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James Swift of Contagious: my Top Tips for Cannes – and our full list of contenders

Top Tips for Cannes

Some years there are campaigns that you know are going to clean up at Cannes — but this is not one of those years.

As best as we can tell, no single campaign from the past 12 months stands above the rest, either in terms of the impact that it made on culture — like Fearless Girl in 2017 — or on the ad industry itself — like Moldy Whopper in 2021 — and we’ve looked pretty hard.

Still, there are campaigns that we think have a good shot at taking home at least one Grand Prix, which we’ve identified through a combination of rigorous research and arrogant faith in our own good taste.

You can see all of the campaigns that we think will or should win in our Cannes Contenders article.

In the meantime, here are my three top tips for this year’s International Festival of Creativity.

Mammoth Meatball for Vow, by Wunderman Thompson, Benelux

This audacious PR campaign demonstrated a cultured meat company’s complex scientific methods by recreating a woolly mammoth’s DNA and then using it to make a giant meatball.

The stunt was not quite headline news, but it was a perfect ‘weird world’ item and earned coverage in over 3,400 outlets, including high-profile programmes, like The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

If there’s a blemish on the Mammoth Meatball it is that it was a campaign in search of a client. Wunderman Thompson’s Bas Korsten came up with the idea and then shopped it to Vow, even though the company had yet to take a product to market, and juries might frown on that. But there is no doubt that Korsten – who was also behind the Grand Prix-winning Next Rembrandt campaign in 2016 – has a gift for humbuggery.

Flipvertising for Samsung, by Chep Network, Sydney

Samsung in Australia advertised its new flip phone by flipping the script on targeted advertising

The electronics company created pre-roll YouTube ads with codes that could be redeemed for one of its new smartphones but only served them to people who had earned their place in the targeting pool by entering specific, hidden phrases related to Samsung’s new product into Google.

Boiled down to its bare bones, Flipversiting was little more than an online scavenger hunt, but you should never underestimate the appeal of an ad campaign that is fundamentally about advertising.

And if you think that’s cynical or irrelevant, go and take a look at the number of movies about film-making that have won the Oscar for Best Picture. Every industry is biased towards itself.

Phone It In for Skinny, By Colenso BBDO, Auckland

There’s lots to like about this campaign from no-frills telco Skinny, which asked New Zealanders to record themselves reading radio ad scripts, so that it could save money on voice-over artists. It was an original and fun way to emphasise the brand’s low-cost position, and it increased customer sign ups by 34%.

It also happens to be another ad campaign about advertising (see above). But Skinny might be a surer bet to win a Grand Prix than Samsung because it will likely be entered into the Radio & Audio category, which even in the age of podcasts and Spotify is still considered one of the less sexy media from an advertising perspective, and so tends to be a bit less competitive. And as hardened Cannes watchers we know that sometimes the track is as important as the horse.

James Swift is online editor, Contagious.

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