Top Honors at Cannes Lions–Viral Marketing: Dissected

Category: SaaS Management
As the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival drew to a close on June 25, the Film Lions jury announced this year’s winning commercial advertisements. The list is more or less a collection of worldwidecorporate genius–but even more so, a conglomeration of high-quality direction, sharp wit, and brief but compelling story lines.

There’s a lot to be learned from ads like these, especially in a day and age where the competing commercial shorts have been uploaded to sites like YouTube and Vimeo before the winners are even announced. The commercials can go viral and build popularity before ever hitting the television.

Indeed, this year’s Grand Prix winner, a Nike commercial, had already accumulated online momentum for several months before its Cannes success. It’s not surprising why, either, as the ad celebrates the world’s favorite sport—soccer—and its most popular event, the World Cup. With cameos from renowned athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Kobe Bryant, Nike piles incomparable starpower atop an already masterful short in terms of story and art direction.

A hilarious, slow-motion ad by Carlton Draught took home a Gold Medal, the second most prestigious prize. In a much simpler and surely lower-budget commercial than the Nike winner, Carlton plays out a night out at lethargic speed, making those moments of joy and emphasis (brought on by alcohol, and more specifically their product) all the more entertaining. It proves that an ad can go viral without having visual or narrative complexity.



In a different vein, an additional Gold Medal winner strikes another chord. Among my indubitable favorites, this clip–a music video that truly embodies the agency’s “See the Person, Not the Disability” campaign–progressively reveals a surprising and poignant turn in events as a dark room illuminates to show the atypical men and women behind the music. It is a simple but profound example of how very little, if performed correctly, can achieve a great deal to spread a message.

Though different, each of these ads has achieved popularity and renown because it appeals to a core human interest. In one, competition breeds fanfare and infamy; in the next, a simple editing strategy points out the humor in congregation and merriment; and in the last, the power of music acts as a segue to acceptance.

In each of these Lions victors, the theme, not the production quality, sells the product and the message.

So, yeah—your business might not be able to afford a Kobe Bryant cameo like the big guns at Nike. With a honed focus and a visually evocative ad, though, you can sell your brand online just as effectively.

To see more winning commercials at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, visit

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