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The Brand World's Best Ideas: 12 Campaigns That Will Win At Cannes 2014

From personally motivated, world-changing ideas to a big boring brand that thrilled the Internet—these are the frontrunners for glory at the big Cannes adfest this month.

  • 01 /12 | Volvo "Epic Split"

    Who says you need the hottest celebrity, or a product the average person cares about, to create a must-watch piece of brand content? Volvo and Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors created the "Live Test" campaign to demonstrate the capabilities of the automaker's new trucks to discerning potential truck buyers. The demonstrations, though, happened to be a series of breathtakingly dangerous-looking stunts, culminating in this truly "Epic Split." The video amassed over 100 million views (according to Visible Measures' True Reach) making it the most viral auto ad of all time (a title formerly held by VW's "The Force").

  • 02 /12 | Terre des Hommes "Sweetie"

    Children's right organization Terre des Hommes, agency Lemz and a team of crack animators and digital artists conjured a CG girl convincing enough to lure online predators. A great example of a self-started project that used creativity and technology to solve a real-world problem.

  • 03 /12 | Not Impossible/Intel "Project Daniel"

    The Ebeling Group and Not Impossible Labs founder Mick Ebeling, moved by the story of a double amputee teen, rallied an A-Team of experts and launched a 3D-printed prosthetic lab and training facility in Sudan. That teen, Daniel, got a new prosthetic arm as did others after team taught locals to print 3D prostheses. Read more here.

  • 04 /12 | Anchorman2 Campaign

    The Anchorman2 campaign really should take a top prize in the Integrated/Titanium Lions because the campaign took integrated marketing to an extreme, new level. Paramount, Wieden + Kennedy and digital shop Zemoga created an unending stream of bespoke meta content, featuring the stars of the film, that played out over paid advertising (including a major cross-promotion with Chrysler), Tumblr, cable news, YouTube and every other available channel.

  • 05 /12 | "Climate Name Change"

    Agency Barton F. Graf 9000 modestly proposed that the World Meteorological Organization officially change its naming conventions so that weather events would bear the monikers of politicians who refuse to acknowledge, let alone work to address, the climate change that's making those weather events more frequent, and intense. A video (viewed 3 million times) drove to an online petition and list of deniers and obstructionists. The campaign was an earned media blockbuster, with glowing coverage in every media outlet everywhere (Esquire: "Best. Idea. Ever"). It was a great way to generate discussion of a dead serious problem, with comic results (imagined weather forecasts reporting that "Marco Rubio is expected to pound the eastern seaboard tonight"). It was also the campaign that made ad legend Dan Wieden say, "I wish I did that," so any Cannes recognition will be redundant.

  • 06 /12 | British Airways "Look Up"

    British Airways and Ogilvy London used "custom built surveillance technology" to create a gee-whiz effect in digital outdoor. When BA flights passed overhead, the kid on the billboard pointed to the plane, while the display referred to the (correct) flight number and departure city.The brand called it a first for U.K. advertising, but we're guessing it won't be a last.

  • 07 /12 | Newcastle "If We Made It"

    With the Super Bowl getting so expensive, and predictable, Newcastle and agency Droga5 decided to engineer a clever bit of ambush marketing that was fully in keeping with the non-premium persona of the brand. The campaign kicked off with a teaser for the blockbuster S**** B**** ad Newcastle would have made and continued with a self-aware turn from "hottest girl in your improv class" hot actress Anna Kendrick.

  • 08 /12 | Tourism Victoria "Remote Controlled Tourist"

    If you were a Melbourne-curious traveler, Clemenger BBDO and Tool of North America allowed you "go before you go" with this clever real-time interactive experience that combined utility and entertainment. Virtual visitors could get an authentic, up-close look at the city by issuing commands to a pair of real tourists outfitted with helmet-mounted streaming video cameras, microphones, GPS, with all the collected data compiled into a crowd-sourced city guide.

  • 09 /12 | Skype "Stay Together/Born Friends"

    Agency Pereira & O'Dell reminded us of the power of Skype to forge and maintain human bonds in the "Stay Together" campaign (read about it here). The effort came to an emotional peak with the affecting "Born Friends" ad. A quick look at the social stats and the comments in the post we did on the ad tells you what you need to know: get some Kleenex ready.

  • 10 /12 | Water Is Life "Drinkable Book"

    This project, from water relief nonprofit, Water Is Life, DDB New York and teams at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia, is also shortlisted for an Innovation Lion. You can't really drink the book, per se, but its pages are made of a revolutionary filter paper coated with silver nanoparticles that can kill off the deadly waterborne diseases that kill 3.4 million people each year. The video sends you to to learn more about how to get the books to the people who need them (it's not spelled out on the site how to directly do that, one assumes you're meant to just donate generally).

