Critipeg: Cannes Lions

★★★★★ out of 5

A still from “Escape from the office,” one of two Grand Prix-winning ads from the 2022 Cannes Lions festival. (Supplied photo)

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity showcases the best ads of 2022

From Dec. 10 to Jan. 7, the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is showing the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Styled after the renowned Cannes Film Festival, the showcase screens the best advertising and communications films from around the world.

While Cannes Lions awards pieces in a variety of media, including print and publishing, radio and audio, and outdoor installations like billboards, the WAG showcase focuses on the visual, showing the winners in the categories of film and film craft. The awards are given in four tiers beginning with bronze then silver, gold and, finally, the Grand Prix, which is awarded to the best ads of the year.

With a few exceptions, virtually all of the ads screened at Cannes Lions are less than five minutes long. The brevity of the films forces them to focus on one or two key aspects which, in a moment, leave the audience in awe. These aspects include creative double entendres, sweeping visuals and surprise reveals. The creative centrepieces act as visual earworms that allow the ads to stick with the audience after leaving the event.

The whole event is a showcase of the particularity of advertising as a medium. At its core, each ad is focused on a particular message – be it to buy Twix or support sexual equality. But the way they’re portrayed demonstrates the art of advertising. Each ad contains statements, moods and moments that the viewer is encouraged to bundle together.

The winners run the gamut of emotion with ads that are humorous, sombre, or inspirational. Occasionally, ads incite a full range of emotion such as in the Grand Prix winner “Escape from the office.” Some ads, especially the variety that focus on gun control, create impactful experiences which convey the gravity of the messages the ads wish to impart.

“The media is the message,” as Marshall McLuhan classically said. The way messages are carried and how advertisers combine sounds, pictures and motion create full pictures.

Watching all the award winners back to back can be exhausting. The dynamic pacing of the different ads, however, does help the viewer from being over-encumbered. Some, such as the Channel 4 Paralympics ad “Super. Human.,” are extremely fast-cutting from image to image, while others, such as Burberry’s “Open Spaces,” allow the audience to take a much-needed breath.

The whole event acts as a time capsule of the year that just passed. The films showcase the year’s worries: living through COVID-19, seen best in the Grand Prix winner “The Wish,” gun violence and gender-based inequality. Additionally, the films also demonstrate what is valuable: entrepreneurialism, comradery or fantastical experiences.

Above all, Cannes Lions is an opportunity for audiences to think about the year in review while appreciating the art of filmmaking on the micro-scale.

Cannes Lions plays at the WAG from Dec. 10 to Jan. 7 and will be shown again from Mar. 30 to Apr. 1.

Published in Volume 77, Number 13 of The Uniter (January 5, 2023)

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