Cannes Lions 2021 looked different this year, as creativity was fuelled during Zoom chats instead of in-person brainstorming sessions due to the pandemic. In this article, we look at all 35 winners from the biggest creative marketing awards event of the year.
Although the way ads were created changed, innovative work was conceived despite limited production and months of lockdowns around the world. From Bodyform’s ‘Womb Stories’ to Nike’s Epic split screen sports mash-up, there was no shortage of ideas.
The winners show an ongoing preference by jurors to award purpose-based work, with the Grand Prix list heavy in examples of brands doing work that aims to make a difference in society. This trend was seen across nearly every category type but includes a wide variety of creative ideas.
Another trend is just how large the marketing industry has become, resulting in a growing list of awards categories. The list of winners paints a creative portrait of a sector adapting to the multitude of ways brands can communicate to consumers, from interactive posters and TV to mobiles and smart speakers.
Below you can view the campaigns from all 35 of the Grand Prix winners:
Film lions / Film craft lions
Agency: AMV BBDO, Production Company: Chelsea Pictures, Los Angeles
Bodyform and sister brand Libresse’s story of the diverse, yet often untold, experiences of women’s wombs swept the awards last week. The short film follows women on various paths: one struggles to conceive using IVF treatment, another makes the choice to not have children, a third suffers with endometriosis, an older woman goes through menopause and a young girl gets her period for the first time. The story is told through a mix of live-action film, which shows the women in real life, and animation, which creatively illustrates the inner workings of the womb. “It’s never simple,” the ad concludes. “Let our #wombstories be heard.” The film was directed by Nisha Ganatra.
Titanium lions / Health & wellness lions
Agency: AMV BBDO
This follow up campaign collated stories of womb pain, specifically endometriosis, and featured a Pain Dictionary and a Pain Museum with artworks to help raise awareness and understanding.
Social & influencer lions / Direct lions / Brand experience & activation lions
Stevenage Challenge – Burger King
Agency: David Madrid/Miami
Burger King attempted to turn Stevenage FC into the biggest club in the world via a set of challenges on the FIFA video game. In October 2019 the ‘Stevenage Challenge’ was launched, encouraging people to play as Stevenage on FIFA and upload their goals to social media to win food prizes. During the campaign, lasting just over two weeks, Stevenage were the most-played with team on the game’s career mode and more than 25,000 goals in the club’s kit were shared online.
Mobile lions / Media lions
Naming the Invisible by Digital Birth Registration
Telenor Pakistan, Agency: Ogilvy Pakistan
Sixty million children in Pakistan do not have a birth certificate, which means they’re devoid of their legal right of identity. Changing this reality was a huge challenge, but also an opportunity to reduce inequalities on a huge scale. Telenor Pakistan leapfrogged outdated, paper-based processes and launched an Android mobile App, Digital Birth Registration (DBR). Today over 1.2 million children (50% of which are girls) are no longer invisible across 426 villages in Pakistan.
Print & publishing lions / Industry craft lions
Amanda, Patricia, Patrick – Dove
Agency: Ogilvy London/Toronto
Dove put a new face on Real Beauty advertising through its ‘Courage Is Beautiful’ campaign, showing faces of healthcare workers marked by the protective gear they’ve been wearing during the coronavirus crisis.
Radio & audio lions / Pharma lions
Sick Beats, Woojer
Agency: Area 23, New York
Sick beats is the world’s first music-powered airway clearance vest, using the clinically proven modality of soundwave therapy in an awesome treatment experience. The prototype, a redesign of Woojer’s consumer vest, syncs with a smartphone to pull therapeutic 40Hz frequencies from music and send them to the chest. The experience uses a curated Spotify library of thousands of 40Hz songs. Kids can find new 40Hz music and create custom therapeutic playlists for the vest, all in the Spotify app.
Brand experience & activation lions
True Name – Mastercard
Agency: McCann, New York
Last year Mastercard, in line with its inclusivity initiative #AcceptanceMatters, launched True Name, a feature that allows for chosen names to appear on the front of cards. True Name was announced during Pride month in 2019, with a video featuring real people describing their negative experiences of debit or credit cards that misrepresent their true identities. According to the brand, some 32% of people who have shown IDs with a name or gender that did not match their presentation reported being harassed, denied services and/or attacked.
