Nadia Comaneci Brings Her Perfect 10 to Cannes for Visa and TBWA

Agency, client and athlete dissect Olympic campaign

"There are no flag colors or team colors. Just the human spirit," O'Neill said. "We've given it a beautiful gold treatment this year. The idea was not to see the barriers that separate us, but to see what unites us."

Crucially, Morgan Freeman's voice has lended gravitas to the campaign, too. "The clouds parted, and God's voice came down," O'Neill said.

To tell this year's stories, the creatives combed through athletes' histories, looking for moments of human achievement that might not even be tied to athletic success. "We told the stories that really moved us," said O'Neill. "We looked at the athletes as humans, not even as athletes. Their level of success almost didn't matter. What mattered was their story. Did it almost make you cry on paper?"

O'Neill showed the spot with Lopez Lomong, the Sudanese child soldier who grew up to become a U.S. Olympian. And in premiering Comaneci's ad, he said her story was timeless. "She goes from Clark Kent to Superman, and you see that happen in 30 seconds," he said.


While they may have crossed the finish line in one piece, Lucio revealed that client and agency struggled initially with the development of "Go world," and said Lee Clow was the one who stepped in and warned Visa not to dilute it.

"This goes to the heart of who Lee Clow is," Lucio said. "He told me, 'You are going to make a mistake by stripping this campaign of its core essence.' I shrank. I backed down. And I said, 'You know, you're right.' … Thanks to Lee Clow, this campaign is what it is. Sometimes the client is wrong, and you need to fight for it."

"Go world" may be, in terms of messaging, one of the broadest pieces of emotional advertising ever made. Yet the execution of the campaign is also targeted and tactical. The ads are airing in dozens of countries, and each country gets unique versions—a local athlete will appear first in a spot, for example, followed by bigger global stars like Comaneci and Michael Phelps.

There is also a major social element this year, as Visa is inviting people to cheer online—by clicking on a Facebook app or even recording and uploading videos cheers for particular athletes.

These additions extend the immediacy of a campaign that was already a pioneer in operating in real time. In 2008, Visa crafted a spot congratulating Michael Phelps on his record eighth gold medal—and aired it in the pod right after he achieved it. (Had he lost, a different spot would have aired.) For the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Visa's spots included video footage from that very night of competition. Visa's next step, this year, will be to included fans cheering for particular athletes in spots celebrating those athletes the moment after they win.

One fan that Visa can certainly count on is also a famous athlete—Comaneci herself. "I really like the idea of the unique way they're telling the stories," she said. "The Olympics is all about the athletes. When the Games are over, the only thing you remember—the only thing that matters—is the success and the stories that were told."

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