Two years in one Cannes

Many of the winners at this year’s festival were familiar, but there was still innovation to be found.

von Mark Tungate , Adforum

There was a natural but overwhelming sense of déjà-vu at Cannes this year. Since the festival was open to work that was unable to compete at the cancelled 2020 event, a number of old favourites scored big prizes – notably Ogilvy’s emotionally resonant “Courage Is Beautiful” for Dove, which may be destined for the history books as the iconic campaign of the Covid-19 era.

There was plenty of other work to inspire us, however. Take for example the prestigious Titanium Lions. The Grand Prix was won by the remarkable #wombstories by AMV BBDO for Essity, once again breaking new ground.

There were two other big news stories apart from the pandemic in 2020: the Black Lives Matter movement, and the US elections. The “Boards of Change” project from FCB Chicago involved both issues, pulling them together in an amazing solution that was both physical and digital.

It’s difficult to say how trendy Diesel jeans are these days, but the brand and its agency Publicis Italy are certainly doing cheeky, award-worthy work – and “Enjoy Before Returning” won them a Titanium. Like the “real” fake jeans it created for a previous campaign, Diesel took a well-known retail problem – people who wear new garments and then return them to the store for a refund – and turned it into a celebration of fashion.

If you’ve ever worked in print journalism – as the writer of this article has – you’ll know that yesterday’s newspaper is one of the least valuable items on the planet. But in an era of disinformation and “fake news”, genuine news uncovered by responsible journalists is more valuable than ever. For a project that won an Industry Craft Gold Lion, a newspaper in Brazil and the agency Africa came up with an idea that was right on the money.

The Digital Craft Lions are another source of forward-looking work. As public transport geeks, we couldn’t resist the MTA Live Subway Map: a “living” map of the New York Subway accessible from your phone. As well as being useful, it’s a beautiful piece of digital design from Brooklyn-based Work & Co.

It’s always great to see agencies using digital technology to provide real-world solutions. “Project Understood” from FCB Canada and Google is a perfect example. Voice-activated technology is everywhere these days – but what if your voice is non-standard? Some great minds decided to tackle the problem, with the help of AI.

Here’s something light but touching to wrap up with: when a school was forced to cancel its annual play because of…well, you know…180LA and Cox Communications went ahead and turned it into a beautifully entertaining animated film. It was all part of the telecom brand’s “Connections Project”, which was about maintaining meaningful connections during the crisis. Click here to make your day.

So what’s the trend to take away? You could say the winning work was all about engaging with real lives, telling real stories – and solving genuine problems.