CANNES, FRANCE If Google's $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube defined last year's viral video craze, the Cannes Festival appears set to follow the trend.
The Cyber Lions' shortlist, announced this morning, includes 30 in the viral video category, dwarfing other categories.
The jury, led by Saatchi & Saatchi's worldwide creative director for interactive and emerging media Tom Eslinger, also shortlisted eight entries in the viral marketing category.
MDC Partners' Crispin Porter + Bogusky looks poised to repeat its strong showing last year, when it took home five Lions (including three golds) and was named Interactive Agency of the Year. The Miami shop has 16 entries on the shortlist, including work for Burger King, Slim Jim and Volkswagen.
Viral video scored strong in last year's festival, with Droga5 winning the Grand Prix for its "Still Free" video on behalf of Marc Ecko. The video, circulated online, appeared to show Ecko and others defacing Air Force One with his corporate motto. Crispin's work for Volkswagen GTI won for interactive campaign.
This year's finalists include the highly touted "Evolution" video from Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto, an effort for Dove showing how a plain Jane is made into a model. Also on the list: recent YouTube sensation "Sunglass Catch" by Cutwater promoting Ray-Ban sunglasses, as well as earlier hit "Tea Partay," done by Bartle Bogle Hegarty for Smirnoff Raw Tea.
Jimmy Maymann, parter of GoViral, a digital agency that has worked on viral campaigns for Coke, Nissan and Adidas, said, "The larger trend is we're moving from the traditional ad to more branded-content pieces that people have a relationship with and interact with, rather than a 30-second ad that's going to be viewed and then it's over."
The Cyber Lions will be awarded tomorrow night. A record 2,711 entries were received in the category this year, an 8 percent increase from 2006.