Nine campaigns that found the holy grail of advertising awesomeness

Sometime in the not too distant past, as researchers around the world proved unanimously that highly creative content is much more likely to drive greater commercial success, the argument over whether advertising should strive first to be ‘creative’ or ‘effective’ was replaced with a simple ambition to be both. 

Today it’s clients as much as creatives who aspire to do the most creative work that in turn leads to the most outstanding commercial results. And the holy grail for client and agency partnerships has increasingly become to win a gold Lion and a gold Effie with the same campaign.

Putting aside nerdy squabbles about which award shows are best, a Cannes Lion generally represents the global standard of creative excellence, and an Effie the same for effectiveness. Both are programmes that attract entries from every market and provide genuine rigour and objectivity in their judging processes.

As the case for creativity would suggest, ‘creative and effective’ campaigns are common. The larger Cannes Lion winning campaigns almost always show up at the Effies (alas, rarely do clients invest in the expensive measurement metrics required to compile an Effie paper in the case of their smaller campaigns, and often it’s these smaller campaigns that win creative awards, thus the illusion of a preponderance of creatively awarded yet ineffective campaigns).

However, going all the way and winning a gold award at either Cannes or the Effies is bloody difficult. Of the hundreds of thousands of campaigns produced around the world this year past, 141 were creative enough to win a Gold Lion and 300 were effective enough to win a Gold Effie. These winners represent the tiniest fraction of a percentage point of our industry’s work.

And winning both—taking home a Gold Lion and a Gold Effie for the same campaign—is a delicious rarity. A high water mark of human achievement in creative communications, and the kind of work we’d all love to be able to stake our names to.

Nine campaigns joined this exclusive club in 2012*, and the thing that stands out most is what a remarkably broad creative canvas these campaigns represent. Funny TV, clever promotions, brilliant social media, emotive social marketing, huge integrated ideas and killer innovations. There is little in the way of consistency in style. If anything, it’s gratifying evidence that communications creativity in all its forms can be super-effective. 

The one theme, of course, is that these are all cases for creativity. Persuasive appeals to drive outstanding commercial success by producing work that’s highly original, hugely engaging and brilliantly executed. To do things that consumers and the media find fascinating enough to talk about. And most of all, to quote Faris Yakob from his recent commentary in Millward Brown’s 2012 Effie Report, to “be awesome”. Because “in a world driven by sharing, if it doesn’t spread it’s dead, and awesomeness, the emotion of awe, is what drives the most spread.”

And so, having collected up and scoured the winners lists from both Cannes and the past year’s 40 Effie shows, here are the nine awesome gold Lion winning campaigns that went on to pick up a gold Effie in 2012:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw3zNNO5gX0“Book Burning Party” for Troy Public Library by Leo Burnett, Detroit, USA. This delightfully underhanded campaign got apathetic Micheganians out in droves to vote successfully against the closure of their local library. A protest campaign for the conversation economy, it won gold at the PR Lions, Direct Lions and North American Effies in 2012.
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKL254Y_jtc“Born of Fire” for Chrysler by Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, USA. A repositioning argument of classical proportions, ‘Imported from Detroit’ turned a city’s hard times into glory, making Chrysler synonymous with the American spirit and driving a sales comeback that enabled the carmaker to pay off their government bailout six years early. The campaign won gold at both the Film and Film Craft Lions in 2011 and took out the Grand North American Effie in 2012.
  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3e7_NJznNY“Curators of Sweden” for Sweden Tourism by Volontaire, Stockholm, Sweden By giving its @Sweden twitter account over to an uncensored stream of ordinary citizens, Sweden Tourism created an incontrovertible demonstration of their country’s commitment to democracy. A truly intelligent use of Twitter among a deluge of brands using social media for the sake of it, this campaign garnered enormous international interest on a shoestring budget, winning the Cyber Lions Grand Prix and a gold Euro Effie in 2012.
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCO2bc5OzcM“Dads in Briefs” for BGH Air Conditioners by Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, Buenos Aires, Argentina. A gruesomely close-to-the-bone insight, an inventive take on the benefit of effective air conditioning and a hilarious TV campaign made the world go ‘ewww’, made Argentineans buy air con units in their thousands and took gold at both the Film Lions and Argentinian Effies in 2012.
  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNic4wf8AYg“Decode Jay-Z” for Microsoft Bing by Droga 5, New York, USA. A lesson in both truly immersive content and contemporary product demonstration, ‘Decode Jay-Z’ brought two megabrands together to close the gap between Bing and Google. After rocketing into the Top 10 Most Visited US Websites list for the first time, Bing won gold, titanium and two grands prix at the 2011 Cannes Lions and gold at the North American Effies in 2012.
  6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXVNBUvFJEs“Rivers of Light” for Ministry of Defence Colombia by Lowe-SPP3, Bogota, Colombia. A Christmas plea from Colombia’s people to its guerrilla fighters to demobilise and come home to their families. For its ingenious use of the rivers running through Colombia’s jungle, ‘Rivers of Light’ won a titanium Lion and for its success in facilitating peace at Christmas time it won a gold Colombian Effie in 2012.
  7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w08TVILY2LM“Steal Banksy” for Art Series Hotels by Naked Communications, Sydney, Australia. A clever promotion inviting Australians to try to make off with an original Banksy from this art-themed hotel’s collection created a hugely engaging reason to book a night and try their luck. ‘Steal Banksy’ put a boutique hotel all over the press, selling 1500 beds in a month and winning a gold PR Lion and gold Australian Effie in 2012. Bing ‘overstay checkout’ for the awesome follow up campaign.
  8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC3IryWr4c8“Watson” for IBM by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, USA. The incredible feat of building a computer that beat humans at Jeopardy! brought IBM renewed tech and cultural cred and, ironically, kinda humanised the brand. It also paid back in revenue 21 times the cost of the campaign and kicked off IBM’s commercialisation of Watson’s Natural Language Processing technology, expected to be a billion dollar business within five years. ‘Watson’ won a PR Lion and a gold North American Effie in 2012.
  9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBZtHAVvslQ“Write the Future” for Nike by Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Albeit the most impressive aspect of the campaign, the dizzyingly epic ‘Write the Future’ film was just one part of a giant global effort to steal Adidas’ football World Cup thunder. Despite not paying a cent in sponsorship money, Nike had ‘the biggest and most successful World Cup in our history’ according to CEO Mark Parker, winning gold at the 2011 Integrated, Cyber and Film Craft Lions in addition to the Film Grand Prix, and taking out the 2012 Global Effies’ only gold.

*At first glance, just nine gold Lion and gold Effie winning campaigns might sound like more of a case against creativity. Shouldn’t the crossover be larger? In fact, no. Only 1 in every 7000 campaigns is creative enough to win a creative award – meaning that of the 300 gold Effie winners there should by rights have been either zero or 1 creative award winner. The fact that there are 9 gold Lion winners (and dozens more creative award winners of other varieties) shows a gigantic over-index of creative campaigns, running well into the tens of thousands, for the statisticians out there. This is consistent with the accepted research showing that creatively awarded campaigns are much more likely to be effective than campaigns on average.

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