June 4th, 2018

What To Expect From 2018 Cannes Lion Winners


Ace Metrix

The advertising industry is gearing up for its annual extravagant celebration at the Cannes Lions. As the foundation for innovation and catalyst for growth, creativity is the driving force behind the festival and it’s our number one motivator at Ace Metrix. There isn’t one characteristic that determines whether something is creative or not – it comes in an infinite amount of forms. However, when it comes to determining creative excellence in the ad industry, our data has shown a pattern exists.

We analyzed over 25,000 ads, both Cannes-winning and non-Cannes-winning, to understand what makes creative worthy of an award. Our study reveals the characteristics that make up Cannes winners, and which of these clusters of characteristics offer higher probabilities of winning.

After last year’s festival and in light of Publicis Groupe CEO’s announcement to sit out in 2018, major changes were implemented to the classic structure of the award ceremony. However, these changes won’t affect the judging and film category, which was analyzed in our Cannes Lions study, making our insight applicable for this year’s festival. The final submission deadline was April 20th, so while you eagerly wait for the award ceremony we thought we’d give you a look into what kinds of ads will most likely take home a Cannes Lion this year.


Our data shows Cannes-winning ads are emotionally-evocative, striving to stir something up in viewers, even if it’s a negative reaction, such as “WTF” or “eerie.” In fact, it’s these negative emotions that set Cannes ads most apart from non-winning ads — viewers found 20% of award winning ads annoying, eerie, quirky, etc. These ads that leave us feeling weird, or annoyed, grab our attention and stick with us – sometimes haunt us (looking at you, PuppyMonkeyBaby!) – for years. While they don’t always achieve classic business objectives, these ads push creative boundaries and that is what the judges recognize at Cannes Lions.

Universally Funny

Time and time again, our data reinforces the idea that trying to get a laugh out of viewers is a risky move, as a sense of humor varies widely from one person to another. So, ads that successfully pull off humor with a broad audience tend to be award winners. Universally funny ads, think some of the most iconic and memorable ads (Super Bowl), possess the highest probability of winning and make up 7% of all Cannes winners in our study. Therefore, you can definitely count on that one hilarious ad that all your friends and family liked to take home a Lion this year.

Wait, What?

Creative that leaves viewers feeling confused, thinking “what was that ad even for,” make up 14% of Cannes winning ads. These storytelling spots appeal to our senses with striking visuals or catchy jingles, but there is something missing so that viewers are often times left pondering what they just watched. Often times the focus on the story overrides any brand or product messaging, which viewers expect when watching an ad.


Of course, we can’t forget the heartfelt Cannes-winning ads. There will definitely be some touching, inspiring, and heartwarming ads taking an award home this year. Creative that falls into the “Heartfelt” cluster identified in our study make up only 0.9% of all ads, but 7% of Cannes-winners. These ads tell powerfully moving stories while also authentically weaving the product, or brand, into the message.

What you should NOT expect from Cannes Lion Winners: 

Not only did our study reveal the emotional characteristics of winners, it also shed light on the qualities that don’t describe them.

Starting with the obvious, you won’t see informational, product-centric ads picking up a Lion any time soon. That’s because there’s hardly anything Attention-grabbing, Likeable, or emotionally-evocative about this “creative” type. In terms of concepts that our analysis picked up related to product-centric ads, we found “average” “deals” and “value” are far from the characteristics that makes up award winners.

Cannes-worthy creative is not brand-centric. Winning ads are less focused on communicating positive brand attributes in favor of making viewers feel something, whether it’s heartfelt, funny, or weird. Cannes ads will not evoke phrases from viewers like “quality brand” or “I love the company,” as other creative aspects take the spotlight, such as visuals, characters, or story. Brand close-up ads don’t equate to creative excellence when it comes to judging at the Cannes Lions Festival.

We can’t wait to see all the annoying, hilarious, confusing, and heartfelt ads that take home a Lion this year. Check out How to Win a Cannes Lions to learn how we uncovered these insights, and for more in-depth coverage of Cannes-worthy creative.


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