Cinema Advertising Shows No Sign of Ageing at Cannes Lions

By Patrick von Sychowski | August 22, 2013 1:06 am PDT

Cinema advertising celebrated its 60th year at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity by positioning itself as the “magical, mysterious and creative media platform” of choice. The well attended seminar on Monday the 17th of June at the Cannes Palaise showcased examples of some of the most innovative technical and creative uses of the cinema advertising medium from countries all across the globe. There was mobile phone interaction, there were two-at-once film shows, stereoscopic 3D, innovation in audio and even tap dancing. The creatives leaving the event professed themselves inspired by the possibilities of cinema, which is an achievement given the dazzling array of technical platforms on show at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, which rivals the Cannes Film Festival held in the same venue a month earlier in terms of the talent that it attracts.

The event began with an acknowledgement of the power of cinema by showing the last 15 minutes of the acclaimed film “The Artist” that had screened in Cannes a year earlier and went on to win a clutch of awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture. Cinema may have added colour, sound and wide-screen since those early days of silent movies, but SAWA (the Screen Advertising World Association) pulled out all stops to show that there was plenty more innovation left in the medium. After the introduction by the host (yours truly), a montage sequence put together by UK’s DCM showed clips from this summer’s blockbusters, mixed with some of the best adverts screened in cinemas, accompanied by what has become SAWA’s unofficial theme, Benny Benassi ft. Gary Go’s “Cinema (Skrillex Remix)“.


Michael Hilliard from Australia’s Finch was up first to screen the Yellowglen commercial “Welcome to the House of Sparkling” that had run in Australian cinemas and tied-in with a big on-line campaign. Advertising a sparkling wine on television would be wasted on the beer-drinking masses, hence why cinema was the obvious medium for a more selective target group. The advert featured Fabien Ruiz, the choreographer who taught the two stars of “The Artist” how to dance, tap his way around a dark room, all the way up to the ceiling and down, with sparks flying off his feet. And as if appearing in the ad wasn’t impressive enough, there was a collective “whoosh” in-take of breath in the audience when Michael then announced that next up to stage would be Fabian Ruiz himself, who came on and performed a stunning tap dance sequence.

Sadly Fabian is not available to come to every cinema, so next up James Stewart, the founder and director of Toronto’s Geneva Films, who explained how Fabien’s magic could be translated into digital cinemas around the world. His company had converted the Yellowglen commercial from 2D to stereoscopic 3D, with the sparks literally flying off the screen. With tremendous advances in the post-production abilities to convert 2D films into 3D, any past commercial could now be made available to screen before a 3D Hollywood blockbuster, James noted. One such film was Paramount Pictures’ “Star Trek – Into Darkness“, which the audiences were treated to an extended preview of, courtesy of Barco’s digital cinema projection and the support of Nick Olver and his team. The film was presented in Dolby 7.1 and Julian Pinn from Dolby came onto stage to talk about the advances in sound for cinema, that impacts both feature films, trailers and adverts. With enhanced sound such as Dolby’s Atmos and Barco’s Auro being installed in multiplexes around the world and increasingly embraced by film directors, the advertising world would have to follow to take full advantage of what the cinema medium has to offer in terms of vision and sound.


Representing the world’s biggest cinema advertising company NCM, Cliff Marks took the stage to talk about The Bigger Picture of how branded entertainment and long-form entertainment (“promo-tainment”) and how this had been done very successfully in the US. This was done in the cinema campaign for Microsoft’s Surface tablet and secondly where they took a brand a studio and an agency, in this case 20th Century Fox’s “A Good Day to Die Hard” and linked it to Chrysler’s Ram automobile. For the first time in many years there were no Norwegians on stage, with former SAWA stalwart Dave Spilde having moved to Hollywood, but there was behind-the-scenes support from Unique Digital, BUG and Neo Labs.

Next up, Michael Hilliard returned to stage to show two different adverts – at the same time. The audience could themselves switch between two films for the New Zealand lottery (Big Wednesday), one showing a day in the life of a man before and after hitting the lottery jackpot. This technology was a further development from Finch’s Gold Lion-winning 37 Degrees Pedigree campaign from last year. Using bifocal glasses – an innovation that Finch has patented – Hilliard explained that the audience only needed to tilt their head to see  “either two different perspectives on the same story, or letting the audience do their own version of a film.” The gasps in the audience were audible. As Hilliard pointed out, “it actually changes the shared experience of cinema; it makes cinema interactive in a whole new way.” [Below is the simultaneous split-screen version – though with bifocals you only see one at a time] [youtube][/youtube]

Then it was time for a demonstration of how to connect the big screen in the cinema to the small screen in the audiences’ pockets – the smart phone. Joe Evea and Alastair Simpson from UK’s DCM and Yummi Media Group asked the audience members who had downloaded the SAWA cinime app to take out their phones and take part in a live quiz on the screen. Earlier the audiences had seen how a trailer or an advert on the large screen could trigger a follow-up video clip or promotion on the smart phone. Even the audiences who didn’t get all three questions right were not left disappointed as everyone leaving the auditorium were treated to Ben & Jerry ice cream courtesy of DCM.

Yet there was one last thing before the event was over. SAWA’s Cheryl Wannell took to the stage to introduce a blast from the past. Cannes Lions had started 60 years earlier as a festival for cinema advertising, having since grown to encompass all other forms of media and campaign channels. So it was appropriate as the festival celebrated its Diamond Jubilee that the first ever ad to win was screened to conclude. The cute stop motion commercial for an Italian tooth paste brand charmed the audience, but also showed how far the medium has come. As James Stewart noted, “cinema is one of the last places where you can have a collective experience with a captive audience to show commercials.” The Cannes Lions audience seemed captivated enough as they left after 45 minutes of big screen magic to head out to the beach with their complimentary ice creams.

Patrick von Sychowski
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