CANNES, France—This year’s Grand Prix for Brand Experience and Activation at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity went to McCann New York for its Microsoft campaign “Changing the Game.”
“Changing the Game” saw the creation of a new, adaptive Xbox controller that made for easier play for people with physical disabilities. Children who would be using the controller were consulted in its creation and created unboxing videos to spread awareness about how it functions.
The controllers were the centerpiece of Microsoft’s Super Bowl spot earlier this year in an ad called “We All Win.” The ad was a massive success: It was the most effective Super Bowl ad, according to stats from Unruly. Overall, the campaign garnered a whopping 1.1 billion impressions.
“Our intent with our ads is to illustrate a product and a human truth, and [to] deliver on our mission of empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more,” said Kathleen Hall, Microsoft’s corporate vp of brand, advertising and research, at the time of the ad’s release earlier this year. “In this instance, the Xbox Adaptive Controller helps the children enhance their gaming experience and compete in new ways. What better message for a premiere sporting event?”
Jaime Mandelbaum, chief creative officer for VMLY&R Europe and jury president for the Brand Experience and Activation Lions, said this ad was chosen as the Grand Prix in the category because it was not only uplifting and inspiring, but created real change.
“This project not only transforms the relationship that these people have with the brand, but it has a disproportionate impact in these people’s lives in terms of generating things like confidence,” said Mandelbaum. “You’re not just creating confidence [for] them and really are resetting their whole relationship as they grew up in formative years. It goes completely beyond changing only the relationship that the brand has with its consumers, that’s why we chose it as a Grand Prix.”
Mandelbaum also said that in today’s climate, brands can’t expect to be rewarded solely for talking about issues like diversity and inclusion—they need to take tangible action, too.
“We’re past the point of seeing themes like inclusion and gender equality being done only for awareness sake,” said Mandelbaum. “Now we need to see brands taking action and really being a part of the solution, not just talking about something that we heavily discussed.”
Taking home Gold Lions in the Brand Experience and Activation category are three U.S. agencies: Leo Burnett Chicago, TBWA/Chait/Day and Crispin Porter Bogusky+, Boulder for “Legal-Ade” for Kraft Heinz/Country Time Lemonade; “Billie Jean King Your Shoes” for Adidas; and “Paving for Pizza” for Domino’s Pizza, respectively. Other Gold Lions winners include AMVBBDO London’s “Clar” for Diageo, “Thisables” from McCann Tel Aviv for Ikea and “Perussian Prices” for Plaza Vea from Fahrenheit DDB Lima, among others.