9 Best Cannes Lions Winning Ad Campaigns
The Cannes Lions are the world’s highest-ranking awards for advertising and marketing campaigns. Since 1954, the festival has honored the creativity and inventiveness of ad agencies from all over the world. For those art directors, copywriters, strategists, and other innovative minds, winning this award is game-changing.
But it’s not just the creatives whose lives are changed by being honored with this prize. It’s also the brands whose products and services are showcased in the ads. The international recognition and impact on a brand’s reputation when they win a Cannes Lion is exceptionally valuable. It helps them connect with customers, win competitors’ market share, and make their brand values known.
We looked at the best Cannes Lions campaigns, the cream of the crop for creativity, ingenuity, effectiveness, and originality. And here, you’ll find our top nine.
Always – Like a Girl
Language has evolved tremendously in the last decade, and with good reason. There’s a need to reduce outdated stereotypes that limit how we understand people of diverse races, backgrounds, and genders. The women’s lifestyle brand, Always, created its #LikeAGirl campaign to showcase exactly what this term brings to mind for different people.
In their 2015 Cannes Grand Prix-winning video, the brand showcased what it really means to do things “like a girl”, such as throwing, running, and other activities. Audiences were astounded by the outdated visuals that portrayed girls as weak, timid, and fragile – until the brand brought actual girls onto the film set. The girls displayed strength, power, and stamina that gave a sense of what every female person, regardless of age, can achieve.
The commercial was described as one of the best at the 2015 Super Bowl and has reached 58 million views on YouTube.
Agency: Leo Burnett, Toronto, Chicago, and London
VisitSweden – The Swedish Number
Imagine picking up a phone to have a chat with a random Swede you’ve never met. Seems unlikely. And yet this is exactly what VisitSweden did in 2016 to launch a unique – and kind of weird – tourism campaign. This successful campaign got over 9 billion media impressions by offering a very real and transparent look at Swedish life.
The campaign made Sweden the very first country to have its own phone number, one that let completely random and untrained Swedish citizens answer and share their opinions on everything from hiking and snow, to hay rights and the Nobel Prize. Even the Swedish Prime Minister took a turn at the receiver.
The campaign is still regarded as one of the most unique and endearing looks at Swedish life, and the phone number is in operation, even today.
Agency: INGO, Stockholm
State Street Global Advisors – Fearless Girl
March 7, 2017, just one night before International Women’s Day, a statue of a girl with hands on her hips appeared in front of the famous bull statue on New York’s Wall Street. It was the Fearless Girl. Additionally, 3,500 letters were sent to businesses in New York City, telling them the time had come to address gender diversity.
The aim of the campaign was to showcase how few leaders in business are women, and how a lack of diversity negatively impacts business investment and performance. New Yorkers quickly fell in love with the statue, and while she was only supposed to take up space for seven days, it was over a year before she was moved to her new home in front of the New York Stock Exchange Building.
Agency: McCann, New York
Mastercard – True Name™
Discrimination against trans and non-binary people is a very topical issue. With many advertising and marketing campaigns trying to highlight these individuals’ struggles, it was only a matter of time before Mastercard jumped on the bandwagon.
They did so in stunning style with a unique look at what it’s like when a trans or non-binary person’s identity doesn’t reflect the name on their bank card. The brand released its new True Name™ feature in a commercial showcasing an anxious shopper paying with their bank card. This feature lets anyone choose what name should be on their bank card to reflect how they feel inside. The campaign won Mastercard its first Cannes Lion Grand Prix.
Agency: McCann, New York
The Big Issue & LinkedIn – Raising Profiles
Just a year after COVID-19 impacted the world, the aftershock of the pandemic became apparent in the United Kingdom. The Big Issue – a magazine that engages those experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty as salespeople – saw a significant decline in sales since customers who would usually buy on their way to and from work stayed home.
This was devastating for the sellers of the publication, who depended on that income to stay warm and fed. In just a year, their sales had gone from 80,000 to zero.
LinkedIn’s advertising agency jumped in to help and began creating online social accounts for vendors of the Big Issue. They taught the sellers how to use that platform to find new buyers, develop relationships and drive interactions to get more sales. The idea revolutionized Big Issue’s sales model and raised the profiles of sellers. It’s no wonder then that the campaign won a Cannes Lion Grand Prix in 2021.
Decathlon – The Breakaway
A well-known sporting brand in Europe, Decathlon joined forces with De Rode Antraciet, a Belgian non-profit, to connect prisoners to the outside world. Using Zwift, an online cycling and running program that lets users interact and train together, prisoners could anonymously compete with people worldwide on indoor bikes.
The campaign was a massive success despite its small budget, reaching over a million people on social media and YouTube and 122,000 via email. It was awarded over 50 international prizes, including two Cannes Lions Grand Prix, one for Creative Strategy and the other for PR.
The goal of the campaign? To make a positive impact on people who were incarcerated. And the most moving achievement of all? Belgium’s Ministry of Justice rolled out the eCycling initiative to 30 other prisons.
Adidas – Liquid Billboard
Almost one-third of women worldwide are uncomfortable swimming in public due to body image or religious beliefs. This statistic gave a Dubai-based ad agency the idea to turn an entire billboard into a shared pool (of sorts) in partnership with Adidas.
The brand wanted to showcase its new inclusive swimwear line, and the five-meter high, three-meter deep billboard, with 11,500 gallons of water, gave it the perfect opportunity. That’s about the equivalent of 163 bathtubs!
The sports brand invited women to join in a public dive and got the ball rolling with amputee Dareen Barbar making the first splash. Joining her was Raha Moharrak, the first woman of Saudi Arabian descent to scale Mount Everest. From there, all women were encouraged to join in, and the campaign won multiple awards, including a Cannes Lions Grand Prix, a Gold Lion, two Silver Lions, and a Bronze.
Agency: Havas Middle East
Coca-Cola – The BeatCan
Coca-Cola is a brand that’s no stranger to winning multiple Cannes Lions, and this campaign definitely kept the momentum going. The idea behind the South Africa-based BeatCan campaign was that enjoying an ice-cold Coke is not just about refreshment but also about connecting through music.
The brand turned cans into musical directions, with phrases like “TiniTigi” and “EyBrrEy” printed on the side. These encouraged young Coke drinkers to turn their social interactions into “mic drop sessions” and post the results to social media. The campaign took the country by storm, earned a Silver Lion at the 2022 Festival of Creativity and was shortlisted for music and audio-led creativity.
Agency: FCB South Africa
Burger King – Traffic Jam Whopper
We’ve all experienced those moments of being stuck in a traffic jam and really hungry!. In Mexico City, with its heavy traffic, this happens a lot. Burger King decided to step in and help drivers satisfy their burger cravings while they were stuck in bumper-to-bumper gridlocks.
Using real-time data to detect potential customers, the brand released targeted advertising on digital billboards and Waze banners to show drivers how much time they had left in traffic. It also encouraged them to order a Whopper with their new voice-activated ordering feature to satisfy their hunger.
Delivery zones changed as traffic did, which meant that no matter where drivers were stuck, they could order a burger. The campaign, released in 2019, won a Bronze Lion.
Agency: We Believers
Exceptional Creativity Deserves the Top Awards
Awards like the Cannes Lions recognize the highest levels of creative problem-solving and unique ideas. In the global advertising industry, there are so many to choose from, and that’s why there are multiple Cannes Lions awarded in close to 30 categories. This year will be no different. Keep an eye on the upcoming Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and discover what will no doubt be a fresh wave of exciting campaigns.