5 great B2B campaigns that won Cannes Lions last week

July 1, 2016

And they say B2B brands can’t do storytelling! These five campaigns have just walked away with the most coveted awards in advertising thanks to work that captures their audiences’ imaginations, plays with their emotions – and leaves them desperate to know what happens next. They prove that B2B brands can’t just do storytelling – they are leading the way in finding ways to tell those stories across digital platforms. These campaigns inspired audiences, they inspired Cannes Lions juries – and they should inspire anybody working in B2B marketing.

The Message


Cyber Lions and Creative Data Lions Gold Winner

The Message is sensational content marketing: a creepy sci-fi drama that’s been compared to iconic movie The Blair Witch Project in the way that it blurs the line between fiction and reality. What’s amazing is that it achieves all of this through a simple Podcast. In the process, it’s captured the public’s imagination around the power of soundwaves when it comes to human health – one heck of a way to build awareness for GE’s next generation medical equipment.

The Message takes the form of a regular 15-minute podcast from an intern working at a centre for decoding radio messages. The scientists she interviews are analysing an alien transmission picked up by a remote listening station during the Second World War – and hidden by the US Government ever since. Over the eight weekly episodes, things get gradually more terrifying as the potential of sound to affect human beings is revealed. It’s been credited with re-inventing the radio play for the digital age – and as the Number 1 podcast in America it achieved its goal of raising awareness around GE’s scientific expertise in spectacular fashion.

Field Trip to Mars

Lockheed Martin

Cyber Lions and Creative Data Lions Gold Winner

Virtual Reality was one of the hottest topics at Cannes this year – but if you ask me, it took a B2B brand and a corporate campaign to find a use for the technology that truly captured the imagination.

The aerospace company Lockheed Martin is working on engineering projects that could one day take people to Mars – but how could it translate this complex work into a sense of brand purpose to build its corporate brand and inspire the engineers of tomorrow? The answer involved turning the idea of a mission to Mars into a new kind of Virtual Reality experience: a story that unfolded when its audience least expected it, and formed the basis of a wider narrative that captured the public’s imagination.

The Field Trip to Mars began with a group of schoolchildren climbing aboard a school bus for a class outing. The windows of the bus were then suddenly transformed into wholly immersive VR displays of the Martian landscape – and every acceleration, deceleration and turn that the bus made was reflected in the view of Mars that the children experienced.

Captured on film, the unexpected Martian adventure that these children enjoyed didn’t just fire their imaginations; it became the basis of an inspiring new corporate narrative that injected emotion and wonder back into the concept of space exploration

The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet


Cyber Lions Gold Winner

The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet is epic documentary film-making that transports viewers to a remote mountain town in Romania with a sinister secret. Ramnicu Valcea is the cybercrime capital of the world – and for the digital security brand Norton it provided the perfect story to tell to bring the importance of data security to life. Filmed in the style of a Cold War thriller and with unscrupulous characters with names like Iceman, Guccifer and Tinkode, this is compulsive viewing with a powerful message.

The Impossible Game


Creative Data Lions Silver Winner

The most compelling stories are often those that the target audience gets to write for themselves. That was the principle behind this ingenious talent brand campaign from France’s national railway company. SNCF needed to inspire and recruit a new generation of rule-challenging, fresh-thinking engineers – and so it created an online gaming platform inviting them to take on various challenges to show what they were capable of. Gamers programmed AI robots and smart grid projects; they redesigned the next generation of high-speed trains.

But there was a catch: the final challenge was designed to be impossible. In fact, it could only be completed by those who were prepared to break the rules, hack into the program and rewrite its entire code. It was the perfect initiative test for SNCF’s recruitment campaign – and the perfect end to this interactive story. The proof? Of more than 11,000 gamers who participated in ‘The Impossible Game’ only six passed the final test – and they were so engaged by the experience that all now work for SNCF.

Look Who’s Driving

Volvo Trucks

Cyber Lions Bronze Winner

The rugged soulfulness of Jean Claude Van Damme has been succeeded by the irresistible cuteness of a 4-year-old radio-controlled truck driver – but the Volvo Trucks Live Test campaign just keeps on rolling. Already the proud recipient of a Cannes Grand Prix, Volvo Trucks keeps finding hugely imaginative and emotion-tugging ways to demonstrate the qualities of its vehicles – in this case a truck that can be driven through buildings, attacked by cranes, rolled down hills, and still operate flawlessly (and pull a mean donut) at the end of it all. Already viewed over 11 million times on YouTube – it proves once again that this B2B brand understands the power of social storytelling in a way that few others do.

My hat goes off to the brands in this post. They’ve proved just how imaginative B2B marketing can be – and just how powerful storytelling can be when building B2B brands. The amazing thing is, they’re not the only B2B campaigns to have won big at Cannes last week. We’ll be back with stories of B2B campaigns that landed Cannes Lions through sheer digital innovation next week.