Serena Williams

Imagination, invention and impact at Cannes

The joy of advertising was evident, once more, at Cannes Lions 2023. Inspiration was everywhere and, while purpose is not going away, this year we also saw more boldness

The calibre of creativity at Cannes is always super high, but there was real courage and commitment in this year’s winning work. As usual, WPP scored highly with one Titanium, five Grand Prix, 24 Gold, 57 Silver and 78 Bronze Lions. In total, WPP won 165 Lions; and Mindshare won Media Network of the Year.

Throughout the week we were moved, entertained, intrigued and delighted by the work across a huge range of submissions. But if there was one stand-out sentiment it was, perhaps, that boldness in advertising really works.

Doing right and doing well

Demonstrating what happens when great creativity is coupled with strong conviction, Corona’s Corona Extra Lime – developed via a collaboration between DAVID and draftLine – was recognised with a Titanium Lion, which celebrates ‘game-changing creativity'. The campaign told the story of China’s shortage of high-quality limes – a problem for a country that consumes so much beer. Corona partnered with local governments and industry leaders to equip and educate farmers to enable them to expand their lime yield. Everyone was a winner.

The Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix went to Ogilvy Mumbai for Shah Rukh Khan-My-Ad, which employed machine learning to create hyper-personalised ads featuring Cadbury’s brand ambassador and Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan. Wavemaker developed the media plan and worked with Google and YouTube to optimise ad reach and engagement. Around 130,000 ads were created – featuring 2,000 stores – which gained 94m views. The campaign – driven by AI – rescued hundreds of small businesses from the commercial impact of the pandemic.

A further Grand Prix went to DAVID, Ogilvy and Mindshare for Dove’s #TurnYourBack campaign. Dove asked people to #TurnYourBack as a response to beauty filters used on social media that can damage self-esteem. Turning your back – a simple, replicable action – was used to shift the conversation. Also winning Gold was Dove’s The Cost of Beauty by Ogilvy and Mindshare. This time the awareness raised was in relation to the harmful impact of toxic beauty content.

A combination of purpose, boldness and creativity was seen in Gold-winning Heaven Fish for Regal Springs by Ogilvy. This campaign harnessed a natural phenomenon – a literal rainfall of fish during Honduras’s rainy season caused by tornadoes – to create a campaign that helped communities, promoted sustainable economic growth and encouraged responsible fish farming.

Staying with Honduras, Gold winner Morning After Island by Ogilvy tackled the thorny issue of women’s rights and women’s health by pressing for the introduction of legislation for defending the sexual, reproductive and civil rights of 3m Honduran women.

Tapping into human behaviour

Award-winning work truly does cause consumers to behave differently. Wunderman Thompson scored a Grand Prix for using AI to unlock the subconscious. The Subconscious Order for HungerStation’s delivery app took the pain out of food ordering to tap into users' subconscious to help them figure out what they wanted to eat. In collaboration with Wunderman Thompson's Global Creative Data Team, the Find My Craving campaign was launched across Saudi Arabia. Within the first two weeks, the campaign successfully acquired 78,000 new customers.

Oreocodes from VMLY&R Commerce for OREO also tapped into human behaviour. It won Gold for its campaign that helped householders make the link between the famous cookie and milk – because a stack of OREOS looks just like a barcode. The campaign prompted consumers to buy the cookie when they bought milk. Consumers could just grab any milk pack, flip it over to reveal the barcode and scan it.

Grey’s The Postponed Day for LALCEC also won Gold. The behaviour it sought to change was to end the putting off of mammograms by women in Argentina. And a further Gold was won by VMLY&R for Movistar’s Shout which tackled homophobia – in Mexico – through the production of a boxing film that questioned machismo.

With a different take on behaviour, AKQA’s Transparency Card campaign for Congresso em Foco, an independent Brazilian digital news portal, also won Gold. This work provided real-time transparent information about politicians’ spending habits and the use of public funds in Brazil. The Transparency Card accesses government databases and sends notifications to users when politicians spend taxpayers’ money.

Advertising is the mother of invention

Cannes Lions 2023 was very much a show about invention. A shining example is Augmental’s MouthPad^ by Wunderman Thompson which won a Grand Prix for being a game-changer in assistive technology. It is a mouthpiece that enables users to sweep their tongue across a trackpad as an alternative means of controlling electronic devices for people who are living with a disability. The device renders keyboards, mouses and touchscreens unnecessary for those who struggle to use them.

Also inventive was VMLY&R’s and Mindshare’s Gold-winning FitChix for the Honest Eggs Co. This new technology – tantamount to a pedometer for chickens – demonstrated to consumers just how fit the chickens were that layed the eggs they were buying and consuming. Again, FitChix is a campaign that is bold, inventive yet fun.

The power of AI to go beyond telling stories

The power of AI runs throughout WPP’s winning work. Many of the campaigns above are only possible because AI has delivered what would otherwise be impossible.

Perhaps the most stand-out example of truly inspiring AI use is Grand-Prix-winning Never Done Evolving from AKQA and Nike, featuring Serena Williams. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, Nike’s campaign showcased the power of her game and how it has evolved over time. AI enabled the team to create a match between 1999 Serena, when she won her first Grand Slam title, and the Serena who won the 2017 Australian Open. Never Done Evolving broke all Nike's organic views records on YouTube.

This was yet another example of a true icon at play. But importantly, it was also an example of work that causes goosebumps. This is what advertising is all about – and this is what was very much on display at Cannes Lions 2023.

published on

29 June 2023


Communications Experience Technology & innovation

Related Topics

Capitalising on creativity

More in Communications

Selection of award-winning work from WPP agencies at Cannes Lions 2024

Cannes Lions 2024: what won and why

A glimpse into the creative currents influencing WPP's award-winning work

Photo taken at the WPP Beach in Cannes showing people sitting at tables and standing in groups talking

Cannes Lions 2024: new heights of creativity and courage

In the age of AI, success for the advertising industry requires collaboration, connection, courage – and fun

Headshots of Jane Geraghty and Anna Hickey on a blue and purple split background with the text 'Mechanisms that Matter: Decoding the future of agency models"

Mechanisms that Matter – What it takes to lead an agency team for the world’s biggest brands

Top of the list: A ‘rabid curiosity’ about the new and an understanding of every role in the mix