Imagination: The Catalyst for Change

I’m not the biggest fan of spring in Winnipeg. It comes after about five months of sub-zero temperatures, and suddenly half the snow melts, then freezes, then melts again, leaving the streets covered with a mixture of ice and giant brown puddles (which make getting around gracefully rather difficult indeed). But then, toward the end of March, I’m reminded of the one thing that makes the season bearable: a trip to the art gallery to watch the screening of the previous years’ Cannes Lions Awards. If you’ve never been, make a note on your calendar to absolutely catch it next year. It’s shown internationally, and is comprised of the bronze, silver, and gold-awarded advertisements from across the globe. Thousands of ads from all around the world are entered (24,000 in 2010 alone), and culminate in a festival and prestigious award ceremony celebrating the best of creativity in idea and execution of brand communication. I’ve been going to the annual showing for at least half a decade, and it remains one of my favourite events of the year, purely for the fact that it’s such a testament to imagination. It might seem a little odd to mute and fast-forward ads all year and then pay for a ticket to sit through two hours of them, but it really is more than worthwhile. This year I laughed so hard I cried, was moved to tears and applause, got goosebumps, and was, in one case, eager to find the culprit behind one of the most outrageous ads I think has ever hit television screens! The screening began, surprisingly, with a Canadian winner – an ad for the Vancouver Film Festival, which left everyone laughing and set the tone for what was to be a great evening:

This ad, barely a minute long, entitled “Embrace Life“, was for seatbelt awareness – and the combination of creative ingenuity, effects, music and execution was enough to move me nearly to tears. I could feel my eyes prickling in the same way they do when watching a real feat of imagination – things like this generally just make me proud to be a member of the human race:

The following ad was one of three winners from the same campaign from Volkswagen, revolving around the idea of “The Fun Theory“.  The idea is that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better, being for themselves, the environment, or whatever – the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better. The first ad posed the question: if we could make taking the stairs fun, would people be more likely to do it?  It then showed sped-up footage of construction in a stairwell next to an escalator, resulting in a set of stairs that looked like a giant piano, which actually made music as people climbed. The results? A huge percentage of commuters began taking the stairs. The second ad asked a similar question: if recycling was fun, would more people do it? It showed a bottle bank transformed into an arcade-style game on the street, where people could get points for putting their items into the appropriate receptacles. Again, a huge number of people began recycling – over a hundred used the arcade-style bin one evening, with only two using the traditional bin down the street. The third, entitled “World’s Deepest Bin“, definitely made me laugh – and left me with food for thought – we try to make people change their behaviours all the time, so why aren’t our methods more fun?

If you liked those three, check out the Speed Camera Lottery here.

The following ad made me laugh out LOUD. With a title like “Axe Cleans Balls“, you knew it was going to be a good one:

I thought this anti-smoking ad, entitled “Chance” was excellent. I think it’s from France, but narrated in English – it basically has a cinematic voiceover talking about the one in a thousand/million/billion chance that the solar system came to be, that humans evolved the way they did, that dinosaurs became extinct etc., and ends with a statistic on smoking that really makes you think. Great stuff:

The following ad was incredibly clever: The Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands put together an interactive billboard in Amsterdam to challenge public apathy towards aggressive behaviour on the streets. Public service employees in the Netherlands, such as ambulance drivers, face aggression and violence on the streets more and more often. Onlookers unfortunately do not intervene often enough when they encounter a situation like this. The billboard uses technology to pick up the images of passersby and place them in a pre-recorded violent situation, so they literally look at themselves standing by and doing nothing at the scene of the crime. Very clever stuff:

There was another great series of ads challenging aggression from India with the national “Ring the Bell” campaign, depicted as neighbours in several situations within apartment buildings ringing their neighbour’s bell when hearing sounds of domestic violence. A brilliant campaign to encourage people to take action when they become aware of domestic violence in their neighbourhood.

The following ad was a fantastic idea – targeted to football fans, offering an ingenius solution to the problem of what happens when match day falls on Valentine’s day:

Now, I realise I mentioned an ad earlier that I found one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever seen sandwiched between two halves of a television programme – and I wasn’t going to just leave you hanging! If you’re curious, check out this French advertisement for AIDS awareness – just beware, VERY adult content – and it’s one of the most NSFW things you’ll have ever seen. 🙂

I also realise that multimedia posts are often a turn-off, but I encourage anyone who loves a bit of creativity to check some of these out. Here’s to the imagination of the human race!


  1. haha…. all of that was awesome. the Axe video was the one that made me laugh the most. The seatbelt video was definitely endearing though, I liked it a lot. I should show it to my mother, she hardly ever wears her seat belt, and I hate it hate it hate it so much.

  2. Great ads! I had never heard of the Cannes Lions but thanks for sharing these, the seatbelt one was amazing and I loved the Fun Theory too, that could be a post all on its own!

  3. Woah, these are great! I especially liked the fun theory, and the Match on Valentines day made me laugh so hard! Good job, hey 🙂

  4. I love the piano one 🙂 The idea was that it would encourage more people to take the stairs rather than the escalators. I also love the deepest bin one – My OH sat there and explained how it works (sensors and sound effects etc)

    1. There’s a car one out there where a choir of people sing/make different noises to represent the car. The car starts up and they make the noises as if it was driving along – my explanation isn’t very good but the advert is very good lol. (I found it)

  5. The Axe one was super funny, I literally LOL in my office! I also really like the Fun Theory… they have a great concept, too bad it wasn’t more widely implemented…

  6. loved these em! i’m not sure if they show the lions over here but i’m going to try and find out cause it looks great. that smoking one was really good and the seatbelt one was stunning. LOL at the french ad. as if that was on telly!!!!

  7. I’d actually seen some these before, and I think it’s great that we use creative and comic ways to teach each other. We tried to do that in the diversity awareness group I was in in college. I’m all for it!

  8. Gah, I wish I could watch some of these right now! But my internet is too slow! I love the idea of changing people’s behaviour through fun devices! That’s so very cool.

  9. Thanks so much for visiting my ‘Careann’s Musings’ blog yesterday via Freshly Pressed. I love meeting new people here in cyberspace. As a writer I keep my blog’s focus mostly on writing, but I post on other topics, too. I’ve enjoyed having a peek at your blog. I had seen the Fun Theory musical clip before and loved it. Change always requires motivation, doesn’t it? No matter what we do in life, whether it’s learning or going somewhere or helping… motivation is the key to action.

  10. we always look forward to these! I think having such a time constraint makes people so incredibly creative – good commercials are just SO good. 😉

  11. Those were all amazing! I’d previously see the piano-stairs one, but the seatbelt one also had tearing up, that was amazing. The fun theory one was also super cool! I’m totally inspired to go look up tons of other ones to share 🙂 I love when people get creative like this- it’s super inspiring to change those little things we do or don’t do!

  12. Oh my gosh! This sounds like suchhh a fun event to go to! You’re right, we are usually so busy skipping commercials that we sometimes miss their message. How cool to have an event dedicated to all the good ones! Thanks for sharing, can’t wait to watch some of these when I’m not at work! 😉

  13. I’ve seen the seatbelt ad before. So so imaginative and evocative. Someone did an awesome job with that one. These were all from the same festival? I think people are just obligated to become more inventive and creative because, we’re told constantly, all the stories of the world have already been told. It’s just a matter of how we tell them. I don’t know if that’s disheartening or inspiring.

  14. I love the fun theory. When I saw it, I was like: this is brilliant! We need more fun. Especially in these uberserious times. Thanks for sharing!

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