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Persuasion Notebook

The advertising industry loves to party, and to pat itself on the back. The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the most important and high-profile event in the business for both of those pursuits.

While the festival has a preoccupation with glitz, the awards handed out in the south of France last week do matter: the "Lion" statuettes are a mark of creative excellence for advertising agencies, and a way for them to show clients that the work they spend millions on has merit.

Here are the Canadian winners announced this year:

"Out There"
Agency: CAA Marketing Los Angeles
Advertiser: Canada Goose
Award: Gold Lion in Design, Bronze Lion in Cyber and Gold Lion in Entertainment (a category previously known as Branded Content, awarding work that blurs the line between advertising and entertainment)

The trendy Canadian outerwear manufacturer hired Hollywood talent – director Paul Haggis – to shoot a four-minute film telling the story of the "adventurers" who have relied on the brand. The investment marked the biggest ad campaign in the company's history. Consumers "are starting to want to know the story behind what they're buying," Canada Goose chief marketing officer Kevin Spreekmeester told The Globe and Mail before the launch. "… We've done much, much smaller stuff in the past. Now, we really need to get ahead of the story."

"MTV VMA Green Screens"
Agency: Jam3 and MTV New York
Advertiser: MTV
Awards: Gold and Silver Lions in Cyber, Silver Lion in Entertainment

Internet culture is all about remixing – memes, videos and social media posts allow people to use digital media to put their own spin on pop culture phenomena. Understanding that its young audience is right at the core of this culture, MTV promoted its Video Music Awards with weird TV, digital and outdoor ads that featured host Miley Cyrus posing against a green backdrop (the "green screen" effect that allows people to swap out the colour block with other images). It then made those green-screen images featuring Miley and others available on the Web for people to manipulate as they liked. The network chose its favourites and, closer to the show, swapped out its green ads with fan-created versions. The campaign led to 24-million uses of the #VMA hashtag on social media, massive reach for the campaign, and strong TV viewership for the awards.

Agency: Grey Canada
Advertiser: Ovarian Cancer Canada
Awards: Silver Lion in Health and Wellness, Bronze Lion in PR

Ovarian Cancer is "a disease that hasn't at all been in the common conversation," according to Ovarian Cancer Canada. So it launched a campaign to introduce a new way to talk about this private part: they called them "ladyballs." While the ads caused some controversy, they were also effective: it received widespread media coverage, and the organization saw a 118-per-cent increase in women who contacted them to ask for information.

"Printed by Somerset"
Agency: Leo Burnett Toronto
Advertiser: Somerset
Award: Silver Lion in Design and a Bronze Lion in Cyber

To show off the quality of the printing company's processes, it designed a website that it printed on paper, and then put the whole thing back online using stop-motion animation to show the effect.

"The Birds" and "The River"
Agency: Cossette Toronto
Advertiser: Rakuten Kobo
Awards: Two Bronze Lions in Radio

These ads told a short story using just the titles of books stitched together – a kind of inside joke for the target market.

"Give Him Everything" and "Femme-a-polooza"
Agency: J. Walter Thompson Canada
Advertiser: The Toronto Speakers Academy
Award: Two Bronze Lions in Radio

A woman calls her divorce lawyer advising him that she's giving her ex-husband all of her biggest assets, including a condo, a yacht, and "shared custody of my breast implants." A man calls his friend to say he's missing the boys' weekend to attend a woman-centred festival with his wife. The message: learning to be a "persuasive speaker" can pay off.

Agency: TANK Montreal
Advertiser: Valda lozenges
Award: Bronze Lion in Radio

A scary voice on the other end of the telephone says, "I've got your kids." A mother panics – until she discovers it's her own mom with a sore throat.

"Coming Soon"
Agency: Leo Burnett Toronto
Advertiser: Raising the Roof
Award: Bronze Lion in the Direct category

Leo Burnett has worked with Raising the Roof, a Canadian charity, for some time to raise awareness about homelessness. Last October, the agency created a billboard and sent out letters, advising residents of the Leaside neighbourhood in Toronto that a homeless shelter would soon be opened there. It was a hoax – local residents' negative reactions became part of an online video which started a conversation around homelessness, and caused donations to the charity to rise 500 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.

"Just Another Day"
Agency: J. Walter Thompson Canada
Advertiser: SickKids Foundation
Award: Silver Lion in Entertainment for Music (a new category this year that honours work "with music at the core")

The stories that come out of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children every day are heart-wrenching enough on their own. But when the band Coldplay donated the rights to their song "Fix You" to be paired with those stories, it gave them added impact and emotional effect. The "Just Another Day" video was a compendium of film clips from a larger campaign that launched in 2014. The campaign for the SickKids Foundation sent a film crew to document the stories of children and their families whose lives are changed when they have to spend time in the hospital. The result, an affecting collection of those stories – which were each made into their own ad, a different one for each day running for more than a month – led to a record level of donations to the Foundation.

"Diehard Fan"
Agency: Critical Mass Calgary
Advertiser: Nissan North America
Award: Bronze Lion in Digital Craft

To advertise Nissan's partnership with the NCAA, it created a mobile application that tracked the shape of the user's face to make it appear painted with his or her favourite team's colour in selfies – similar to the "filters" that social app Snapchat offers to its users. Digital Craft is a new category introduced at Cannes this year to award digital design that is both creative and functional for users – reflecting the massive shift in the importance of digital media.

"Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop"
Agency: Mediacom Toronto
Advertiser: Wrigley Canada
Award: Bronze Lion in Media

For many people, accumulating unwanted detritus is as much of a holiday tradition as hot chocolate and incessant carols gumming up the airwaves. It's also a time when advertising is at a fever pitch, and it can be hard for brands to stand out from the crowd. One found a way: Creative agency BBDO and media agency Mediacom set up a "pawn shop" in downtown Toronto where disappointed gift recipients could trade their cast-off presents for bags of Skittles. Returns on the cost of setting up and promoting the pop-up shop multiplied as it received news coverage and invaded social media conversations. More than 3,300 presents were traded in over just five days, and the company claims to have given away "more than 3-million Skittles." (When counted in bags it's more like in the thousands, but marketing is all about spin after all.)

"The Colder it Gets"
Agency: Touché! Montreal
Advertiser: Mark's (Canadian Tire Cos Ltd.)
Award: Bronze Lion in Creative Data

Retail is a meteorologically-sensitive business: when the thermostat drops, people often aren't in the mood to shop. Mark's got around this with a promotion that got better the more miserable winter got. In partnership with The Weather Network, the retailer ran a locally-targeted promotion that gave people offers of discounts that matched the temperature in their area. (A temperature of -12 degree Celsius triggered 12-per-cent discounts, for example.) Mediacom handled media buying and planning, including Web page takeovers on the Weather Network site that were localized. Sid Lee was the creative agency behind the campaign. In places where the weather-triggered ads ran, sales rose 21 per cent on average compared to the same time a year before.