Creative business transformation lions
Act for Food – Carrefour
Agency: Marcel, Paris
French supermarket Carrefour launched a programme to transform the way it works in order to offer healthier food for consumers that is also good for both farmers and the environment.
Creative data lions
Saylists – Warner Music Group
Warner Music and Rothco created ‘Saylists’ – a collection of playlists, aimed at augmenting the speech therapy experience for young people through the power of music and technology. Centred around commonly challenging speech sounds, ‘CH’, ‘D’, ‘F’, ‘G’, ‘K’, ‘L’, ‘R’, ‘S’, ‘Z’, ‘T’, using an algorithm, Apple Music conducted data analysis of song lyrics, across the 70 million tracks in its catalogue to isolate songs with significant patterns of repetition. Finally, 173 songs were chosen by Warner Music and speech and language therapist Anna Biavati-Smith to create the initial 10 ‘Saylists’. Located exclusively on Apple Music, the custom-built playlists feature tracks such as ‘Don’t Start Now’ by Dua Lipa for the ‘D’ Playlist, ‘Good As Hell’ by Lizzo for the ‘G’ Playlist and ‘Right Here, Right Now’ by Fatboy Slim for the ‘R’ Playlist.
Creative ecommerce lions
Tienda Cerca, ABInBev
Agency: Draftline, Bogotá
ABInBev created a digital platform in Colombia to connect local neighbourhood stores (where 40% of Bavaria beer sales in the country take place) to customers during the Covid-19 crisis. Tienda Cerca was a platform that helped small stores connect with consumers through digital channels. Tienda Cerca gave visibility and boosted sales through the delivery service of local stores, becoming the first and most important hyper-local ecommerce, helping people with their grocery shopping while staying home and keeping safe during the pandemic.
Creative effectiveness lions
Crazy Dreams, Nike
Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Nike’s ad campaign starring Colin Kaepernick became a cultural phenomenon in the US and beyond in 2018. The brand released ‘Dream crazy’, featuring NFL player in September 2018, and followed it up in 2019 with ‘Dream crazier’ and ‘Dream further’, which focused on female athletes.
Creative strategy lions
Can’t Touch This – Cheetos Popcorn
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
Cheetos Popcorn revisited MC Hammer’s classic hit in this ad that ran during the Super Bowl 2020. The 30-second commercial—created by the San Francisco-based agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and directed by Harold Einstein—was the first time in more than a decade that Cheetos has made an appearance in the Big Game.
Design lions (joint winners)
Agency: AKQA, Stockholm
H&M installed Looop, an in-store recycling system, in some of its stores. The world’s first in-store recycling system turned customer’s old garments into new ones. In just eight steps, Looop shreds an old garment and knits a new one from the old fibres. No water, no dye. The only thing added is some sustainably sourced material to strengthen the yarn.
Agency: Superunion, London
Notpla is a revolutionary, seaweed-based material and sustainable start-up on a mission to make packaging as we know it disappear, naturally. Superunion in London created the name and branding identity for Notpla. The branding is designed to be a simple, bold definition.
Digital craft lions
Astronomical – Fortnite
Agency: Epic Games
Astronomical saw Travis Scott perform within the wildly popular Fortnite game. With a blend of music, mesmerising visuals, sharp animation, and customised content leading up to the main event, the in-game concert and Cactus Jack collaboration pushed the boundaries of digital performance.
Entertainment lions (joint winners)
In Love We Trust – Sinyi Realty
Agency: Dentsu McGarryBowen, Taipai City
Newlyweds have always been an important source of customers in Taiwan’s property market. Sinyi Realty, as the leading property developer in Taiwan was concerned about the growing trend of young people getting divorced a short time into their marriage. ‘In Love We Trust’ is a film addressing a fear of marriage and commitment among young Taiwanese couples. It generated millions of views and sparked debate and conversation in the country.
Swipe Night, Tinder
Agency: 72andSunny, Los Angeles
Swipe Night is a first-person choose-your-own-adventure style event where Tinder users can swipe at key moments to determine the direction of the story within the app. Swiping doesn’t just affect how the story ends — it also has a bearing on who users match with and what they end up chatting about.
