20 Campaigns That Will Win at Cannes

Leo Burnett's Mark Tutssel makes one last set of predictions

Still from Nissin ramen ad Akuma no Kimura
Wholesome Japanese ramen brand Nissin took its advertising in a demonic, metal new direction with Akuma No Kimura.
Dentsu Tokyo

For the past 17 of his 34 years with Leo Burnett, Mark Tutssel has been sharing his predictions for which marketing campaigns will win at the Cannes Lions. And, as one of the only agency leaders to serve as a Cannes jury president five times, he’s had a 100% success rate in recent years.

Tutssel is just weeks away from retirement, but he agreed to do one last prediction list. Here are his selections, with summary and analysis by Adweek.

John Lewis & Partners, “The Boy and the Piano,” adam&eveDDB

With his farewell tour underway and a biopic coming to theaters, Elton John was already at risk of saturating pop culture when British retailer John Lewis released its holiday spot in 2018. But the brand and adam&eveDDB brought a fresh and heartwarming new perspective to the singer’s career by telling his life story in reverse, tracing it back to the gift of his first piano.

The New York Times, “The Truth Is Worth It,” Droga5

As President Donald 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.

Burger King, “Whopper Detour,” 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.

Nike, “Dream Crazy,” Wieden + Kennedy Portland

Few ads have had the immediate cultural impact of Nike’s “Dream Crazy,” which kicked off the 30th anniversary of “Just Do It” by featuring polarizing quarterback Colin Kaepernick. W+K Portland’s ad set off a cacophonous debate around players protesting police violence. Critics raged, and Trump tweeted, “What was Nike thinking?” But the campaign was credited with a 31% sales increase.

Essity, “Viva La Vulva,” AMV BBDO

When Essity—parent of brands including Bodyform, Libresse and Saba—began selling hygiene products like washes and wipes, it took the lessons of its industry-rattling #BloodNormal campaign, which brought accuracy to how periods are portrayed in marketing, and tackled a new set of stigmas facing women. The result is an unforgettable celebration of vulvas, cleverly animated via everything from oysters to fortune cookies.

New York Public Library, “Insta Novels,” 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 works like Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis into brightly illustrated Instagram Stories. The effort brought in 140,000 new followers, with the “Insta Novels” read 300,000 times in just a few months.

HBO, “Westworld: The Maze,” 360i

Packed with more than 11,000 lines of scripted and voice-acted dialogue, “Westworld: The Maze” was HBO’s first foray into voice-activated skills—and one that proved the sprawling potential of a medium best known for telling you the weather. The game boasted 60 potential storylines and two hours of unique gameplay.

Kraft Heinz Country Time Lemonade, “Legal-ade,” Leo Burnett Chicago

Is there a more compelling David-and-Goliath story than children battling City Hall? With “Legal-ade,” Country Time Lemonade offered to cover the legal expenses incurred by children running lemonade stands who get fined for operating a business without a license. It’s a rare scenario, but it scored national PR for the brand as a hero to aspiring entrepreneurs everywhere.

Adidas, “Billie Jean King Your Shoes,” TBWA\Chiat\Day New York

Decades after Billie Jean King won the “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs, she remains an icon of fearless individuality. To celebrate that legacy—and the match’s 45th anniversary—Adidas created a limited-edition shoe modeled after the blue pair she wore in 1973. But if you couldn’t get your hands on those, the brand (and King) encouraged you to spray paint any pair of shoes blue in solidarity.

Skittles, “Broadway the Rainbow,” DDB Chicago

Last year, Skittles and DDB created a Super Bowl ad that could be seen by only one person. This year, the brand’s Super Bowl ad could be seen only on Broadway. Absent from the Big Game altogether, the candymaker 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.

Pernod Ricard Ruavieja, “The Time We Have Left,” Leo Burnett Madrid

Can an algorithm tell you how many more times you’ll see a loved one before one of you is gone? If it could, would you want to know? This Spanish campaign for liqueur brand Ruavieja used statistical data to estimate how many more times two people—friends, siblings, an adult and his or her parent, etc.—were likely to get together again, based on their life expectancy and current rate of visits. The result could be jarring, but also helped some of the participants better prioritize how they’re spending their time.

Amazon Prime U.K., “Great Shows Stay With You,” Droga5 London

A powerful show can have a powerful effect on you—perhaps even well after you’re done watching. In this delightful series of vignettes from Droga5 London, we see how viewers of popular Prime streaming series like Vikings and Lucifer become more confident in their work and personal lives by binging shows with potent characters.

