Canada shut out on final day of Cannes

A week where Canadian marketing and advertising was riding high came to anti-climactic close on Friday, with Canada shut out of the final awards show of the Cannes Lions.

But in the Friday morning press conference to reveal the winners, the jury presidents of Glass, Sustainable Development Goals, Film and Titanium Lions shared their inspirations from the work and provided more than a few reasons to be optimistic about the industry itself.

In a way, the four jury presidents provided an appropriately symbolic representation of the Festival.

Film might not be the oldest advertising medium, but it’s what started Cannes Lions 70 years ago. And alongside Film, the three other categories are explicitly about the future of the industry and changing the world.

As such, change was a key theme for the morning—action over awareness, solving problems instead of telling stories, and affecting long-lasting change that remains long after the campaign is over. That’s particularly true with Glass and Sustainable Development Goals (below) but also with Titanium (here) and even in Film, where the talk was about breaking from recent trends.

Glass Lions

Introduced in 2015, Cannes variously describes the Glass Lions as work that “breaks through unconscious gender bias,” “culture-shifting creativity” and “ideas intended to change the world.”

The jury reviewed seven actual laws, either passed or proposed, meant to advance the cause of women around the world, said jury president Tea Uglow, founder, Dark Swan Institute. “I’m not sure on which juries you get laws handed to you,” she said.

“That move from something must be done, to doing something, is a huge change in our industry,” she said. “It’s the move from awareness to action, and it’s sustainable action. Laws don’t end when your campaign ends.”

The Grand Prix went to Cheil Worldwide Seoul and the Korean National Police Agency for “Knock Knock.”

Domestic abuse has been on the rise in South Korea, but very few women can report it to police because their abuser is with them. By dialling 112, the victim can tap any number twice and a link is sent to them that enables police to see what is happening through the phone’s camera, track their location, and chat with the women through an app disguised as a search page.

Programs like “Knock Knock” take an enormous amount of time, dedication and hard work to make a reality, said Uglow. But in addition to saving lives and punishing perpetrators, the program also supports law change and transformed emergency services, she said.

“It’s quite something that that is the stage Glass has reached… It’s not going away. And effectiveness will literally save women’s lives.

Conspicuous by its absence from the list of seven winners was BBDO’s “Missing Matoaka” for Muskrat Magazine. Speaking with The Message after the main press conference, Uglow said the jury discussed it at length, and that it was in contention for a medal.

“It didn’t miss out by much at all,” she said. “It needs to sell as well as educate, and maybe it didn’t hit the bar for the selling part—which is a terrible reason. But ultimately it’s a commercial advertising awards.”

Sustainable Development Goals Lions

The Sustainable Development Goals Lions recognize work that “harnesses creativity and seek to positively impact the world.” Winning work must demonstrate how it advanced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development across “people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships.”

Jury president Jean Lin, chief culture officer, Dentsu Group Inc., said she wanted her jury to use three key criteria for assessing the work. “We’re not looking for more sad stories that talk about the problems we face in the world,” she said. “We’re talking about real solutions that can make and facilitate systemic change.”

The second factor was alignment with the entrant’s brand’s purpose or business strategy. “Because the only way SDG could work is when it’s embedded at the heart of business strategy.”

And third was prioritizing work that can spread, “ideas that can make a tangible impact today with the potential to travel across borders,” she said.

In terms of the sustainable development goals being addressed by the work, there was a lot of focus on gender and economic inequality, and the environment. However, there was also a significant number about good health and wellbeing. “Clearly this is an area post-COVID that everybody feels challenged about.”

The debate for the Grand Prix was intense, she said. But the ideas and entries that rose to the top were those that made a meaningful contribution to society. “Not just another brand gesture. It is positive contributions from brands that see themselves as much as a citizen as you and me,” she said.

Ultimately, the Grand Prix was given to “Where to Settle” by McCann Poland, for MasterCard. In 2022 millions of Ukrainian refugees arrived in Poland seeking safety and refuge after Russia invaded their home country. Most moved to Poland’s big cities, which were overcrowded even before the war.

“Where to Settle” was a data-driven platform—using Mastercard data, salary information, job and real estate availability—to provide recommendations for where families could settle outside the big Polish cities.

This was a brand taking quick action at the point of crisis to coordinate the different organizations that own the data to help people on the ground when they needed it most, she said. “And it linked beautifully to the brand’s continuous commitment to financial inclusion—something they do not just for this time.”


David Brown