Apple Is The Public’s Pick For Titanium Glory

It’s Cannes time again. The sun is out, the drinks are flowing, the acceptance speeches are AI-enhanced. And as usual we’ve taken the opportunity to test a selection of shortlisted campaigns to find out how they land with regular audiences – you know, the people who buy the stuff we advertise?

This year we’ve used Test Your Ad to rate the campaigns competing for the Dan Wieden Titanium Lion – arguably Cannes’ most prestigious award, celebrating game-changing creativity.
For something like the Titanium Lion, pure effectiveness isn’t the only metric juries care about. It’s an award celebrating the power of the idea, seeking “provocative, boundary-busting work”.

But we believe it’s still vitally important for that idea to actually connect with and inspire or entertain real audiences. And there’s often been a chasm between the ads and campaigns juries respond to and the ones audiences love.

Among the US and UK ads we tested, two scored 3-Stars and one achieved 4-Stars. Those sit comfortably in the top quarter of our database with good to strong potential to grow share.

Let’s have a look at the top three, and reveal through Test Your Ad the work the public respond to most.

3. Microsoft – ADLAM – An Alphabet To Preserve A Culture. (3.1-Stars)

Microsoft has a mind-blowing story to tell here about two brothers who created an entire alphabet for their native Fulani language. The language, used by 25 million people in West Africa, was originally only spoken, and the ADLAM script has helped preserve the culture. Microsoft has gotten involved to make ADLAM usable on modern devices with simplified letters and new fonts. This is a really good example of telling a complex, unusual story well and centering it on people not just technology.

2. Raid – Certified Care (3.7-Stars)

Yes, that’s the insect repellent spray Raid, proving yet again that any brand has it in them to make a great campaign. Like Microsoft’s ad, this is a 2-minute case study video based around work the brand did in Africa, in this case getting local Rwandan health practitioners certified so they could get official support in their battles against insect-borne diseases.

Watch this one for a real lesson in how to make a case study click with an audience: there’s a lot of human betweenness and the focus is always on the African women on the frontline of disease prevention. As with Microsoft, this isn’t some Western brand dropping in for a photo-op. it’s aligning a core brand benefit (killing insects) with a wider aim, and it’s giving a helping hand to existing efforts, not trying to start from scratch. Purpose as it should be done.

Finally, if the public were picking the Titanium winner from this list, it would be…

1. Apple – The Greatest (4.1-Stars)

This accessibility-themed spot isn’t just the greatest 2023 Titanium ad we tested, it’s the greatest Apple brand ad we’ve ever looked at. Apple are awards show regulars, but their moody ads often feel like they got lost on the way to the Cannes Film Festival – the brand has a distinctive aesthetic but it doesn’t always land with a wider audience. That makes the 4.1-Star score here particularly impressive.

The ad is a montage of different people with disabilities using Apple devices to help them smash limitations and expectations. As well as the technological wow factor it’s full of human connection with a catchy soundtrack that’s new, but sounds like it’s been a hit for ages. Hats off to Apple for making an ad that lives up to the high expectations their name conjures.

So, what do these and the other ads we tested tell us about Cannes 2023? One big theme is technology – campaigns which showcase new ways to bring people into the digital world. That’s inevitable at an event where the AI hype will be laid on thicker than the Ambre Solaire.

The other common ground is – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – brand purpose. The arguments about brand purpose will rage on this year. But if you’re going to do it, do it right – tie it back to the product and leave a smile on people’s faces, not tears in their eyes.

Looking at those criteria for Titanium Lions, though, it’s hard to feel purpose ads are especially “provocative and boundary-busting” – more like the Cannes comfort zone. The highest scoring brand purpose ad in our database was Microsoft’s 5.9-Star Super Bowl ad from 2019, for their adaptive controller – a commercial which shared Apple’s theme of making tech more accessible. Apple’s ad is strong work, a high for the brand, and would be a worthy winner – but it’s resting on solid foundations more than breaking new ground.