DDB’s most lauded teams at Cannes give back by sharing the secrets to their success


Issue 57: Lessons Learned

Here’s to the thing that you really take home from an award show

At the start of the year, when I posted my POV against our industry’s obsession with awards and the unethical practices going on, the real question everyone asked was why not pull out of the game all together. There seems to be a lot of people jumping on that bandwagon now, even those who were big players in creating the whole mess.

The thing is, there is something really special about the industry gathering together to be something more – getting inspired to do better work, seeking ways to add more meaning to the work that we do and striving to influence society for the better. We may not always hit the mark. We talk to ourselves too much. We expect awards to tell us who’s talented or what’s innovative. But it is in celebrating our work that we teach the next generation to be brave and inspire each other to be a more positive force in the world. That’s when we win something.

This Lemon2020 issue features some of DDB’s most recognized teams at the Cannes Lions Festival this year. They are what we really are celebrating and are most proud of. I’ve asked them all to share a few insights behind their top ideas and a few lessons learned along the way. Hope they inspire you to be a little braver and fight a little harder too.

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The annual John Lewis Christmas advert has become a beloved UK holiday tradition. Anticipated every year, it gets the whole country wondering how they will come up with an emotional story to top the last. The Monty’s Christmas campaign was no exception. It was one of our most integrated campaigns ever with a number of experiential elements adding to the overall magic of the idea. It received one of the highest honors at Cannes Lions this year, the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix. With every £1 spent generating £8 of profit, “Monty’s Christmas” probably has the highest ROI in the history of the Creative Effectiveness Lions.

The campaign is a model for the industry and has loads of lessons to teach. Les Binet, Head of Effectiveness at adam&eveDDB London, outlines what he believes are the three most important and why:

“Creativity is not a luxury. By creating advertising that people want to watch, we got nearly 400 million views on and offline. Nothing sells harder than emotion. This was emotional advertising at its purest, yet it increased sales by £132m. Immersive marketing makes everything work harder. Monty fans immersed themselves in books, apps, music, merchandise and in-store activities. This increased effectiveness and opened up new revenue streams.“


The simplicity of taking the problem and flipping it into the solution is the key behind DDB Sydney’s breakthrough #comeonin campaign for the Sydney Opera House. Out of the 8.2 million people that visit the site annually, only 1% actually goes inside. The rest take photos outside and move along. They turned people’s photos of the iconic Opera House sails into real-time invitations to #comeonin and experience its real beauty – on the inside.

Social media and technology provide anyone around the world with a view of the Sydney Opera House, not an experience. Their use of technology simply opened the building for all to see, inviting them in whilst remaining invisible throughout. And the idea won the team 9 Lions at Cannes this year, including Mobile Gold.

The team shared their lessons learned from the campaign:

“Technology should always make an experience better, and easier to access. We thought we knew a lot about people’s behaviour on social media and most of the time our knowledge was on point. But we learnt so much more about how people really use Instagram and how to connect with people and add value. The biggest thing that helped us evolve our idea rapidly and fluidly was prototyping everything from UX, computer vision and our real-time mobile video response framework.

This campaign has set the bar for future work in the agency. We are sharing everything about the campaign; how we developed, prototyped, tested and refined our ideas, even how we presented them. These approaches and tools are already being used on other effective creative work for our other clients.“

Their advice: Keep it real. The work has to actually work. Collaborate from day 1. If you get technologists, writers, designers, directors, producers and developers together, you’ll produce truly innovative ideas that work.”

Congratulations to:

Toby Talbot, Chief Creative Officer; Pete Galmes, Creative Partner; Shaun O’Connor, Creative Technology Director; Trong Ronakiat, Art Director; Shane Geffen, Copywriter; Sara Nobari, Executive Producer; Nicole Taylor, Managing Director; Mandy Whatson, Managing Partner; Fran Clayton, Chief Strategy Officer; Sevda Cemo, Head of Integrated Content; Anna Wright-Hands, Producer; Isabella Harris, Production Co-ordinator; Robert Crispe, Content Director; Fraser Kelton, DOP/Editor; Tina Alldis, Head of Corporate Brand; Alyce Cowan, Mango Account Director; Lauren Mason, Mango Account Manager; Danny Grifoni, Sound Engineer; Kieren Cooney, Interbrand CEO; Liana Rossi, Social Specialist


#freethenipple was trending all over the world. People were complaining about Facebook and Instagram’s views on censorship and DDB Germany saw an oportunity to turn this discussion into something positive with their Check It Before It’s Removed campaign for Pink Ribbon. Our German team made a bold statement for breast cancer on the channels and were able to engage and involve their audience – and even the Facebook and Instagram moderators – to help spread the message.  By leveraging the social censorship topic,  PR spread and in the end, the campaign grew even bigger, even though moderators were essentially deleting our messaging. It was one of the most-awarded ideas at the Cannes Lions Festival this year, taking home 12 Lions across five different media, including Cyber Gold.

We asked our team in Germany what made it so relevant and what lessons they learned along the way:

“Be brave. Break the rules. If you want to get attention you need to be doing something wrong!

Pay attention to the Zeitgeist. Find our what matters to people right now, what they are talking about. Focus on what people are focused on; find out what they care about. Then try to make a meaningful contribution to that topic or story or emotion. Only then can we win the battle for relevance.”

