P&G Dominates at Cannes Lions, Winning 2 Grand Prix in Film

'It's a Tide Ad' and 'The Talk' share top honors

Tide's Super Bowl ad starring David Harbour was a major hit in 2018.
Headshot of David Griner

CANNES, France—Procter & Gamble began the year by invading the Super Bowl with the inescapable “It’s a Tide Ad” campaign, and now the CPG giant has successfully conquered the Cannes Lions.

Two P&G spots, “It’s a Tide Ad” from Saatchi & Saatchi New York and “The Talk” from BBDO New York, shared the top spot in the ad festival’s high-profile Film category. The Tide campaign also won a Titanium Lion, recognizing work that advances and expands the creative industry.

The Tide campaign, which featured appearances by actor David Harbour in a wide range of fake ads that perfectly played to the tropes of TV spots, was a hit with jurors thanks to its humor, flawless craft and creativity within the seemingly traditional medium of broadcast ads.

“It’s a Grand Prix that really, really hijacked a big event in the U.S.,” said Film jury president Luiz Sanches, chief creative officer of AlmapBBDO. “It’s very popular, very funny and brings humor back to our industry.”

While Tide was roundly expected to do well in Film, its success in Titanium—an award created to celebrate the most inventive marketing ideas—was a surprise to some. And that includes the Titanium jury.

“All the judges that I talked to about ‘Tide Ad,’ were pissed that made it to the shortlist. We were pissed,” said PJ Pereira, Titanium Lions juror and creative chairman of Pereira O’Dell. “Why was a TV ad in the shortlist for Titanium? But then we saw the presentation and we saw the work, how it was way more than one spot. It’s taking one of the biggest and iconic stages in advertising and refreshing it.”

Almost every year, there’s debate about whether some winners deserve to be featured in the category, and Pereira admits Tide is one of those divisive campaigns. But he said the campaign’s success illustrates that the most challenging invention can sometimes be reinvention.

“Titanium Lions are for the ideas that will create new avenues for advertising,” Pereira said. “Sometimes a new avenue is an old avenue, refurbished and remade. We don’t need to abandon everything. We can take the things that exist and make them fresh again. Tide Ad is very hard-working, classic marketing but refreshed as if we were inventing that today.”

Another surprising aspect of Tide’s wins at Cannes is that they come after Publicis, parent company of Tide agency Saatchi & Saatchi New York, vocally pulled out of all award shows, including the Cannes Lions, for one year. P&G fronted the entry fees for the campaign, as did several other Publicis clients.

Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun today expressed pride in the recognition while still maintaining a tone of skepticism about the awards industry, which he has criticized for being overly costly and distracting from business goals.

“What matters is not awards,” Sadoun said regarding his clients’ decision to pay for their own submissions. “You can see that very iconic brands like P&G still believe creativity means something.”

A big night for ‘The Talk’

In addition to “It’s a Tide Ad,” P&G’s other big winner at the Cannes Lions award show tonight was “The Talk,” a short film that revived the company’s “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign to encourage constructive conversations around diversity.

Created by BBDO New York and directed by Malik Vitthal of The Corner Shop, the video takes viewers across multiple decades to show the heartbreaking conversations African-American parents must have with their children about everything from unfairness and casual racism to hate speech and racial profiling.

“In this film, it brings to the people the chance to talk, to think about and reflect on the days we’re living in today,” said Sanches.

Interviewed by Adweek at the Cannes Lions, Vitthal said “The Talk” walks a careful line of tackling highly emotional issues while still leaving the interpretation and reception to the audience.

“It was tailored for supporting the mothers talking to their children, and in that way I think it was successful,” he said. “And also it was successful in the way of allowing people to have their own experience with it, whether positive or negative. That’s ultimately what we wanted. That’s why we called it ‘The Talk.'”

P&G’s marketing chief said he takes tremendous pride in the recognition for a piece as powerful and important as “The Talk.”

“This honor reinforces the power and the responsibility of brands to be the courageous change we want and need in the world,” said Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer. “We’re humbled that ‘The Talk’ sparked dialogue, opened hearts and changed minds.”

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."