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The flashiest, fanciest, most obscenely expensive party that the advertising industry throws for itself each year in the south of France came to a close this weekend. The Cannes Lions advertising festival is an international conference where big-name speakers discuss big ideas (and spout more than a little jargon), rosé-swilling executives attract the seething envy of employees working late back home, and awards are handed out to the best of the best from the previous year in ads.

If you’d like to be able to write off a yacht party with Kim Kardashian as a business expense, Cannes is for you. But it is about more than excess: It is also one of the most well-regarded of the creative awards that ad agencies can snag. While the ad industry has far too many award shows, Cannes really does matter – for attracting the best talent, winning over big clients, and proving ads had an impact. Here are all of the Canadian winners this year:

Groceries not Guns

Agency: Grey Canada
Advertiser: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Awards: Gold and two Silver Lions in Cyber, Gold in PR, Gold in Promo & Activation, three Gold in Radio, Silver in Direct, Silver in Titanium & Integrated, Bronze in Film for “Not Allowed

Grey has done award-winning work for this advocacy group in the past. This campaign criticizes grocery chain Kroger for a policy allowing customers to carry loaded guns. It encourages people to boycott the retailer in favour of stores without such policies; to contact the chain by phone and social media to pressure it to change its policies; and to sign a petition. It attracted considerable media attention to the issue.

Like a Girl

Agency: Leo Burnett Toronto, Chicago, London
Advertiser: Procter & Gamble’s Always
Awards: Two Gold Lions in Cyber; Gold and Silver in Direct, Glass Lion (a new award honouring ads that defy gender bias), Gold and Bronze in Promo & Activation, Silver in Branded Content & Entertainment, Gold in Film, Titanium Lion (an award for “creative ideas that point to a new direction for the industry…and inform new ways of thinking” – Canada’s first ever in this category)

Why is it an insult to tell someone they run or throw or hit “like a girl”? The Always brand attacked this language with an emotional video that quickly spread on social media. The campaign was so affecting that P&G decided to drop millions on its first-ever Super Bowl commercial for a feminine care brand.

Uber Safe

Agency: Rethink Toronto
Advertiser: Uber
Awards: Bronze Lion in Cyber

Ride-sharing service Uber has taken its battles with municipalities into the PR realm, hoping to shift public sentiment in its favour. One of many stunts it has done to win over Canadians has also won it a statuette at Cannes. The company installed a breathalyzer on a street corner in downtown Toronto. When passersby blew over the legal limit for alcohol consumption before driving, the machine hailed an Uber to take them home for free.

Struck by a Rainbow

Agency: BBDO Toronto
Advertiser: Wrigley Canada, Skittles
Awards: Silver Lion in Branded Content & Entertainment, Bronze in Film

“One can only imagine what someone would go through when their skin is all small multicoloured candy,” says a doctor about a man made of Skittles. The brand has a history of truly bizarre advertising, and went a step further with this weird story, making an entire mini-documentary about a man with candy skin.

Kids Read Mean Tweets

Agency: John St.
Advertiser: Canadian Safe Schools Network
Awards: Bronze Lion in Branded Content & Entertainment

A popular joke segment on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night talk show is repurposed to show how cruel social media can be when nastiness is directed at kids.


Agency: Lg2 Montreal
Advertiser: Reviveaphone
Awards: Bronze Lion in Branded Content & Entertainment

Because of time zones, the world’s very first iPhone6 was sold in Australia. So in a promotional stunt, Lg2 sent a man there to get the very first phone – and then commit the ultimate sin against all those Apple fanboys by dumping it in a pitcher of beer. Why? To advertise a product that can resurrect a phone that’s been dropped in liquid.

Nobody’s Memories

Agency: FCB Toronto
Advertiser: PFLAG Canada
Awards: Silver Lion in Film

As the struggle for equal rights continues, PFLAG launched a video reminding viewers of the couples who never had the chance to wed. The video recreated vintage footage of gay unions from the ‘40s to the ‘70s that never actually happened. While same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada for a decade, the campaign was designed to support people in other countries fighting for the same rights. The advertising award comes in the same week as a landmark Supreme Court ruling in the U.S. that changes the landscape for LGBT Americans.


Agency: Lg2 Québec
Advertiser: Société de l’Assurance Automobile du Québec
Awards: Bronze Lion in Film

The consequences of drinking and driving are varied, but they are all tied to one decision. This ad illustrated that creatively with a string tied to the car keys that a man picks up after having a few at the bar. The string then appears in various scenes, hoisting the breathalyzer held by the cop who pulls the man over; pulling the doors of a jail cell closed; and eventually, lifting the hands of the man’s dismayed son to his face.

Sonos Brand Identity

Agency: Bruce Mau Design Toronto
Advertiser: Sonos
Awards: Bronze Lion in Design

Sonos makes higher-end speakers for music, and the Toronto firm helped to redesign the images it uses in stores, in communications and advertising, and in its digital apps that help users control their devices.

Christmas Wrapping Paper

Agency: Leo Burnett Toronto
Advertiser: Leo Burnett Toronto (self-promotional)
Awards: Bronze Lion in Design

The agency designed sturdy, hard-to-rip paper in a number of shapes to help wrap gifts more beautifully.

“Serena,” “Milos” and “Eugenie”

Agency: Leo Burnett Toronto
Advertiser: Bell Media, for the U.S. Open on TSN
Awards: Three Silver Lions in Outdoor

In a clever twist on the billboard, the agency built posters by sticking tennis balls in fences to spell out promotional messages and even shape portraits of the sport’s stars.

“Soccer” and “Spouse”

Agency: Lg2 Quebec
Advertiser: Farnham Ale & Lager
Awards: Two Bronze Lions in Outdoor, two Silver in Press

This local microbrewery makes ales and lagers that are “a bit bitter,” a concept that was illustrated in these ads with characters in the shape of beer stills. In one, four of the stills are painted as a happy German soccer fan post-World Cup while a fifth is a scowling Brazil fan.

“Laeticia,” “Mika” and “Tam”

Agency: Brad Montreal
Advertiser: Lego
Awards: Three Bronze Lions in Outdoor

Santa knows when you’ve been bad, or good. Children smile hopefully in holiday ads, their halos made out of their present of choice.

“Life of Pi,” “Fargo” and “Ghostbusters”

Agency: DDB Canada Vancouver
Advertiser: Netflix
Awards: Three Bronze Lions in Press

Clever ads appealed to movie lovers with beautiful graphics designed to only be recognized by people who knew each film: a tiger’s tail lying over the edge of a boat, for Life of Pi, for example.


Agency: Lg2 Québec
Advertiser: Société de l’Assurance Automobile du Québec
Awards: Silver Lion in Radio

A narrator reads a list of people who died for honourable causes, then adds a woman to the list who died because she was texting while driving. The message: don’t sacrifice your life for something so trivial.

“That’s No Joke,” “Not a Game” and “Change the Tune”

Agency: Juniper Park Toronto
Advertiser: YWCA
Awards: Three Bronze Lions in Radio

A man hits a woman with a baseball bat; another woman is beaten until she is bloody and unconscious. The rates of violence against women mean that these scenes could be real, but as this ad campaign from the YWCA reveals, they are scenes from pop culture. The ads asked people to consider why violence against women is considered an appropriate part of what we see as entertainment.