Which of These 20 Boundary-Pushing Campaigns Will Win Cannes’ Coveted Titanium Lion?

U.S. projects make up more than 50% of finalists

HBO's #ForTheThrone campaign brought Game of Thrones' final season to life through experiential marketing, a Super Bowl ad and the 'Create for the Throne' art project.
HBO

While most award categories at advertising’s annual Cannes Lions festival are pretty clear-cut, Titanium has been a notable (and intentional) exception.

The Titanium Lion was founded in 2003 to recognize work that “causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward,” Wieden + Kennedy co-founder Dan Wieden famously said when announcing the initiative.

In the more than 15 years since, Titanium has become one of the most sought-after prizes at Cannes, with the nominees and winners often sparking more debate than nearly any other category. Last year’s top winner in Titanium was The Palau Pledge, which blended creativity and public policy to help avert environmental destruction in the island nation of Palau.

This year’s Titanium shortlist has been announced, and as you’ll see below, it spans many of advertising’s most talked-about campaigns of the past year—along with a few that might be new to you.

The United States dominated the shortlist, with a daunting 11 of the 20 finalists coming from U.S. shops. The U.K. had two, and there was one shortlisted nominee each from Spain, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Colombia, Poland and France. Winners will be announced at the Cannes Lions awards show on June 21.

Domino’s, ‘Paving for Pizza’
Agency: Crispin Porter Bogusky

Brands often like to say how much they care about you and your community, but how many are willing to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty? Domino’s sparked national attention and acclaim last year when it offered to help fix potholes in towns across America (by way of $5,000 grants to local governments willing to accept the chain’s generosity). The “Paving for Pizza” campaign drew 137,000 requests in its first two months, motivating the brand to expand it to all 50 states.

Adidas, ‘Billie Jean King Your Shoes’
Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day New York

As part of the Adidas “Here to Create Change” campaign, the shoe brand commemorated the 45th anniversary of Billie Jean King’s victory in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs. The first step was creating limited-edition shoes similar to her iconic blue pair from her showdown with Riggs, but fans were also encouraged to make their own versions by spraying blue paint onto any shoes they could find—including competitor brands.

Columbia Journalism Review, ‘The Fake News Stand’
Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day New York

Can fake news fight fake news? The Columbia Journalism Review hoped so with this project that stocked a newsstand in New York with fictional magazines whose cover stories were drawn from false headlines that had circulated widely online. Inside each publication was CJR’s guide to spotting misinformation before you share it.

Microsoft, ‘Changing the Game’
Agency: McCann New York

With the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Microsoft found a way to create an even playing field for gamers with disabilities or limited motor function. Through innovative and customizable interface design, the project allowed these players to finally move and interact as quickly as their friends.

Nike, ‘Dream Crazy’
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Nike kicked off the 30th anniversary of its Just Do It tagline with an ad that quickly drew all eyes onto the brand. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, sidelined after kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence, suddenly became the face of the brand, with his truncated career summarized by the line, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” The print ad, which debuted as a tweet by Kaepernick, elicited vocal criticism from Donald Trump and others, but Nike’s sales saw substantial growth.

Tommy Hilfiger, ‘Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive’
Agency: Wunderman Thompson New York

“Designed with and for people with disabilities,” this line of accessible clothing marked Tommy Hilfiger’s commitment to expanding beyond fashion’s traditional obsession with idealized body types. Magnetic snaps and other features were designed into the garments in ways that make them easier for people of all abilities to put on or take off.

Skittles, ‘Broadway the Rainbow’
Agency: DDB Chicago

Last year, Skittles and DDB created a Super Bowl ad that could only be seen by one person. This year, the brand’s Super Bowl ad could only be seen on Broadway. Absent from the Big Game altogether, the candy maker crafted a short but fully formed musical starring Michael C. Hall and performed just once in front of 1,500 people. The plot, naturally, centered on an existential crisis about starring in a long-form advertisement.

The New York Public Library, ‘Insta Novels’
Agency: Mother New York

With its breezy vibe and lightning-fast navigation, Instagram might seem like the opposite of weighty literature. But the NYPL married the two worlds in a wonderful and addictive way by turning stories like Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis into brightly illustrated Instagram Stories. The effort brought in 140,000 new followers, and the “Insta Novels” were read 300,000 times in just a few months.

Burger King, ‘The Whopper Detour’
Agency: FCB New York

Calling the business results “insane,” Burger King global CMO Fernando Machado recently wrote in Adweek that Whopper Detour generated an ROI of 37 to 1. By offering fans a 1-cent Whopper—if they drove to a McDonald’s location to unlock the mobile app coupon—Burger King vaulted to No. 1 on the app charts and set a new bar for trolling your competitor.

The New York Times, ‘The Truth Is Worth It’
Agency: Droga5

As President Trump has continued escalating his denouncements of the U.S. news media, Droga5 has found new and compelling ways to celebrate one of Trump’s most frequent targets: The New York Times. This campaign tells the stories behind the newspaper’s major investigations with a level of granularity reminiscent of All the President’s Men.

HBO, ‘#ForTheThrone’
Agencies: Droga5, 360i, Giant Spoon

With the final season of Game of Thrones nigh, HBO built anticipation into a scorching inferno with its #ForTheThrone campaign, which included work from multiple agencies across real-world activations (Giant Spoon’s “Bleed for the Throne” experience at SXSW), social content (360i’s Create for the Throne initiative) and even a Super Bowl ad (Droga5 and Wieden + Kennedy’s rug-pulling crossover spot that brought Westeros to the world of Dilly Dilly).

Global campaigns shortlisted for Titanium Lions:

• elDiario.es and FELGTB, “The Hidden Flag” from LOLA MullenLowe Madrid (Spain)
• Aeromexico, “A World Without Borders” from Ogilvy Colombia
• Essity, “Viva La Vulva” from AMV BBDO (U.K.)
• Reporters Without Borders, “The Uncensored Playlist” from DDB Berlin (Germany)
• An-Nahar, “The Blank Edition” from Impact BBDO Dubai (UAE)
• Huawei, “StorySign” from FCB Inferno London (U.K.)
• Gazeta.pl, Mastercard and BNP Paribas, “The Last Ever Issue” from VMLY&R Poland
• L’Oréal Paris, “The Non-Issue” from McCann Paris (France)
• Ikea, “Thisables” from McCann Tel Aviv (Israel)