Cannes Advertising Festival 2023: Brand Activation and Experience

 The 2023 Cannes Brand Activation and Experience category is as excellent as always.

In the past decade, this category has quickly become one of the most compelling in the entire festival. The Direct category has also notably improved in quality and stature in the same amount of time. In fact, you’ll find a degree of cross-over between the two.

It’s an interesting dynamic. Campaigns that are awarded in one of the categories might not be awarded in the other. It all comes down to the jury on the day. That’s why it’s worth comparing the two. Because more often than not, the cream rises to the top.

Not always – some juries have awarded some stinkers in the past (and this year too). But more often than not, the best work is awarded. So take a look at the 2023 Cannes Brand Activation and Experience Winners below. This jury did a pretty good job, and there’s a lot of great campaigns to digest and learn from here. 

Table of Contents

2023 Cannes Brand Activation Grand Prix winner

As a raw concept – this idea is actually quite obvious. You’re doing a TV show about soccer. So, put the fictional team into a soccer video game. But, as always, it’s execution that makes all the difference. As Steve Jobs said, any idiot can have an idea – execution is where it’s all at. 

Honestly, there are several campaigns that might have been given the Grand Prix. The quality is honestly very good. But I have no complaints about this being given the nod.

2023 Brand Activation Gold Lion Winners

First up, there is an interesting Cricket idea out of India – where the sport is by far the most popular. It uses some pretty interesting tech to tell a story. Worth a look.

Next is this really cool idea from Vaseline exploring how medical conditions that are shown on Google are typically always shown on white skin – making it more difficult for people with darker skin to identify any conditions they suspect they might have.

Below is a fascinating initiative that Microsoft took on – to create an alphabet for a language that had previously only been spoken. The Microsoft tech integrates beautifully into the initiative, and says a lot of great things about the brand

This piece of work for Raid is perhaps a bit of a long bow. I’m not sure this is a Gold Lion campaign, but it’s worth a look – the case study film is beautifully put together

There is one more campaign of note that was awarded Gold in the 2023 Cannes Brand Activation and Experience. That is this campaign below. It’s an amazing case study, but when the client is listed as a magazine, to be honest I’m skeptical. It has become a familiar tactic for campaigns that are searching for a client – any client will do. But, you have to give them credit for the quality of the case study – even if the commercial case for the campaign is spurious.

2023 Cannes Brand Activation and Experience Silver

Heineken has been one of the most awarded brands at Cannes in recent years. Sometimes the campaigns have been a little niche for my liking (particularly for such a global brand with so much name recognition), but you have to admire the willingness to give new ideas a go. Below is one that received silver in this category. Other campaigns were awarded in Direct, but this one wasn’t. Funny how that works with juries.

This is a good one. Could have easily had made the jump to Gold.

The next campaign featuring here is for McDonalds, and it is a wickedly fresh take on the scourge that is fries theft that is taking over the nation. Nicely done.

This Hellmann’s Mayo idea below is not an enormous, game changing idea. It does, however, show what can be achieved with a small budget and a bit of creative thinking.

Next is one of these campaigns that always pop up at Cannes. It’s one of those ideas that is based on a bit of information that doesn’t seem like it’s quite right. It’s very feel-good and presses the right buttons for the judges. But I just can’t stop my bullshit-meter going off whenever I see this case study. What do you think?

Change the Ref have been making a massive impact at Cannes over the past few years. I hope they are making as much impact in the global mindset as well. This is a campaign that builds on this heritage of excellence.

Honestly though – strictly in creative terms – heartbreaking topics such as this are a lower bar to clear than a consumer product. Because emotion is implicit in the message. There was an anti-smoking campaign called ‘truth’ out of Goodby Silverstein in the early 2000’s that was the pre-cursor for this style of advertising. This continues the tradition of realistic social impact advertising beautifully.

This campaign set my bullshit-meter off big time. If you look at the YouTube comments on this video, you’ll see a bunch of people debunking the entire premise of the campaign (how “male” and “female” trees are managed inside cities). 

But, advertising juries don’t really have time to double check the veracity of the claims. They just have to accept the case study at face value and judge accordingly. It won silver, but truthfully, it’s lucky to be there at all.

This next one is perhaps a bit questionable about it’s actual impact, and whether it is something that existed continuously after the case study film was made. But it’s so charming I want to believe. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

But this next one I’m not giving the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been in agencies where ideas like these get produced. The target market is so small, and the tech is so specialised that it stinks of a spam entry. It reeks of it.

This idea bears all the hallmarks of an ambitious creative director with few scruples. And why not? It’s worked in the past. I’ll tell you why not. Because it’s a waste of everyone’s time in the pursuit of your own personal glory, and it has zero impact on the brand.

Honestly, I expected more A.I. focused ideas this year. There’s always a subset of the advertising industry that is looking for the next hype bit of tech that they can repurpose into something award-worthy. Last year it was Metaverse. This year? Well, I thought it would be A.I. This campaign is particularly ironic, as Intel is the chip manufacturer that is the furthest behind in the A.I. game. Check it out.

In terms of the amount of effort put into the design and styling of the case study, this one goes next level. The idea is for copywriters. But the Case Study, man, nicely done Art Director.

How is this not Gold? Tide did an awesome job here. Really, really, really solid and well thought through.


Personally don’t know if I believe this one either. The idea is amazing, and if it works it is great. 

2023 Cannes Brand Activation and Experience Bronze

Some creatives don’t bother studying or appreciating the Bronze Lions. And that’s a shame. Quite often there are some gems in there that approach a commercial problem through a slightly different lens. There are some just like that in this list below.

Aeromexico starts us off here. It’s a good example of how to use a social issue really well.

Here is another great campaign that deserved better than Bronze. A beer raising funds for the Ukraine war.

Here is an activation that is honestly quite similar to other past campaigns. The ambition and scale of the activation should be applauded though. It fits nicely for the brand Corona, that have aligned themselves with the sport of football / soccer in recent years.

This next piece of work for Heinz isn’t their best. Perhaps the great work they’ve been putting together over the past few years helped them get a tick. There is better work for Heinz in the direct category. Check this out anyway. They know how to put together a snappy case study.

But this campaign for Miller beer out of the USA is awesome. This could easily have done much better at the 2023 Cannes Brand Activation and Experience category. It’s pretty cool.

This is an interesting idea but, I doubt that anyone in Australia has ever seen one of these on the roads or knows what they are meant to be. But that’s Cannes for you. There are always a few of these ideas that get through.

Here is a cool little initiative out of Argentina, featuring an interview with a very young Lionel Messi.

So, that's it

There are some great pieces of work in here. I particularly like the ‘Lucky Shirt’ for Tide as the most underrated idea from this category. 

Good luck getting something amazing from your brain in this list in 2024.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe to our email newsletter today to receive updates on the latest news, tutorials and special offers!