Were Cannes Lions Print and Exterior Winners Really Effective Ads? Here is the answer

The drum has widely covered the winners of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. Jon Evans, marketing director of ad rankings database System1, explains how print and out-of-town winners can score in the prestigious eyes of the judging panel, but not always in the eyes of the public.

Historically, award-winning ads are more profitable than others. But in recent years, the link between rewards and efficiency has weakened. This can be even more difficult with static ads, as they need to make a quick impact in a brief viewability window, while potentially holding up to repeat views.

System1 tested this year’s winners at Cannes – measuring the emotional response to creativity – to see how they fared with the general public. We found that agencies took advantage of viewers’ ad culture on other brands’ assets to promote their own. The result is simple: elegant and brilliantly executed ideas.

To win on both fronts, brands and agencies must learn how to make their work resonate with audiences for the long haul. Below are advertisements that work both at a glance and across multiple encounters, exactly what is needed for exterior and impression.

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Golden Lions: outdoor activities, printing and publishing

close up photo of burger type flag

Pepsi’s National Burger Day ads, where the soft drink giant ‘found’ its distinctive logo on the packages of the three biggest burger chains, won industry acclaim and two Gold Lions .

It’s a smart campaign, but with the trump cards of three other brands jostling for space with Pepsi, was that a little too smart? Our test showed strong 3-star scores for the McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King ads, as well as a very strong 4.5-star response for the ad showing the three burger mascots, which was not honored .

This is an excellent score for a campaign, which requires a level of advertising education from viewers. The brand’s fluency scores weren’t quite as sparkling; most viewers failed the Pepsi Challenge in terms of determining the intended audience for the ad. It’s not a fatal flaw, as the ad targets burger-buying occasions, and overall it’s an example where viewers and juries agree on a great job.


Lion d’or: printing and publishing

billboard with a drawing of a bottle of ketchup

Distinctive assets are important and Heinz is a brand that knows it. In this ad, they playfully point out that if you ask people to draw ketchup, they’ll draw the distinctive Heinz bottles and logo. It’s a fun, simple, and cute way to show off your category dominance.

Our test showed a respectable 2.9 stars for long-term potential and emotional response – a bit above average for static ads. But for short-term spikes and brand fluidity, “Draw Ketchup” performed exceptionally well.

Static ads often struggle to balance that recognizability with entertaining viewers, and Heinz manages both here, even if the balance is skewed a bit in the short term. It is an advertisement that reinforces assets and communicates reliability and ubiquity in an elegant way.


Bronze Lion: Exterior

yellow and blue billboard for KFC

KFC was opening a new branch in a Spanish city well known for its IKEA store. So, they borrowed the Swedish brand’s font and colors for a cheeky billboard. Playing with distinctive assets is clearly a trend, but like the Pepsi burger commercials, it had the potential to confuse as much as entertain people with its cleverness.

It scored 2.7 stars on our test, which isn’t a bad score, considering viewers wouldn’t necessarily get the full context. Most of the emotional response was for surprise, where she scored well above average, resulting in an exceptional short-term peak score. In terms of efficiency, this is good considering the purpose of the billboard, which is to drive sales the day a new branch opens.


Bronze Lion: Exterior

porch with Burger King takeout bag

Awards juries have an inexhaustible appetite for Burger King, or at least for their advertisements, which troll their famous red and yellow rival. BK chose another Bronze Lion for this announcement, in which a BK home delivery is made to a house which the discerning viewer will realize belongs to Ronald McDonald.

The ad scored just 2.2 stars, with very few viewers picking up on McDonald’s connection and responding most simply to the idea of ​​home delivery. So, is the announcement too subtle for its own good? No. In fact, the subtlety of the visual joke saves the poster from the trap of viewer confusion.

People might not know who was getting the burger, but they sure knew who was delivering it, and the ad scored exceptionally short term and brand mastery scores.


Grand Prix, Exterior

billboard with two divers in a swimming pool

Finally, Adidas’ Liquid Billboard installation in Dubai, winner of the Grand Prix Outdoor, promotes its range of inclusive sportswear by building a billboard that conceals a real swimming pool, allowing swimmers to dive and swim underwater as if they were in an aquarium. It has the combination of simplicity and the “wow” factor and works both in real life and as a viral video reaching far beyond the Middle East.

The high surprise factor and delicious concept earned “Liquid Billboard” 4 stars, showing strong long-term potential. It didn’t work as well on brand fluidity or short-term peak scoring, as the swimmer’s movement obscures the logo a bit. But brand building, rather than a specific business imperative, is the point here. The audience agrees with the judges – this is something special.

Jon Evans is Chief Growth Officer of System1, a marketing decision-making platform that helps predict and improve the business impact of ads and innovation.

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Charles P. Patton