26 Jun 2017UpdateFive ads that killed it at Cannes Lions 2017UPDATE: Dispatches from the Canvas8 HQ

The 2017 Cannes Lion Festival of Creativity attracted around 15,000 marketing and media executives from across the world, all vying for that shining symbol of industry-shaping work – a Lion. Across the 24 categories, over 40,000 entries were received, with the cream of the advertising crop being awarded Bronze, Silver, Gold and Grand Prix lions. Canvas8 has identified some of the key behaviours underpinning the winning messages – from brands helping out at difficult life stages to those using shock tactics to spur social change – as well as the top campaigns.

Hannah ElderfieldHannah Elderfield is an associate insight director at Canvas8. With a background in psychology, she’s advised global brands from Nike and Instagram to Perrier Jouet and the British Government. She also leads the Science Of series on the Library, translating advancements from the academic world into actionable insights for members.

1. ‘Fearless girl’ – McCann New York

On International Women’s Day 2017, a brass sculpture of a girl appeared on Bowling Green Park in New York, right in front of the famous Wall Street Charging Bull. With her arms akimbo, the Fearless Girl is a defiant symbol of female leadership, ambition and strength in response to the imbalance of men and women in leadership roles – 5.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women while only around a fifth of US cabinet positions are held by women. The sculpture was created by McCann New York for State Street Global Advisors as part of a campaign to get financial companies to add more women to their boards.

“We had to take a look at Wall Street and find a way to get people to rethink what leadership should be,” says Tali Gumbiner from McCann. “It’s been so historically male, and people – subconsciously or consciously – view male leaders as the backbone of successful financial companies. We couldn’t just do a print ad for the brief like that.” As well as going viral on social media, the campaign scooped up 18 Cannes Lions, making the Fearless Girl one of the most decorated campaigns in the history of the Festival.

Fearless Girl is a symbol of female leadership, ambition and strength

2. ‘Meet Graham’ – Clemenger BBDO Melbourne

You may have met Graham. Created in collaboration with Clemenger BBDO Melbourne – named as 2017 Cannes Lions Agency of the Year – as well as an artist, a trauma surgeon and an accident research engineer, Graham was made as part of a road safety campaign that alerts Australians to the dangers of traffic accidents. He picked up 28 awards, in addition to the first Grand Prix Lion in the Health and Wellness category.

Part sculpture and part educational tool, Graham has a thicker skull, a fortified brace-like structure around his neck, an airbag-like rib cage, additional fatty tissue to cushion facial features, modified joints in the knees and ankles, and extra-thick skin – all designed as features that help him survive a car crash. Research has found that employing fear tactics in advertising doesn’t always work, and with road accidents on the up in recent years, the TAC knew something had to change. So while Graham is a far cry from the graphic videos of blood and broken bones that encourage more cautious driving, maybe that’s a step in the right direction.

Graham is the only human designed to survive on our roads

3. ‘Like my Addiction’ – BTEC Paris

Like many young women’s social media presences, Louise Delage’s Instagram profile was filled with images of the 25-year-old looking healthy and beautiful, enjoying boat trips with friends and dinners out in Paris. It attracted 65,000 followers in the month that the account was active but behind her perfectly filtered pictures lay a dark side. French alcohol awareness charity Addict Aide revealed it was running the account in collaboration with BTEC Paris – pointing out that nearly every image showed Louise holding or drinking something alcoholic.

"We all know a Louise Delage," says Michel Reynaud, co-founder of Addict Aide. "The Addict Aide platform offers tools to help all of those who ask themselves questions on their consumption or that of someone close to them.” As the most popular social media platform among young Gen Yers, Instagram has a huge following – making it a popular spot for brands to take a stand against issues in society. With two-fifths of teens feeling pressure to post content online that makes them look good to others, social media often hides a darker side – in the case of Louise Delage, this was alcoholism. Like my Addiction took home 17 Lions across five different categories.

It’s easy to overlook the signs of addiction

4. ‘Care Counts’ – DigitasLBi

Based on the problem that one in five US students don’t have access to clean clothes, Whirlpool wanted to make a difference. In collaboration with DigitasLBi, the Care Counts campaign involved installing washing machines and dryers in 17 US schools, providing kids with a means to clean their clothes if they couldn’t at home. The initiative led to a rise in school attendance for 90% of students and the children who used the washers and dryers stayed in school for an additional two weeks compared to the previous year.After 2,300 clean loads of clothes, Whirlpool also found that having washed garments led to increased class participation for 89% of students, and greater involvement in extracurricular activities for 95%.

Praised as a shift in advertising from ‘storytelling to story-doing’, Care Counts took home a Grand Prix Lion in the Creative Data category, as well as three others. The campaign also nodded towards a bigger, overarching theme that Canvas8 identified this year, which has seen companies using their products as vehicles for social change. The campaign is just one example of how a brand can have a pro-social and practical impact on people’s lives and – in this case – influence the trajectory of students’ academic careers.

Clean clothes can make all the difference

5. ‘Boost your Voice’ – 180LA

With voter suppression a prevalent issue in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, 180LA launched a campaign for Boost Mobile that made a stand. Based on the problem that voters in low income or minority areas have limited access to polling stations, Boost Mobile – which has stores typically located in these communities – turned its shops into polling stations on election day to make voting easier and more accessible.

As well as shedding light on voter inequality, the campaign scooped up six Lions, including two Grand Prix Lions. By providing citizens with a more convenient space to vote, Boost Mobile helped increase voter turnout by 23% compared with the 2012 presidential election, simultaneously positioning itself as a vehicle for social change on a nationwide level.

Equal voting access for all

Hannah Elderfield is a psychology graduate and behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. Outside of work she can be found shopping, walking her dog or attempting to curb her addiction to Nutella, not all at once of course.