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Creative Creative Works Cannes Lions

Apple’s TBWA\Media Arts Lab’s top creatives make their Cannes predictions


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

June 17, 2024 | 10 min read

The tech giant’s bespoke global agency’s group creative director, Nick Ciffone, and executive creative director, Greg Greenberg, share the ads they expect to triumph this awards season.

Michael Cera in CeraVe's Super Bowl ad

Ciffone says he loved this Super Bowl work from CeraVe

Combined, Nick Ciffone and Greg Greenberg have spent 20 years at TBWA\Media Arts Lab making spots for Apple. Between them, they have created highly awarded work such as last year’s holiday spot ‘Fuzzy Feelings,’ this year’s poignant ‘Another Birthday’ ad and the catchy ‘Silhouettes x Harry Styles.’

Notoriously private, the agency isn’t strictly allowed to give interviews or insider information on the ads that it makes for Apple. “The amount of legal documents we’ve signed in our lives is probably greater than the work we’ve done,” laughs Greenberg. However, they are passionate about excellent work and have a lot to say about new trends and the winners that the advertising industry might see during this year’s Cannes Lions Festival.

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Sydney Opera House ‘Play it Safe’ by The Monkeys

From a music and branded entertainment standpoint, Ciffone believes that this spot for the Sydney Opera House’s 50th anniversary will do well during awards season. The film was written by Australian performer Tim Minchin, who lends his typical comedic touch. It’s a musical homage to a building that tested the limits of engineering and design, forever changing the face of Sydney.

Greenberg wholeheartedly agrees with the choice: “It was just one of those that you watch and you go, ‘Fuck, I’m jealous.’ That’s work that made me jealous.”

General Entertainment Authority and Saudi Media Company ‘Rumble’ by Droga5

Another ad that has caught Ciffone’s eye was for a boxing match between Tyson Fury and former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. The Droga5 cinematic 90-second film was set to Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang and built on the saying that in boxing, a fighter lives rent-free in his opponent’s head. The aesthetic focused on the psychological build-up intertwined with each fighter’s training. It garnered 140m views during its first day online. TBWA\Media Arts Lab’s Nathanial Lawlor worked on this ad as a creative, too.

CeraVe ‘Michael Cera’ by Ogilvy

Ciffone says he loved this Super Bowl work, but it was the social media activations that caught his attention. “My wife works in skincare and I texted her asking if Michael Cera came up with this brand,” he laughs. “She was like, ‘No, you’re an idiot,’ but I was actually duped by him handing them out to people on the street. So, I think from the social influencer perspective, it’ll probably do well.”

Dove ‘Cost of Beauty’ by Ogilvy

Greenberg says he loves what Dove has done over the past 20 years with its campaigns, but this ad, in particular, struck a personal chord with him. “My wife and I are parents of a young girl. An issue we talk about is the nature of social media and, with girls growing up, the impact it can have on their self-confidence and how they develop. That’s obviously something that we constantly as parents both talk about and are freaked out by, trying to figure out how to handle it.”

He adds that it is one of those pieces of work that deeply moved him and started a lot of conversations in his own household with his wife about social media and when would be the right time to show his daughter this ad.

“Very rarely do you see work where it’s powerful to parents and it’s powerful with kids and the message is equally important to both generations.”

Digital Public Library of America ‘The Banned Book Club’ by FCB Chicago

It has been on a lot of lists, says Greenberg, but the creative believes it’s a great example of a simple idea with a brilliant execution. “The notion of distributing books that are being banned isn’t a revolutionary idea. But the way it went about doing it in terms of the geofencing around libraries and then the minute you entered that library, you were able to download it for free. Then the way it did all the hyperlocal media, I thought the execution of it was really, really clever and smart.”

Orange ‘La Compil des Bleues’ by Marcel

Orange, the sponsor of France’s football team, caused a viral sensation with this ad thanks to its surprising and unexpected twist. It opens with a fast-paced sequence of clips showcasing the men’s team scoring goals. However, as the footage rewinds, the VFX editing process unveils a surprising twist: the skills and goals actually belong to the France women’s team.

Greenberg says that he appreciates the level of human detail that went into making the film, the tracking and masking by hand to get the sequences just right. “The message is even more powerful with the craft and the care that went into that; it just hits on all emotions,” he says.

“Great sports ads inspire you. That’s when sports is its best, whether it’s an ad or whether it’s an actual sport, you get the thrill of watching the sport but then there’s something meaningful at its core.”

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Humor in advertising making a comeback

In the lead-up to Cannes Lions, there have been many conversations around humor in advertising making a comeback, especially as the awards show has introduced a new category dedicated to it.

Ciffone mentions the work that Rethink has done for Coors Light. “The real level of restraint and simplicity was just so good,” he says. It’s a feeling he has towards Heinz’s work, too.

Both agree that it’s a breath of fresh air that there has been an emphasis on awarding comedy in advertising. “We, as an industry, have gotten too serious,” Greenberg adds. “But I’m curious; I am curious what will actually win. Because, if I just close my eyes and think about the best ads of the year, I don’t know that it’s all comedic.”

He explains that a lot of the best work this year has raised laughs, for sure, but maybe isn’t necessarily comedic at its core. “My prediction is that there’s going to be a few Golds because they’ve entered that specific category of comedy, but that the stuff that really rises to the top won’t be, at least this year, comedic. Because I just don’t know that the stuff I’ve seen outside of CeraVe is super hilarious.”

Both creatives agree that it will be interesting to see if the winners focus on more visual or written comedy because often humor doesn’t translate well and Cannes is an international festival.

On winning awards

“If we’re not winning them, they don’t matter,” jokes Ciffone. “When we win them, they really matter.” He’s being lighthearted, of course, but both creatives stress that they don’t make work to win awards but that it is nice when it happens.

“Apple and Media Arts Lab, we are all super secretive, right? We don’t talk about what we do,” Greenberg says. “The awards are a way to help recruit. It helps people understand a global place and that the work we do is great and that it matters. It’s a recruiting tactic, it’s a retention tactic; creatives that are winning awards tend to want to stay at a place where they’re winning awards.”

He adds that his favorite moment with an idea is when it’s done and it’s the night before a launch: “That’s when I’m still proud of it, but it’s not anyone else’s yet.”

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