  • 11 /12 | Apple "Misunderstood"

    After some sloppy ad outings, Apple came back with an emotional reminder: Don't judge (and don't forget to record everything!)

  • 12 /12 | Honda "Sound Of Honda/Ayrton Senna"

    "Driving data is more than a sequence of numbers. It is a record of dialogs between man and machine," according to the architects of this campaign. If jurors are looking for a unique use of data, they'll cotton to this collaboration between Dentsu, Honda Motor and Rhizomatiks which back F1 driver Ayrton Senna’s engine sound from a record-breaking lap 24 years ago in the form of an light and sound installation.

Jean-Claude Van Damme may or may not have rang in 2013 with a toast and the solemn vow: "My splayed legs and I WILL front the brand world's biggest video this year!" But damn if the Muscles from Brussels didn't do exactly that, starring in "Epic Split," a video that became one of the year's biggest viral hits, a demonstration of the power of product-driven (ha) marketing, and proof that any product category can be interesting in the right hands (or thighs).

The viral smash, part of Volvo's ongoing "Live Test" campaign is one of the likely big winners at the Cannes Festival of Creativity, the ad world's biggest award show and conference taking place June 15-21 in France.

Of course, the video wows for the stunning physical and mechanical (and musical) feat on display. But that's not all that's notable about the "Live Tests" campaign. Here was a deeply unsexy, potentially forgettable B-to-B assignment, brought to life by a marketing team that realized that to make any mark with its truck-driving targets, they needed to transcend a traditional B-to-B mindset. Step one was bringing the job to a top creative agency not exactly known for its B-to-B aesthetic. The agency in turn capitalized on the simple insight that truck drivers are not immune to emotions and peer influence (you can read more about the making of the campaign in our upcoming story).

Volvo set itself up for success by building a campaign around Internet-friendly stunts, but then completely surpassed our wildest stunt expectations by orchestrating a series of thrilling tests of Volvo trucks' performance and engineering integrity. The stunts—a tightrope walk between two moving trucks, a Volvo truck and Volvo CEO dangling high above an icy harbor—were genuinely death-defying but they were also rock-solid product demonstrations, unlike some of the gratuitous scare-vertising we've seen lately (seriously people, someone is going to get stabbed. Just stop).

Another video, driven by a deft use of technology and digital design, will loom large in the Cannes results. "Sweetie," from the children's rights organization Terre des Hommes and Dutch agency Lemz is a remarkable, computer-generated, little girl who lured digital predators in a creative effort to reduce web-cam sex tourism. Sweetie was born when Lemz co-founder Mark Woerde was struck by an article about child predators online and the seeming inability of authorities to address the problem. Lemz, along with animators at Motek Entertainment and Brekel 3D and digital creatives at MediaMonks created the realistic-looking Sweetie and the supporting campaign which would ensnare 1,000 online predators. "I strongly believe that this campaign has made predators aware that they are taking a grave risk when they go online and abuse kids. They now understand that people with resources and dedication are working to stop them," Woerde told us (read more of the fascinating story behind the campaign in our upcoming feature).

The work of another proactive creative force, Mick Ebeling, will also be in contention for an Innovation Lion. Launched last year, the Innovation Lion recognizes "the breakthrough technology and innovation that may allow brands, technologists and creatives to communicate with their customers in a new way, or might stand alone as significant innovation in their own right." Ebeling's Project Daniel, created out of his Not Impossible Labs and with the backing of Intel, has already been shortlisted for a Lion and is a strong contender for a win. Here's another project that was born from its creator's visceral reaction to a news story—in this case, the story of Daniel, a Sudanese teen who lost his arms in that country's ongoing war—and the determination to do something, even if for one person. Ebeling (who previously spearheaded the creation of The Eyewriter, a device that helps people with paralysis to communicate just by using their eyes), and a team that included American doctor Tom Catena, Robohand inventor Richard van As, and experts in prosthetics and physical therapy, set up the world's first 3-D printing prosthetic lab and training facility in South Sudan, which made Daniel a new arm (read more about the project here).

Cannes continues to grow its mandate (and the number of award categories—new this year: product design, which seemed to be covered off by the existing Design and Innovation categories, but whatever) and attendees will hear from celebrities ranging from Courtney Love and Gisele Bundchen to Bono and Jonny Ive. Amid this expansive, and expanding, celebration of creativity, it's heartening to see award contenders that were driven by creative problem solving applied to our most pressing issues. Next year, we'll be expecting to see more of these ambitious initiatives, with more and bigger brands involved from the start.

See more of our Cannes predictions in the gallery above.