Entertainment lions for Music (joint winners)
Old Town Road, Lil Nas X
Production company: Prettybird
This country hip-hop mashup viral phenomenon (featuring Billy Ray Cyrus) blew up so fast radio professionals had to rip it from YouTube to play it on the air, and the music industry is still scrambling to decide what, exactly, to call it.
Feed Parade, Mercado Livre
When Brazil Pride could not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic, ecommerce brand and Pride sponsor Mercado Livre turned the avenue where the parade usually takes place into an Instagram feed where people could tag themselves. The tags were then immortalised in a Gloria Groove music video.
Entertainment lions for Sport (joint winners)
Eternal Run, Asics
ASICS wanted to enhance perception of its brand for high-performance running. It asked: what if the finish line actually holds us back from reaching our true potential? To promote the new Glideride shoe, Asics created a run without a finish line on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Salla 2032, House of Lapland
Agency: Africa DDB, São Paulo
This engaging short film followed the campaign of a small town above the Arctic Circle which bid to host the 2032 Summer Games. Later on this was revealed as a stunt to raise awareness of the effects of climate change.
Film lions (joint winners)
Crocodile Inside, Lacoste
Agency: BETC, Paris
Lacoste’s ad is an epic tale of a couple engaged in an argument as their house also collapses around them. Words that can’t be taken back are said and a metaphoric gap is created between the man and the woman. As their home and the entire building collapses and crumbles into pieces around them, they suddenly realise that they have gone too far, and they take a brave leap back towards each other. The scene is intensified by the spectacular stunts and décor.
You Can’t Stop Us, Nike
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
How do you create a new sports commercial when there’s no new footage to show? Nike’s post-covid ad welcomed back the NBA season with some astonishingly edited archived clips, that perfectly sync up athletes via split screen. The ad mixes 4,000 pieces of historical archive footage from 24 sports into a 90-second tribute to the ways athletes bounce back. Narrated by soccer star Megan Rapinoe, the spot blends 36 pairs of athletes into one another, emphasising “commonalities shared by athletes around the world.”
Glass: the lion for change
I Am, Starbucks
Agency: VMLY&R Brazil
In Brazil, transgender people have a very hard time getting their names changed on their documents. Changing your registered name is expensive and has a lot of red tape and prejudice involved. At Starbucks, anyone who orders a drink has their name written on the cup without question. To truly help them, VMLY&R Brasil transformed the store into a notary office to legally change names free of charge and with the full support they deserve.
Grand Prix for good
#StillSpeakingUp Deeptruth – Propuesta Cívica/Reporters Sans Frontieres
Agencies: Publicis Mexico/Publicis Latvia
The Grand Prix for Good went to Publicis Mexico and Publicis Latvia for #StillSpeakingUp DeepTruth, which gave a voice to murdered journalists. The campaign saw four journalists that had been murdered in Mexico reincarnated on Twitter, with the help of their friends and families, in order to raise awareness of threats to press freedom.
Health & wellness lions
Having staff poached is typically a brand’s worst nightmare, yet toiletries brand Beco welcomed it with open arms in its provocative #StealOurStaff campaign. With 80% of its workforce disabled, disadvantaged or visually impaired, the social enterprise is gunning for change when it comes to the disability employment gap sustained by the biased hiring practices of many businesses. It’s a widespread issue that seems missing from wider discourse, which is what #StealOurStaff set out to change. This bold campaign encouraged other companies to steal its staff.
Degree Inclusive Deodorant, Unilever
Agency: Wunderman Thompson, Buenos Aires
Unilever developed accessible deodorant packaging to make the product easier to use for people with limited mobility or visual impairments. Called Degree Inclusive the packaging was designed for deodorant brand Degree – also known as Sure, Shield or Rexona in different regions. To create the product, which Unilever describes as a “world’s first”, the company partnered with adaptive design studio Sour and inclusive creative agency Wunderman Thomson, which is led by designer Christina Mallon who has limited arm mobility herself. The Degree Inclusive design has a number of features new to deodorant packaging including an easy-grip shape and a larger roll-on applicator that can cover more surface area in one swipe.
