FCB, BBDO and Ogilvy all in the running for coveted Titanium Lion

After a year away, the Cannes Lions awards program returns later this month, and three Canadian agencies already have something to cheer about.

FCB, BBDO and Ogilvy are all on the just-released Titanium shortlist, with winners announced in a virtual ceremony June 25. Cannes also released the shortlists for the Glass and Innovation Lions, though no Canadian submissions made those lists.

With an extended eligibility window (to include work that would have been entered last year), and just 20 submissions on the (very short) shortlist for what many consider the most prestigious competition in the festival, simply making the list will rightfully be considered a significant achievement for the Canadian offices that find themselves there. No Canadian entries were shortlisted in Titanium in 2019.

FCB is nominated for its 2019 “Project Understood” campaign for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. To raise awareness about the challenges faced by those living with Down syndrome, FCB worked with Google to make voice assistants more effective by training software to recognize the distinct speech patterns of those living with Down syndrome.

BBDO is nominated for “Parkscapes” for the Regent Park School of Music. Also released in 2019, it saw students at RPSM create a music library of original compositions, one of which ended up in a Taylor Swift song. “The Titanium shortlist is the one where all of us in the industry gaze at the work with a mixture of awe and envy,” said BBDO president and CEO Chris Andrews. “It really is the category that shapes the future of our industry. We talk a lot about progressive work at the agency and all the work on the shortlist fits that description.”

It seems likely that both “Project Understood” and “Parkscapes” could have good showings at Cannes after their exceptional performance at last year’s equally revered One Show, where FCB won 11 Gold Pencils for the CDSS work, and BBDO won eight Golds (this year’s One Show winners will be announced this week).

The third submission on the Titanium shortlist will officially go down as U.K. entry, but Ogilvy Toronto was a significant contributor to last year’s “Courage is Beautiful” campaign for Dove. The campaign featured searing portraits of real healthcare workers exhausted by their fight against COVID during the pandemic’s early days.

“It was the result of a collaborative approach across a team of people spanning Canada and the U.K.,” explained Ogilvy Canada chief executive officer John Killam. “The ask from our Unilever clients was to get something out quickly to acknowledge the efforts of first responders and Unilever’s efforts to help around the world.

“The idea that stuck was from the art director and copywriter team here in Toronto,” he said, with creative, strategy, production and account teams in Toronto all working hard to “get it out the door in Canada first.”

“It’s incredible to see three Canadian agencies at the forefront of creativity being recognized,” said Nancy Crimi-Lamanna chief creative officer at FCB Canada. Titanium Lions are awarded to creativity that breaks new ground with “provocative, boundary-busting, envy-inspiring work that marks a new direction for the industry and moves it forward.”

Crimi-Lamanna said that making the list is the culmination of a six-year journey toward creative innovation at the agency. “I think agencies are figuring out how to keep up with our rapidly evolving industry, but we’ve been really focused on staying ahead of it and doing work that shows the way forward,” she said. “That’s what the Titanium Lion represents—work that’s so forward-thinking it goes beyond keeping up.”

David Brown