On June 20-24, the main event of the creative industry—the Cannes Lions International Festival—will take place in Cannes. Many call it an analogue of the “Oscar” in the world of advertising. Every year, the best examples of brand communication and the most original creative campaigns are awarded on the French Riviera. So, if you want to know what first-class advertising should look like, you can explore the works of the Cannes Lions contestants and winners. To make things easier for you, we’ve chosen iconic campaigns that have won Grand Prix in the last ten years. Many of them have achieved cult status. Check them out to see why the Cannes Lions set trends in the creative industry.


What you need to know about the Cannes Lions

The Cannes Lions is an international creative festival that brings together creators, advertisers, designers, and other professionals from related fields. It owes much of its existence to its “older brother”—the Cannes Film Festival. The idea of ​​creating the event is attributed to the World Association of Screen Advertising (SAWA) representatives. They believed that the creators of advertising also deserve attention and recognition. This initiative was first implemented in 1954 in Venice. The former International Advertising Festival received almost 190 commercials from 14 countries. Interesting fact: the main award of the event was inspired by the famous sculpture of the Lion from St. Mark’s Square.

For a while, the festival was hosted in different cities (Monte Carlo, Venice, Cannes), but since 1984, it has only been held in Cannes. Thousands of participants from all over the world come to the Palace of Festivals and Congresses every June to celebrate the best works in the creative industry and compete for top prizes.

According to the organizers, “Cannes Lions” is created for those who want to achieve artistic excellence. The festival’s slogan is “Strive for more, move forward, and promote progress through creativity”.

The Cannes Lions Best Advertising Campaigns of the Decade poster 2022

Source: Cannes Lions Festival website


Awards of the Cannes Lions Festival

As the “Golden Palm Branch” of the Cannes Film Festival is one of the highest honors in the film industry, the lions are the most prestigious awards for creators. So it is no surprise that this event draws the attention of millions of professionals worldwide. The festival covers nine main categories (Classic, Craft, Engagement, Entertainment, Experience, etc.), each of which has its own subcategory. These include design, film production, media, PR, creative commerce, innovation, mobile, publishing, radio and audio, and more. Awards presented include: “Agency of the Year”, “Independent Agency of the Year”, “Media Agency of the Year”, “Holding Company of the Year”, “Media Person of the Year”, and “Network of the Year”.

The winners of the festival receive gold, silver, and bronze lions. In addition, gold award winners have a chance to win the Grand Prix. Young Lions awards are also given out as part of the Cannes Lions festival to young creators under 30. They can receive prizes in the fields of print, digital, film, design, young marketers, media, and PR.

Aside from award ceremonies and gala concerts, the festival also has an educational component. Everyone has the opportunity to attend seminars and workshops, as well as listen to talks by famous creators, meet new people, and establish useful relationships.


The best creative campaigns of the Cannes Lions

1. Courage Is Beautiful (2020)

Agencies: Ogilvy Toronto and Ogilvy London

For brand: Dove

This campaign was created for Dove two years ago, when the coronavirus outbreak was the main threat to the world. It is quite simple in format (it is a carousel of photos accompanied by music) and, at the same time, very powerful. The video’s heroes are medical workers who are shown as they are: fatigued, exhausted from hard work, and with deep marks on their faces from protective masks. Nevertheless, the main message is clear: courage is beautiful. The campaign was created to honor the devotion and courage of those who risk their own lives to save the lives of others. It received international acclaim and was awarded the Cannes Lions Grand Prix.


2. It’s a Tide Ad (2018)

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi

For brand: Tide

The Super Bowl is a competition not just between footballers for the main trophy, but also between brands for the audience’s attention. And this is a challenge even for the best. How does one find an original idea to advertise something as simple as powder laundry detergent? Saatchi & Saatchi agency broke the system by using Super Bowl commercial template plots, and showed a great example of how clichés can be transformed into something really creative. The core message of their campaign: no matter what you’re advertising—a luxury car, beer, mattresses, or anything else—if there are no stains on your clothes, it’s a Tide ad. The funny video of the agency has collected many awards, including the main prize of the Cannes Lions.


