Obama Campaign Takes Top Ad Prizes

Obama for America unanimously won two Grand Prix awards.

ByTheresa Howard, USA TODAY
June 27, 2009, 7:36 PM

CANNES, France -- Barack Obama's historical win to become president also made history at the world's biggest ad competition where his election campaign won one of the most coveted Cannes awards.

Obama for America unanimously won two Grand Prix awards — one Titanium and one Integrated in the finales Saturday. The Grand Prix for film went to a dramatic, interactive video by Tribal DDB Amsterdam for Dutch electronics giant Philips and its new $3,999 home-cinema TV. Titanium has become an increasingly prestigious category since it sets a new standard for the industry.

The winners capped the most prevalent theme this week for the thousands of ad makers and clients gathered at the ad fest on the French Riviera: ads today have to operate across multiple mediums, include user involvement and show results.

In this case the results were votes, user involvement spanned events, campaign volunteers, YouTube videos, Twitter, Facebook and media included everything from traditional mass media to social networking.

"They set the framework and let other people contribute to it," said David Droga, jury president and creative chairman, Droga5 in New York. "They turned (political advertising) from being one dimensional to something the whole country could contribute to. It was a fantastic idea. "

Despite representation on the Titanium and Integrated panel by three U.S. judges, not everyone was sold initially on the campaign, the first political campaign to ever win a Grand Prix here.

"I came into this not wanting to vote for the Obama campaign," said Rich Silverstein, co-chairman and creative, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. "But it was effective. You couldn't ignore it. There will never be a political campaign that doesn't uses these tools."

Also a first: a digital agency and video took the top prize in film, a category that traditionally awards the top prize to a TV spot. The video Cinema 21:9 introduced the "world's first cinema proportion TV." Viewers can click hot-spots to make it feel as if they control the film about a botched armed robbery at a hospital. The site (www.philips.com/cinema) has had more than 1 million unique visitors who spend an average of five minutes.

"It has a lot of different elements," said David Lubars, chairman, chief creative officer, BBDO, North America and the jury president for film. "It's an example of showing the way forward."

The ad runs for two minutes and 19 seconds, an intentional length in order to promote the set's 21:9 display proportion. People can toggle between the aspect ratios and activate the set's signature Ambilight feature, backlighting on the set that makes it feel more like a movie theater.

"We wanted people to experience the difference between 16.9 and 21.9 TV and we wanted them to experience between having Ambilight on and Ambilight off," says Gary Raucher, head of integrated marketing communications for Philips consumer lifeystle.

The agency wanted to created something memorable and used a dark setting, eerie music and dead robbers in clown suits to demonstrate the product.

"We wanted to create something cinematic, action packed and heart-stopping that would get the audiences attention," said Chris Baylis, executive creative director, Tribal DDB Amsterdam. We were still discussing the masks two days before the shoot. The crazy evil clown masks are the ones we went for … because it made Ambilight look great. "

More demonstrations of good ads:

• VW revs up the auto industry. A feel good Volkswagen ad for Spacefox vehicle won a gold in film. The ad showed a young man and his fishdog pet. Volkswagen won more than a dozen ads at the festival where it was also named advertiser of the year.

"Volkswagen is an iconic, authentic, soulful brand in all markets, and its advertising is legendary," says Tim Ellis, U.S. marketing chief for Volkswagen, which has won 150 lion awards throughout Cannes' history. "Throughout the world Volkswagen stands for value, respomsibility and innovattion."

• Not politics as usual. Newspaper The Zimbabwean attached dictator Robert Mugabe in a highly-awarded campaign that used valueless currency as billboards and posters. The campaign won a Gold Lion in Integrated.

More Obama campaign wins: The Great Schlep, which featured Sarah Silverman in a video to get Jewish voters in Florida to vote for Obama, won a Titanium Lion. And MTV took a Gold Lion for a register to vote campaign.

• Social strength. Winning campaigns used consumers to help breath life into campaigns. Among the week's big winners were campaigns that were "co-created" by consumers. Burger King took a Titanium for its Whopper Sacrifice program by Crispin Porter + Bogusky that awarded people a free Whopper for de-listing 10 friends from their Facebook page.

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