Agency WorkInProgress Seeks Help From Russia in Attempt to Hack the Cannes Lions

A tongue-in-cheek OOH effort is running in Moscow

The agency took over Yerevan Plaza in Moscow. Work In Progress

WorkInProgress (WIP) is not exactly the most qualified candidate to win Agency Network of the Year at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity.

WIP is not an agency network at all, but rather a single agency opened in 2016 by veterans of CP+B’s Domino’s team. Technically, however, since Agency Network of the Year goes to the agency that wins the most Cannes Lions across all categories, they do qualify for the honor.

So where would an under-qualified candidate turn to to win such a distinction over higher profile candidates? Russia, of course.

WIP launched an out-of-home campaign in the country calling for a little help hacking the Cannes Lions category.

“We got some inspiration from the recent election that, you know, dreams can come true and you can win titles that you don’t deserve really at all with the help of some people, potentially in Russia. So we thought we’d really go out big for Cannes this year and try to win Agency Network of the Year by enlisting some help from overseas,” WIP partner and creative Matt Talbot told Adweek. “We thought that would be a great way to make a big splash at Cannes, if we could pull off the impossible.”

He added that the category is “one of the few that is based on a tabulation of votes … the total number of awards you win during the course of Cannes, so in a lot of ways that’s the category that’s the most hackable.”

To bring the campaign to life, WIP worked with a media company in Russia to get “a lot of Russian eyeballs” on the billboard, settling on crowded Erevan Plaza in Moscow. The signs were designed to attract eyeballs in the city via their bold red and yellow color scheme, a throwback to the Soviet era.

The agency did run into some difficulties navigating the country’s advertising guidelines.

“To say the least there were some interesting hurdles to jump through,” WIP partner and creative Andrew Lincoln said. “They really wanted to make sure we weren’t saying anything that was not real. They were worried about creating ‘fake news,’ they were very sensitive to that.”

“The biggest thing we got pushback on, through the rounds of translation, was how literal we needed to be,” Talbot added. “The copy on the board kept getting better and better with every iteration because it kept becoming more and more of a literal, bad English translation.”

While the tongue-in-cheek ad, which the agency clarified is not intended to actually ask anyone to hack the Cannes Lions category, is unlikely to result in WIP winning Agency Network of the Year, it could certainly generate some attention for the agency.

WIP is no stranger to such attention-grabbing OOH ads, having created the “Contextual Ruins” billboards promoting Adam Ruins Everything for truTV and the “world’s most remote pop-up shop” for 37.5 Technology.

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.