one particular spot starring Michael Phelps, part of the larger "Rule Yourself" campaign, bringing in the most awards for the agency.

The spot shows decorated Olympian Michael Phelps' daily grueling training process that prepares him for his biggest competitions. Shot with some stunning visuals, "Phelps" won a Grad Prix in film craft, but also managed to score a gold Lion in Film and two gold Lions in Film Craft. Overall, the spot collected six awards.

A second "Rule Yourself" spot from the agency, starring the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team, followed closely behind the Michael Phelps spot with five wins. 

Droga5 creative chairman and founder David Droga said the agency wasn't going into the festival week assuming that it would win awards. "You can never assume anything will win," he told Adweek in an email, "but we were certainly hopeful that it would be recognized."

Another major win for the agency came what the festival named Droga5 the Cannes Independent Agency of the Year for the second year in a row. The honor is based on the number of total wins and shortlists achieved by the agency. Droga said the title "is a highlight, but what's most meaningful internally are the number of clients that contributed to this great year." The agency also scored Lions for its Hennessy "The Piccards" spot, Jonhsonville's "Sausage Nonnas" and NRG's "Solar Forecast."

Grey New York also had a successful year at Cannes, with 24 total Lions and a ranking as the festival's No. 1 U.S. Agency of the Year, which factors in shortlist honors. The agency scored client Pantene its very first Gold and Silver Lions for the adorable "Dad-Do" campaign starring a number of big name NFL players including DeAngelo Williams and Benjamin Watson styling their daughter's hair. Overall, the campaign won a Gold Lion, two Silver Lions and one Bronze Lion.

Grey NY won for more than just its Pantene work too. "We're winning big for work that worked and busted through the boundaries of advertising. It's entertaining, inspiring, useful stuff; meaningful work that people want to be around," Andreas Dahlqvist, Grey New York chief creative, told Adweek in an email.

Other big wins included the agency's "Super Bowl Babies Choir" campaign for the NFL. Leading up to Super Bowl 50, the agency used the statistic that nine months after a city wins a Super Bowl, it sees a spike in births. The result was a charming music video starring artist Seal, which scored the agency four Lions.

While Dahlqvist said he and the agency weren't 100 percent sure that their work would win them a few awards this year, they had a good feeling after campaigns including "Dad-Do" and "Super Bowl Babies Choir" scored some viral success, reaching 7.5 million views and 4.5 million views on YouTube, respectively. Added Dahlqvist: "Usually the campaigns that take off in pop-culture also perform well in Cannes, and all of our winning campaigns have that in common. They're ideas that took off in a big way and were talked about." 

McCann New York was another big winner at Cannes this year scoring 25 total Lions, more than any other single U.S. agency. While some shops had a handful of campaigns adding to their overall Lions tally, McCann NY saw one of its campaigns, "The Field Trip to Mars" for client Lockheed Martin, winning the bulk of its awards. (Weber Shandwick New York, Momentum Worldwide and UM also contributed to the Lockheed Martin campaign.)

The virtual reality experience, designed to show school children what Mars looks like, won a total of 19 Lions—one Innovation Lions, five gold Lions, seven silver Lions and six bronze Lions. 

"Every year, you hope for one piece that is a 'runaway train.' This year, we were fortunate to have two. Survival Billboard for Microsoft Xbox out of London. And the big winner, Field Trip to Mars for Lockheed Martin out of New York," Rob Reilly, global creative chairman, McCann Worldgroup, told Adweek in an email.

While winning the awards is important for the agency, Reilly noted that there's more to big awards shows than simply receiving the shiny trophies. "What is more important is that your biggest offices do the best work for real, complicated and sometimes impossible brands," Reilly added.

The New York office also demonstrated its ability to do its best work for Girls Who Code with the "Girls Can't Code" campaign, which won a bronze Lion, and Tommee Tippee for the "Advice Wipes" campaign, which won one silver Lion and two bronze Lions. It also won awards for Microsoft and MasterCard.