Ad agency Mccann’s Dumb Ways to Die became the most awarded ad in the history of the Cannes advertising festival, with its offbeat public service announcement for Metro Trains Melbourne finishing the festival with 32 Lions, including five Grand Prix awards, 18 gold, three silver and six bronze.
The Australian-made advertisement featured animated characters being mauled, electrocuted, murdered and run over by trains, to educate young people about rail safety.
The campaign has taken five grand prix awards, the most that a campaign has ever notched up at the awards. It has won the film, radio, PR, direct and integrated categories.
The campaign took the biggest advertising festival by storm after generating more than 50 million views on YouTube, a million online pledges and an estimated $60m in free media coverage.
John Hegarty, Film Lions jury president and founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, said the campaign "moved beyond advertising" and became part of the "social fabric. I think it's actually a very interesting new way of using television," Hegarty said.
"Instead of relying upon a conventional 30-second spot to create something that is truly imaginative, Dumb Ways to Die captures people's imagination, and they in turn pass it on and become part of your media. It's a very cost-effective way of getting 70 million people."
John Mescall, Executive Creative Director of McCann Australia said the low-budget campaign's effectiveness was proof that "you don't need a lot of money to do something outstanding". "It gives heart to marketers everywhere," he said.
"This is a local client that has created the world's favourite campaign. You need a great idea and the commitment to execute it to the level to make it go viral. A lot of people I have spoken to think it's great that this isn't Nike or Volkswagen, but a train company."
Mescall said juries were impressed by a 21 per cent reduction in rail track-related accidents.
"What people understand is that we've created a framework for discussion around rail safety that did not exist six months ago. It was an invisible topic, but it's real now for people."
The online video was just the first phase of a long-term campaign which was launched in December. He said his team was devising a second phase.
Cyber Lions Winners
Intel's "Beauty Inside" from Pereira & O'Dell, San Francisco, and Oreo's "Daily Twist" work from DraftFCB earned the Cyber Grands Prix.
The winning campaigns reflected interesting poles within the category; one was a sophisticated film effort, the other, a print/design campaign. But both were amplified by the power of social media.
Intel/Toshiba's 'Beauty Inside' "Beauty Inside" was a "social film" that followed the story of Alex, a man who wakes up every day in a different body, which becomes a problem when he falls in love. Alex was played by actor Topher Grace, as well as an extended list of acting talent pulled, via social media, from the film's online viewership.
The idea was to celebrate that "it's what's inside that counts," a direct play on Intel's "It's inside" tagline. Like its predecessor, "Inside," a previous campaign starring Emmy Rossum as a woman trying to escape her kidnapper, the film took shape over the course of its run via the active participation of its audience.
Meanwhile Oreo's "Daily Twist" celebrated the brand's 100th birthday over 100 days by posting in social media daily pictures of the cookie, made over to reflect current events (such as Gay Pride week and the landing of the Mars Rover). The campaign kicked off with an image of the Oreo in rainbow colors to celebrate Gay Pride Week and ended with a stunt that showed the final cookie (a high-five) being made live in a virtual office in New York's Times Square.
The jury president for Cannes Cyber Lions was Bob Greenberg, founder, chairman and CEO of R/GA, who presided over a jury with members from 22 countries.
According to Greenberg, the Intel/Toshiba campaign "was really about the incredible storytelling capability -- but it ties very specifically to the 'Intel Inside' campaign and the hidden value that Intel has in terms of the chips that they make."
Oreo's "Daily Twist" campaign "brought a brand back to life," he said. "It made people fall in love with a cookie. If you can do that for a brand that's been around for 100 years, that's interesting."
Both campaigns showed "how big a proposition it is when you merge web, mobile and social together."
Juror Flo Heiss, executive creative director at U.K. agency Dare, noted that the Grand Prix winners were "bookends of what's possible today," in the cyber category. While Intel/Toshiba was a "well-crafted, beautifully executed, deep engagement piece," Oreo was unabashedly a branding effort, created in a newsroom-like setting.
Greenberg said that the quality and number of the film submissions in the category have hit a high. "We have more videos than we've ever had before, and they're at a much higher quality," he said. "Some have been done by people in the digital space, some from traditional outbound marketing.
The quality has gone up substantially and that's an interesting new phenomenon." That poses an interesting contrast to the film category, which saw a notable drop in submissionsthis year, from 3125 to 3475 in 2012.
Other big winners
Channel 4's Meet the Superhumans campaign for the Paralympic London 2012 Games, which featured the Public Enemy track Harder Than You Think, picked up a Gold Lion.
Jury member Carlo Cavallone, executive creative director at agency 72andsunny, expanded on the judging process: "[Meet the Superhumans] is an amazing campaign, one of the golds that went through [the judging process] immediately," he said. "Everyone felt it had the highest level of craft. It puts an issue that was really important before London 2012 to raise awareness of the Paralympics [and] they were hyper successful … Dumb Ways to Die was a tough contender. Amazing music piece, amazing editing."
WPP-owned agency Ogilvy & Mather picked up a gold for a Unilever Dove campaign. Mother London won a gold for a campaign for Ikea.
Rise of emotional ads
Commercials with a social conscience took the spotlight on the last day of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Ads that promoted self-esteem, touted safety and celebrated diversity nabbed some of the most prestigious honours on Saturday, as the world's largest advertising awards and trade show wrapped up.
Dove’s "Real Beauty Sketches" picked up two gold awards, using a forensic sketch artist to show women that they are often too critical of themselves. The campaign won the Grand Prix in the Titanium, which honors novel, innovative marketing. Titanium jury President Dan Wieden, co-founder of ad firm Wieden+Kennedy, said the campaign stood out because it put forth a message that would truly help consumers. It was created by Ogilvy & Mather, Brazil.
Long form content warning
Hegarty said that just because the internet is free of the restrictions of the time limits governing TV ads does not mean that agencies should make long online video pieces.
"There is a great danger in that word 'long-form'," he said. "One of the great things about films is the ability to edit."
Jury member Ant Keogh gave a warning to agencies to think hard before submitting long-form TV series-like content for judging in future. "Is it as good as an HBO show? [Because] that is what you are up against," he said.
The Cannes ad festival takes place every year on the Cote d'Azur in France. It is being increasingly embraced by global brands such as Coca-Cola, on the basis of a link between creative effectiveness and sales growth.