Promo Jury at Cannes Gives Grand Prix to the Greatest Anti-Promotion of All Time

REI's #OptOutside edges out 'Brewtroleum'

CANNES, France—Barely a month after winning the coveted Best of Show at the The One Show, REI's anti-promotional #OptOutside campaign has scored again, taking home the Promo & Activation Grand Prix and a Gold Lion Monday night at the Cannes Lions festival here.

Devised by San Francisco agency Venables Bell & Partners, #OptOutside saw the outdoor-gear retailer close its 143 locations on Nov. 27, 2015, aka "Black Friday"—the day after Thanksgiving, and biggest shopping day of the year. REI paid its 12,000 employees for a regular workday and urged them, along with customers, to get outside and enjoy their favorite activities away from crowded malls.

As part of the push, a dedicated website, optoutside.rei.com, recommended hiking trails, and REI.com featured a black takeover screen prompting users to #OptOutside.

"Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside," said Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, when the campaign launched last fall. "We're closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to #OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks."

In addition to VB&P, Mediavest/Spark, Tool of North America, North Kingdom and Edelman contributed to the campaign, which entered this year's Lions as one of the big favorites.

The race for the Grand Prix was extremely tight in this category, with REI fending off competition from a very strong challenger—DB Breweries' "Brewtroleum" campaign from Colenso BBDO in Auckland, New Zealand. In that campaign, DB created a clean-burning, conflict-free biofuel from the yeast left over after brewing DB Export beer.

"Our jury was very divided. It was right down the middle," jury president Rob Reilly, global creative chairman at McCann Worldgroup, told journalists in Cannes. "They both were amazing cases. The DB campaign started an entirely new form of business for sustainability."

In the end, though, REI prevailed.

"Everybody loved both pieces, and it really came down to which one was more appropriate for Promo & Activation," said Reilly. "I tried to have the jury imagine the headlines that the press would write about this award. The one headline could be, 'Promo Jury Gives Grand Prix to Beer Company Saving the World with a Smile.' Or, 'Promo Jury Gives Grand Prix to Greatest Anti-Promotion of All Time.' So, what's the sexier headline? They're both awesome. But in the end, after an hour, we went with #OptOutside." (Obviously, we couldn't resist using Reilly's headline for this story.)

—U.S. Lion winners
All told, U.S. agencies scored nine Gold Lions in the Promo & Activation competition, with three shops taking home two prizes apiece.

FCB Chicago won two golds and a silver for "The Baby Stroller Test Ride" for Contour Strollers (an exact adult-size replica stroller allowed parents to savor the experience); Leo Burnett Chicago won two golds and a silver for its Van Gogh "Bedrooms" exhibit on behalf of the Art Institute of Chicago (a livable model of the artist's room was offered for rent on Airbnb); and McCann New York won two golds and a silver "The Field Trip to Mars" on behalf of Lockheed Martin (a school bus rigged with VR tech simulated a voyage to the Red Planet).

Along with VB&P, the single U.S. Gold winners were BBH New York for Netflix, which also won two silvers ("House of Cards: FU 2016") and R/GA Hustle in Los Angeles for Beats by Dre ("Straight Outta").

BBDO New York won a silver and a bronze for Lowe's.

The following agencies won silver: Grey New York for Pantene; McCann New York New York for Tommee Tippee; CP+B Boulder for Domino's; TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles for The Grammys; Grey New York for Volvo; MTV New York for MTV; Grey New York for National Football League.

These agencies won bronze: Grey San Francisco for Norton By Symantec; Goodby Silverstein & Partners San Francisco for Sonic Drive-In; Droga5 New York for Under Armour; We Believers New York for Saltwater Brewery; The Martin Agency Richmond for Geico; Grey New York for Procter & Gamble; Alma DDB Miami for Crowdrise; Fred & Farid New York for Remy Martin; 72andSunny New York for Samsung Electronics America; Commonwealth//McCann Detroit for Chevrolet; J. Walter Thompson New York for Tribeca Film Festival; Eleven San Francisco for Virgin America; and David Miami for Burger King.