The Alternative Cannes Lions: What If Online Sharing Determined The Award Winners?

With Cannes Lions kicking off yesterday, the advertising industry is all set to celebrate the greatest achievements of the last year.

With campaign awards ranging from ‘Product Design’ to ‘Cyber’ – and even the inaugural Glass Lion, focusing on gender issues and female empowerment – there will be plenty of chances for ambitious agencies to make their name.

As with the film festival, Lions are doled out by a jury of industry experts and former winners. While this regularly produces an eclectic line-up of winners, it has led to accusations the festival might be a little out-of-touch with the ads watched by most people.

While a particular campaign may walk away with several prestigious awards, it could have only been seen by a very select cadre of industry specialists and few people outside that circle.

To redress the balance, we decided to see how the Cannes Lions 2015 would look if online sharing determined the winners. Using data from the Viral Video Chart, we selected the top 12 most-shared adverts launched during the eligibility window (1st March 2014 – 30th April 2015). This alternative list gives a snapshot of how the collective power of the web used adverts during this period, and insight into the trends that dominated. While the festival will decide their winners in the coming week, the people have already voted with their shares and retweets.

Our number one will surprise no one familiar with online advertising, given its swift rise to the top as the most shared online video ad of all time. Activia and Shakira’s ‘La La La’, released in conjunction with the World Food Programme for last summer’s World Cup in Brazil, is a great example of one of the important viral trends of the last 12 months: the ‘trackvert’. Working with artists like Avicii or Turkey’s Yalin, brands have used the ‘trackvert’ format – essentially campaigns which blur the lines between music videos and advertising – to gain legitimacy and unparallelled amounts of online exposure.

Equally, Activia’s World Cup win shows a tendency towards advertising linked to ‘zeitgeist’ events. Nike’s ‘The Last Game’, the brand’s Pixar-inspired tribute to the beautiful game, similarly made our winners lists, while the appearance of Budweiser’s all-conquering Super Bowl spot showed the sport in question doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters is major global events which users can feel connected and in touch with (which perhaps explains AMC Theatre’s ‘Minions’ spreading Christmas joy at number 2).

The power of the public and user-generated content is another major takeaway from Unruly’s alternative Lions shortlist. At number 3, Animals Australia’s lo-fi Facebook Video, taken from footage filmed on a smartphone, became a sharing sensation when it was released late last year, accruing nearly 4 million shares since release late last year. The ad’s success suggests that emphasis on glitz and gloss can be misplaced, when really it’s striking, emotionally-engaging content that creates a lasting impact.

The same can be said of the preponderance of stunt-based spots included in our list. Both Disney Parks and equality charity Diversity & Inclusion scored sharing hits by hiding people behind semi-translucent screens in front of large crowds, while an Italian news website produced one of 2015’s biggest ads by interviewing children about domestic violence. The viral PSA, had a boom year and it will be telling to see whether the Lions acknowledge that.

Finally, gender and women’s issues loom large on our list, with CardStore’s ‘World’s Toughest Job’ turning a cutesy Mother’s Day spot into a genuine comment on the division of labour and the gender pay gap. Meanwhile, Always’ ‘#LikeAGirl’ produced widespread conversation concerning gendered language and the pressures placed on young girls.

In fact, the spot was so successful the brand re-released it as their Super Bowl spot. AdWeek’s Tim Nudd has already predicted gongs for ‘#LikeAGirl’ and, in the year the festival conversation turns more towards gender issues, it seems like a strong bet, with Sport England’s brilliant ‘This Girl Can‘ also a hot favourite.

One thing that is surprisingly missing from this year’s line-up is funny ads, with very few campaigns attempting to make us laugh. It’s not that the ad industry has lost its sense of humour, it’s just that it seems to have found a higher purpose this year.

We’ll be returning to Cannes throughout the week to see who’s popping champagne and who’s staring forlornly into the sea. But in the meantime, why not catch up on our alternative winners list below and see who you agree with.

1. Brand: Activia

Date Published: 22nd May 2014

Ad: Shakira  – La La La

Shares (All Time): 6,039,651

2. Brand: AMC Theatres

Date Published: 26th November 2014

Ad: Minions Go Caroling

Shares (All Time): 3,972,144

3. Brand: Animals Australia

Date Published: 17th November 2014

Ad: People Being Awesome

Shares (All Time): 3,768,697

4. Brand: Disney Parks

Date Published: 17th February 2015

Ad: Disney Characters Surprise Shoppers

Shares (All Time): 3,640,644

5. Brand: Ad Council

Date Published: 3rd March 2015

Ad: Diversity & Inclusion – Love Has No Labels

Shares (All Time): 2,715,501

6. Brand: Budweiser

Date Published: 28th Jan 2015

Ad: Lost Dog

Shares (All Time): 2,507,045

7. Brand: Fanpage.it

Date Published: 4th Jan 2015

Ad: “Slap Her” Children’s Reactions

Shares (All Time): 2,348,574

8. Brand: Nike Football

Date Published: 9th June 2014

Ad: The Last Game

Shares (All Time): 2,184,196

9. Brand: Cardstore

Date Published: April 14th 2014

Ad: World’s Toughest Job

Shares (All Time): 2,141,005

10. Brand: Microsoft’s Collective Project

Date Published: 12th March 2015

Ad: The Collective Project: Robert Downey Jr. Delivers a Real Bionic Arm

Shares (All Time): 2,053,364

11. Brand: Always

Date Published: 26th June 2014

Ad: #LikeAGirl

Shares (All Time): 1,916,253

12. Brand: UPS

Date Published: 1st December 2014

Ad: Driver for a Day

Shares (All Time): 1,877,497

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