So great to see the team up on stage accepting their Gold Lion, pictured left to right: Myles Lord, Creative Managing Director; Lilli Langenheim, Senior Art Director; Edward Sedelius, Senior Copywriter; Tom Hauser, Executive Creative Director.

I don’t think that you teach art.  I don’t think that you teach persuasion.  I think all you can teach is knowledge. Knowledge is a great thing to have.  But knowledge per se, means that, that knowledge already exists and in that sense it’s the past. The only thing that can take you from knowledge into the future is an idea.

Bill Bernbach


Speed is the currency of modern business. Everyone seems to be trying to figure out how to work faster and smarter without sacrificing quality or breaking the bank. The team from DDB Brussels may have cracked the code when creating Stardust for Bowie.  

When David Bowie died, fans all over the world were in shock, and our client, Belgium’s radio station Studio Brussel, felt they needed to give fans a way to express and share their grief. Our team at DDB Brussles decided to give “starman” David Bowie his very own constellation. Together with the Royal Belgian Observatory they identified 7 stars in the form of Bowie’s iconic thunderbolt. It became the key visual of an integrated platform, linked to Google Sky, where everyone could say goodbye to Bowie in their own way by choosing their favourite song, writing a personal message, and adding it to a star within the constellation. The campaign was launched exactly one day after David Bowie’s death and in a few hours it became a mourning place for millions of Bowie fans. The idea received four Lions this year from four different juries, including PR Gold.

The team shared their insights behind the campaign and how it has influenced their thinking on how an agency should work today:

“David Bowie deserved a place among the stars. Because, honestly, before any earthling ever set foot on the moon, David Bowie was deep in outer space, standing at his own version of the crossroads and transfixing generations of fans too weird for this world. That made this tribute so special. People felt they could say goodbye in their own way. And send David Bowie a last salute, just before he became a star among the stars.

The Stardust for Bowie Project may apply as a perfect example of how an agile advertising agency should work these days. There are two important steps that have to be taken to create a powerful case. 1. Optimize your good relationship with your client. Or like we call it, foster a trustworthy ‘open relationship’.  2. The more good people you focus on a project, the more refined the idea becomes. Stardust for Bowie wasn’t a project of two people; it was a true piece of teamwork. Our creatives teamed up with in-house experts in Design, PR, Digital and Strategy that made it all possible in only 48 hours. At least 12 people were involved, and each person had an important contribution to the project. That has increased the level of implementation and made this case a success.”

Keep soaring high, Stardust for Bowie team, pictured left to right: Sven Verfaille, Design; Maarten Van Daele, Strategy; Francis Lippens, Account Director; Kenn Van Lijsebeth, PR; front: Odin Saillé, CD; Gregory Ginterdaele, Creative; Antoinette Ribas, Creative; Peter Ampe, ECD. Missing: Maarten Breda, Digital Producer


Young Lion Cyber winners, Joanna Ortega and Christine Lim of DDB Singapore, were lucky to get firsthand advice from New Zealand CCO, Damon Stapleton, while in Cannes about shaping their careers, never resting on their laurels and continually pushing themselves to become better.

DDB New Zealand’s Unforgotten Soldiers – a living tribute to the 100th Anniversary of Gallipoli – reconnected New Zealanders with their past through a multifaceted campaign for their History Channel client. They literally brought memories to life in city streets across the country, with unforgettable artistry and storytelling. One of the most recognized ideas at Cannes Lions this year, the team brought home seven Lions in Direct, Entertainment, Outdoor and Promotion & Activation. The idea allows people to see and connect with the past as we know it in black and white, not to change it, but bring it face to face with us and learn from it in our world today. Much like Damon’s advice to the Young Lions: Be inspired and learn from the past, but don’t remain there; strive to take things to the next level.

Congrats to the entire Unforgotten Soldiers team:

Damon Stapleton,  Chief Creative Officer; Shane Bradnick
, Executive Creative Director; Chris Schofield, Creative Director; Corrine Goode, Art Director; Gavin Siakimotu,  Art Director; Natalie Knight
, Copywriter; Phil Swaine, Designer;  James Blair
, Group Account Director; Katya Urlwin, Senior Account Manager; Judy Thompson Executive Producer; Kate Moses, Agency Producer


To launch Harvey Nichols new loyalty app, adam&eveDDB London looked at program simply as what it was – a way to get free stuff – and an alternative to the usual, illegal method of walking out of Harvey Nichols with “something for nothing”. They turned one of their biggest problems, shoplifting, into the star of the campaign, using real CCTV footage in a fresh and unexpected way. Shoplifters walked away with the Film Grand Prix at Cannes this year and the full campaign picked up a Lion in the Promotion & Activation category.

Ben Stilitz and Colin Booth, the creative team behind the idea, gave us some free advice on how to create great work that rises above the crowd.

We always try to approach every brief, however big or small, as an opportunity and fight to protect what we think is right. ‘Shoplifters’ is unexpected strategy for a luxury brand. We used real CCTV footage in a way that hadn’t been done before. It felt rough and lo-fi made, which meant it stood out from all the beautiful, polished work.

The basics of creating good work haven’t changed in the time that we’ve worked in the industry, and we doubt that they will. Always strive for a clear, simple idea at the heart of what you do.”