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The top campaigns we’re watching for at Cannes Lions

Photo collage of a lion cub being lifted by a pixel cursor hand over ocean and buildings on a blue sky background.

Illustration by Robyn Phelps / Getty / Shutterstock / The Current

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity returns Monday after a transformative year in advertising. We’ve seen the rise of artificial intelligence, cookie deprecation delays and plenty of memorable campaigns.

“The ads that stand out at Cannes typically possess one of a few key traits: purpose-driven, technologically innovative or brilliantly simple,” Michael Mothner, founder and CEO of Wpromote, tells The Current. “It's that last category that intrigues me the most, particularly when considering audience resonance and its impact on business outcomes.”

Here are six campaigns to watch heading into the festival awards, with thoughts from industry insiders on what makes them stand out.

The Barbie campaign — Barbie the movie (Mattel)

The Barbie movie was a cultural lightning rod last year, becoming the highest-grossing movie of 2023 at the global box office and nabbing eight Oscar nominations, including best picture, and winning one. But it may not be done winning. The movie’s campaign, which included over 100 brand collaborations, took home two Grand Clios this year and is a contender at Cannes Lions.

Richard Dickson, Mattel’s chief operating officer, predicted the movie’s significance at last year’s Cannes Lions festival: “Barbie is going to be everywhere. But not just as a toy, as an idea,” he said at the time.

DoorDash All the Ads — DoorDash (Weiden+Kennedy)

DoorDash took advantage of its presence at the Super Bowl this year with a sweepstakes that aimed to remind consumers that you can get “anything” delivered by DoorDash. People could enter the contest with a code from the Super Bowl spot, and the lucky winner won products featured in other ads during the big game. The campaign is up for a Titanium Lion.

Exosphere —Sphere Vegas (Sphere Entertainment)

The Sphere entertainment venue in Las Vegas has captured the attention of advertisers since it opened last year, with its exterior that essentially acts as a giant, spherical digital billboard. Brands like Xbox and Pepsi have utilized it, and it was especially attractive to advertisers during this year’s Super Bowl in Vegas. Now, it’s on the shortlists for the Titanium and Innovation Lions.

Michael CeraVe — CeraVe (Ogilvy)

Actor Michael Cera lending his awkward comedy to a CeraVe ad seems so obvious in hindsight. The Super Bowl spot, a first for CeraVe, was the culmination of a weeks-long campaign from CeraVe by Ogilvy that tried to convince the public that Cera was the mastermind behind the skincare brand. It’s on the Titanium Lion shortlist.

“One of the reasons we believe it's standing out is the way we meticulously planned a robust multi-channel experience that rolled out through influencer content, memes, owned content, Reddit, earned media, IRL experiences, and more,” says Charlotte Tansill, North American president of Ogilvy PR, social and influence. “We had a fleet of influencers fueling the speculation and stirring drama and bringing audiences along for the ride.”

The Oreo Menu — Mondelez (VML)

Have you ever looked at a bar code or website menu and thought “huh, that really looks like an Oreo cookie”? Well, VML and Oreo parent company Mondelez have. “The Oreo Menu” sought to claim the website menu — you know the ones, those little lines in the top corner of a website often described as the “hamburger menu” — for the cookie brand, turning them into gateways to Oreo deals when consumers clicked on them.

“They’re shoppable ads, but if the shoppable ads were everywhere on the internet,” says VML CEO Jon Cook.

WoMen’s Football — Orange (Marcel)

WoMen’s Football, a campaign for French telecom company Orange, is a favorite this year and on multiple shortlists, including for Titanium and Glass Lions. The ad features exciting footage of what at first appears to be the French men’s soccer team, until it’s revealed that it’s actually the women’s team and visual effects were used to alter the footage. It already won four Grand Clios earlier this year, positioning it well heading into Cannes Lions.

“It's such a simple idea and it's just really beautiful, beautifully done,” says Iain Thomas, co-founder of Sounds Fun, a creative technology studio.