3. Black Supermarket (2017)

Agency: Marcel

For brand: Carrefour

The campaign, created for French retailer Carrefour is, without exaggeration, revolutionary. This is a unique case in which a brand managed to not only develop effective advertising and draw attention to an important issue, but also to help change the law! The network rebelled against a law that allowed only 3% of farm products to be sold, while the remaining 97% were prohibited because they were not listed in the official EU catalog. In the advertising campaign, the brand urged consumers to abandon modified and pesticide products in favor of organic. And most importantly – they created “Black Supermarkets” with “illegal” veggies and fruits. The protest brought together many conscious people who decided to protect their consumer rights. The result was the adoption of a new law that lifted all restrictions on the sale of organic products. Not surprisingly, this campaign won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix in the Creative Efficiency category.


4. The Displaced (2015)

Production: Vrse.works

For brand: The New York Times

The VR film “The Displaced” was created by Vrse.works for the NYT VR app. It tells the story of three children from Syria, Ukraine, and South Sudan, who have been forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution. Thanks to virtual reality technologies and exciting storytelling, viewers can immerse themselves in the world of modern refugees, see the lives of these children through their own eyes, and feel what it is like to be homeless. In this way, the magazine wanted to draw attention to the global refugee crisis, as there were about 60 million refugees in the world at the time of filming (now 84 million), half of whom are children. The NYT project received positive feedback from viewers, as well as a number of awards, including the main prize in Cannes.


5. Like a Girl (2014)

Agency: Leo Burnett

For brand: Always

Today, companies that specialize in the production of cosmetics or care products often turn to the topic of self-love. One of the brands that promoted the idea of ​​self-acceptance (along with Dove) was Always. In particular, the campaign “Like a Girl” from the well-known agency Leo Burnett raises an important issue of the stereotypical perception of girls as weak and timid. Moreover, advertising shows that the bearers of these stereotypes, which do not correspond to reality, are both men and women. At the same time, the primary school girls in the video show strength and determination, saying that doing something like a girl means doing the best you can. The campaign reveals a clear contrast between the girls’ vision of self-esteem and the stereotypes imposed by society. This ad received millions of views and went viral. The brand strengthened its reputation, and the agency won the main award of the Cannes Lions in the PR category.


6. The Epic Split (2013)

Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors

For brand: Volvo Trucks

Volvo Trucks has a Live Test series of six spectacular videos, each demonstrating real-world testing of its trucks in rather unusual situations. For example, in the first video, a stuntwoman walks on a sling stretched between two cars; in the second, the company’s president stands on a truck suspended in the air. But, without exaggeration, the most legendary video is of Jean-Claude Van Damme doing a stunning split between trucks that are slowly moving along to Only Time by Enya. In such an original way, Forsman & Bodenfors decided to demonstrate the high technical qualities, stability, and precision of Volvo truck driving. The video was extremely successful, with over 100 million views in two years. As a result, the campaign was honored with 20 Cannes Lions, including two Grand Prix and eight Golden Lions.


7. Dumb Ways to Die (2012)

Agency: McCann Melbourne

For brand: Metro Trains Melbourne

How do you remind people about the importance of safe behavior in the metro, but without boring the audience? You can choose a non-standard approach, as did the McCann agency in Melbourne. The creators made a funny cartoon about the most ridiculous ways to die, which included reckless behavior in the metro. This campaign quickly went viral due to its unique blend of black humor, bright characters, and catchy soundtrack. The video was viewed 28 million times in two weeks, and the accompanying song charted in the top 10 on iTunes. Subsequently, the campaign was then expanded into a mobile game, application, merch, tutorial, and more. In 2013, McCann became a record holder, winning 28 Cannes Lions awards at once, including five Grand Prix.



The winning campaigns of the Cannes Lions are a great example of how advertising can have a significant social impact. The main conclusion that can be drawn after reviewing them: those who care about their audience and strive to make the world a better place come first. We encourage you to choose this approach in your creative communication, as well as not be afraid to experiment and go against the rules.


Other articles that may interest you:

Creative Trends Guide 2022: Merging the Future and the Past

Cannes Film Festival: 10 Most Beautiful Posters to Draw Inspiration From

5 Offbeat Ways to Boost Creativity (Away from Screens)

Networking Tips for Introverted Creatives

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