Centre Pompidou, “Souvenirs de Paris,” Marcel Paris

How can a Parisian destination—even one as fascinating as contemporary art hub the Pompidou Center—compete with landmarks so iconic that they can be found in keychain or snow globe form at any souvenir shop? The answer: by making its own knickknacks and flooding the tourist-oriented shops with them. Marcel created tiny keepsakes in the shape of the Pompidou, known for its exterior utilities and escalator, and gave them out to be sold. The campaign also planted its own street sellers to compellingly promote the destination, and scanning a QR code on each souvenir popped up directions via smartphone.

Nissin, “Akuma No Kimura,” Dentsu Tokyo

A cute chicken eating chicken-flavored ramen? That’s already pretty metal. But Nissin, Japan’s oldest instant noodle brand, decided to crank it up many more notches with this spot for its Evil Hot Noodle product. It’s not just one weird ad, but rather a complete upending of Nissin’s brand image as a wholesome marketer with adorable content. Dentsu played with that image by turning the ad 180 degrees and making it a screaming comet of fury that will scorch your soul with the eternal flames of … chicken ramen.

Shiseido, “My Crayon Project,” R/GA Tokyo

In 1962, Crayola officially changed its “flesh” crayon color to “peach” in recognition of the explicit bias in trying to say that any one color represents human skin. But today in Japan, one color—”hada-iro,” or “skin color”—still is regarded as the default color for people. Cosmetics brand Shiseido confronted this issue by creating a range of subtly different crayons customized to the skin tones of different school children, even naming each one after the child. The project helped kids feel more accepted while also reminding them that people come in many skin tones, and each one is equally lovely.

Ikea, “Museum of Romanticism,” McCann Madrid

Is Ikea posh enough for your pad? For those who think not—likely because of the Scandinavian retailer’s minimalist aesthetic and low price point—McCann Madrid decided to pull off a clever challenge. Expanding on the agency’s campaign about Ikea items hiding in plain sight among lavish furnishings, McCann convinced Madrid’s Museum of Romanticism to let its team plant Ikea pieces throughout the furniture exhibits. An app let visitors try to spot the retailer’s items, and the scavenger hunt was extended online and into Instagram too.

Microsoft Xbox, “Football Decoded,” McCann London

What do you do when you want to promote your FIFA video game but don’t have the rights to officially advertise around FIFA? Microsoft Xbox found itself in that bind when Sony PlayStation bought up the exclusive rights to advertise the game FIFA 18, available on both consoles. So Xbox and McCann London got creative in pushing the edges of what they could advertise. Instead of showing game footage, they turned match highlights into video game commands in real time, showing the buttons that would need to be pressed to pull off a real-world move that just happened. Players noticed and enjoyed taking part in the “code.”

Carlings, “adDress the Future,” Virtue Nordic

Fast fashion is notoriously destructive to the environment and the people who toil to assemble it. But in a world of rapidly shifting trends and tight budgets, what other options are there for sleek looks with minimal negative impact? Scandinavian retailer Carlings took a revolutionary approach with its answer: create clothing that never exists at all. The “adDress the Future” clothing line, created with Vice-owned agency Virtue, let fans create fully digital outfits, merge them with pictures of the user, and create personalized images of fashion that would only ever be worn on Instagram.

FELGTB, “The Hidden Flag,” LOLA MullenLowe Madrid

When it comes to LGBT acceptance, Russia is far from being a world leader. The country offers no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and its law against spreading pro-LGBT “propaganda” to youths has been criticized as being so broadly phrased, it could prohibit almost any public support of equality for the LGBT community. In subtle protest of the law, agency LOLA MullenLowe and advocacy group FELGTB sent six activists to the 2018 World Cup in Russia wearing their home nations’ colors—which, when properly arranged, created a rainbow in public.

Netflix, “Narcos: The Censor’s Cut,” J. Walter Thompson Bangkok, Thailand

Advertising creatives have a long and storied rivalry with the censors—whether government-imposed or corporate—who tell them their ads are too racy or offensive for public consumption. So when Netflix brought the drug-murder-sexfest Narcos Mexico to heavily censored Thailand, the marketing team decided to have a little fun with the nanny state. “Narcos: The Censor’s Cut” removed all objectionable images from the show’s trailer without removing the scenes themselves. The result was a campaign built around laughably redacted clips, which only fueled more public interest in the show.

So what are your surefire picks for this year’s Cannes Lions? Hit me on Twitter at @Griner, and keep an eye there for our updates throughout the week of the festival.

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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