Look, despite the mountains of brand marketing manure we’re all forced to confront every minute of every day each year, it really is practically impossible to narrow down all the best brand marketing creativity to just five picks.
The scale and scope of the work are as vast as our own media consumption. It’s why among the upwards of 15,000 people heading to the south of France next week, for what’s often been called the Oscars of advertising, will be people from IBM and Deloitte, mingling with people from Snap and Facebook, strolling with names like A$AP Rocky, Helen Mirren, Elizabeth Moss, and Halsey, all surrounded by some of the best and brightest from ad agencies around the world.
Anyway, that’s a long way to say for the purposes of this pre-Cannes list, I’m sticking to the good ol’ fashioned film category, as good a barometer as any for brand creativity, since its demise has been reported for about a decade now, yet it keeps on ticking. Of course efforts like Addict Aide’s “Like My Addiction,” TAC Victoria’s “Meet Graham,” and State Street’s “Fearless Girl” will also be highly awarded across other categories. Fear not, I’ll put together a Top 5 winners post after the festivities have wrapped on the Croisette. So, caveats aside, here are five ads–and pretty safe bets–we’re pulling for heading into Cannes Lions. En avant!
Sandy Hook Promise “Evan”
WHAT: A PSA that brilliantly illustrates the need to watch for warning signs of gun violence.
WHO: Sandy Hook Promise, BBDO New York
WHY WE CARE: Sandy Hook Promise says that 80% of school shooters and 70% of individuals who completed suicides told someone of their violent plans prior to taking action, yet no interventions weren’t made. This expertly told story aims to raise our awareness to better see and hear the potential warning signs. As BBDO New York creative director Peter Alsante told me back in December, one of the biggest challenges in crafting a story for this issue is that it’s often difficult for most people to relate to. “It’s such a tragedy, and so many people say, ‘That’s terrible but it would never happen here.’ Our big goal or challenge going into this is to take this thing that’s so abstract to so many people, and frame it in a way that it becomes believable, relatable, something tangible,”
Kenzo “My Mutant Brain”
WHAT: WHAT?!? Possibly the greatest fragrance ad of all time, directed by Spike Jonze and featuring Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers, The Nice Guys) moving her body–and face–in mesmerizing, and sometimes explosive, ways to the sounds of “Mutant Brain” by Sam Spiegel and Ape Drums.
WHO: Kenzo, Spike Jonze
WHY WE CARE: Aside from just being a swift kick to the funballs of your brain, it’s also a result of creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s approach to advertising and their goal to infiltrate culture with culture (which also helped them land Kenzo on Fast Company‘s 2017 Most Innovative Companies list). “We’re cultural nerds and buffs, and it’s exciting for us to tap into culture in any way we can,” Leon told me back in October. “Two years ago we said, ‘How can we do advertising that feels different?’ I came up with the idea to do short films and then do print ads that were done up like movie posters for the short films. Super simple idea. And it worked out really well for us.”
WHAT: A Samsung ad that takes on a new perspective for the inspirational potential of its Gear VR.
WHO: Samsung, Leo Burnett
WHY WE CARE: It’s product demo as an expression of pure joy. Not an easy feat. That, and pairing Elton John and a charming, giant flightless bird can never go wrong.
Channel 4 “We’re the Superhumans”
WHAT: A fun, inspirational look at the athletes to promote the UK broadcaster’s coverage of the Paralympic Games in Rio.
WHO: Channel 4, 4Creative London
WHY WE CARE: For too many, the Paralympics get relegated to afterthought once the Olympic Games are over. Here, Channel 4 serves up plenty of reasons to watch, celebrating the athletes’ accomplishments on and off the athletic field of competition, in a delightfully inspirational way, all set to a snappy Sammy Davis cover.
Donate Life “The World’s Biggest Asshole”
WHAT: A PSA campaign to raise awareness, particularly with young men, about the importance of being an organ donor.
WHO: Donate Life, The Martin Agency
WHY WE CARE: Narrated by Will Arnett, this is the story of Coleman F. Sweeney (played by Thomas Jane), one of the world’s preeminent a-holes. Knowing that millennials like to be entertained even when the topic is serious, that they like darker, edgier storytelling, and see through marketing BS faster than any other demographic, and if they like something they share it with friends, Coleman seemed like a great way to get a point across.
Martin Agency group creative director Wade Alger told me back in August, “We also realized given today’s media-drenched society, we wouldn’t just be competing with other nonprofit work that is out there–we are competing with everything that is out there,” says Alger. “So we had to do something that really stood out. And while the campaign uses language that may be startling to some, it is increasingly routine among younger audiences.”