Boards of Change, City of Chicago
Agency: FCB Chicago
Boards of Change brought America’s disenfranchised voices from the streets to the polls. Plywood boards that barricaded storefronts during the Black Lives Matter protests, filled with messages of unity and justice, were turned into voting booths. They inspired residents in dozens of Chicago’s low-turnout neighborhoods to create systemic change through the power of their vote and enabled them to register. Amplified by outdoor, social media, and national PR, Boards of Change empowered Black Americans to know their vote counts and helped Chicago attain a record number of registrations and voters.
Outdoor lions (three winners)
Moldy Whopper, Burger King
Agencies: David, Miami/Ingo, Stockholm/Publicis Romania
Burger King’s controversial 2020 ad campaign took the bold step of showing its signature burger decaying in a time-lapse video to showcase its removal of artificial preservatives. The fast-food chain said that it’s showing mould “can be a beautiful thing” to highlight removing artificial preservatives from the Whopper. The adverts have received a mixed response in the marketing world and on social media. Some were put off by the image, while others thought it was a brilliant idea.
Shutter Ads, Heineken
Agency: Publicis Italy
Heineken helped out local bars which were forced to close during the pandemic by paying them to host ads on their closed shopfronts. The on-trade is one of Heineken’s biggest partners and during the pandemic is was struggling. The project helped bars in Argentina, Spain, Italy, Germany and is ongoing.
Village Electrique, Renault
Agency: Publicis Conseil, Paris
93% of French people still believe they need more infrastructure, more autonomy, or to live in a big city to switch to electric. To prove them wrong Renault turned the most remote town in France into the first 100% electric vehicle city in the world. To do that, Publicis Conseil brought all-electric Renault ZOEs to replace every single car of all the inhabitants for three years. The ad made 63 million views, increased Renault ZOE’s sales by 50% and helped ZOE to become number one in Europe.
PR lions (joint winners)
Contract for Change, ABInBev
Agency: FCB Chicago/New York
Contract for Change is a commitment from ABInBev and Michelob Ultra Pure Gold to encourage farmers to switch to organic. Only 1% of US farmland is organic as it is so challenging for struggling family farms. Michelob went on a mission of transforming America’s agriculture with Contract for Change: an agreement that farmers sign today that guarantees them a buyer in three years when their organic transition is complete, removing the biggest barrier. Contract for Change was offered to all American farmers. 104,000 acres are in transition today and will soon produce ingredients for Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold and countless other brands.
The Bread Exam, Spinneys Flour and the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation
Agency: McCann Paris
The Bread Exam fought a deep-rooted taboo and helped Lebanese women self-check their breasts through a cultural tradition: baking bread. Step-by-step instructions of how to knead and press dough taught women how to do a self-exam in coded language, overcoming a social barrier that traditionally prevents women from talking about their bodies. The instructions were shared on social media as well as on packs of flour sold in Lebanese supermarket chain, Spinneys, reaching 112 million people.
Social & influencer lions
Superb Owl, Reddit
Agency: R/GA San Francisco
Reddit hacked the Super Bowl with a 5-Second, long-copy ad that cost the brand’s entire marketing budget and relied on viewers pausing to read it in full. R/GA, created the spot that aired during the second quarter in nine of the top 10 U.S. metro markets. The spot was was timely—honoring the GameStop big short on Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets group that was perfectly on brand for the lo-fi social network.
Sustainable development goals lions
The 2030 Calculator, Doconomy
Agencies: Doconomy, Stockholm/Farm, Stockholm
The 2030 Calculator was launched by Swedish fintech startup Doconomy. It radically simplifies the process of calculating a products carbon footprint by eliminating all previous hurdles, activating the brand’s commitment towards sustainable production and responsible consumption. It can be used by any product brand or manufacturer to quickly calculate the carbon footprint of their products based on the emissions created from manufacturing and transport up until the point of sale. The 2030 Calculator uses unique emissions factors for each of the product parts, material, packaging, transportation, as well as the energy consumed in the manufacturing process to determine its calculations. All calculations are cradle-to-gate and self-declared.
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