The Story of the Brilliant, Incendiary Trump Ad That Has Cannes Buzzing

Scholz & Friends on their gold Lion winner

CANNES, France—It’s one of the most memorable images of this Cannes Lions festival. A stack of Der Tagesspiegel newspapers, with a cover photo of Donald Trump repeated more than a dozen times, elongating his face and giving the illusion of a very, very big mouth.

“Will he bully his way into the White House?” asks the headline.

The ad, from German agency Scholz & Friends, was an instant classic when it launched last year, and has been one of the more high-profile executions honored at the festival. The campaign won a gold Lion and two silver Lions across the Print and Outdoor categories.

The visual trick is delightful, and the fact that it uses the product to achieve it is also fantastic.

Adweek spoke to Matthias Spaetgens, chief creative officer of Scholz & Friends in Berlin, about the work. First, check out the original Trump print ad here:

“As you can imagine, the U.S. elections have been one of the biggest news topics last year in Germany,” Spaetgens tells us. “Our task was taking up this highly discussed issue, and at the same time inseparably linking it with the actual product itself. So we ended up showing nothing but a picture-filling pack shot of the newspaper—in a way which clearly pointed out the topic.”

The campaign was print and outdoor only, but was shared widely by people in social media. And while it was made for the 2016 elections, it has become even more popular lately.

“It seems the open-mouth picture of President Trump became a symbol of his character and political style,” Spaetgens says. “The social media hype started after the G7 summit at the end of May in Italy, when Trump denied collaboration and Merkel said Europe can no longer rely on the U.S. and must fight for its own destiny.”

Spaetgens says Der Tagesspiegel is not a left-leaning paper, and that the Trump ad was not intended to be a political statement but rather merely “a symbol of the ‘dirty’ U.S. election and debates.” He acknowledged, however, that people are indeed sharing it as a political statement.

“It seems it helps to have a picture to express your anger and disappointments, especially when you have no other weapons,” he says.

The campaign included two other executions—one covering the migrant crisis and one about the European Football Championship. See those below. Spaetgens says the migrant and goalkeeper covers were real Der Tagesspiegel front pages, but he couldn’t recall if the Trump cover was a real edition of the paper or not.

The agency also made GIFs and a short TV spot, which you can also see below.