Cannes Lions Winners’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year (According to Some Research)

By Doug Zanger 

Last week, over at the mothership, we wrote about a study from predictive marketing firm System1 that had a little research on how effective Cannes Lions-winning ads in the film category actually performed emotionally with the general public and what their prospects were for a brand’s long-term growth. In looking at work that walked away with Grand Prix and Gold Lions from 2010 to 2018, the news was pretty grim, especially for the top prize winners.

On a scale of one to five, some heavy hitters, loved among the creative set, landed at the bottom, including deservedly-loved “The Talk” for P&G and “The Truth Is Hard to Find” for the New York Times.

After the dust settled on this year’s crop of top Cannes winners, the company released research that showed another gloomy outlook.


Five Gold Lion-winning ads scored just one star, including “Viva La Vulva” for Libresse, “Apple at Work: The Underdogs” for, you know, Apple, “The Endless Ad” for Old Spice and Burger King’s BK Bot. John Lewis’ “Boy and the Piano” and Nike’s “Dream Crazier” managed to eke out three stars each, representing the highest scoring creative.

And “The Truth is Worth It?”, the Grand Prix winner from Droga5 for the New York Times? Yikes. One star. Let’s be honest, it is outstanding creative that people should pay attention to but, you know, we live in a Trump world that doesn’t exactly value the hard work of journalists.

But we digress.

Now, before you think this research is all willy-nilly, it’s important to point out that the U.K. agency trade body, the IPA (not the beer, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) has given it their blessing. Additionally, this is but one study that focuses on a finite piece of the puzzle: long-term brand growth.

“Juries are increasingly ignoring brand building communication and rewarding instant impact,” said John Kearon, System1 CEO. “In the real world, stunts and shock tactics don’t drive long-term growth. Brands shouldn’t have to choose between long and short term growth. By creating emotionally stimulating ads with a well-framed narrative that create intense feelings and brand recognition, brands can achieve both.”

Well, that’s all good and everything—and we’re pro long-term growth and not trying to harsh anyone’s mellow here—but if the current world of minuscule CMO tenures and demanding shareholders is any indication, we will probably see more of the same for years to come.