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Rewind & reflect: Top four Cannes Lions ads from 1990

Cannes Lions Awaeds
The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, often referred to as the “Oscars of Advertising,”

We usually talk about what’s happening now, but sometimes looking back can spark great ideas for the future! I am rewinding to 1990 when it marked a particularly interesting turning point. Oh, and there was also the birth and boom of this little thing called the Internet. It was a time when traditional advertising methods were beginning to share the spotlight with the fresh possibilities of the burgeoning digital age.

A Whole New Audience:

The 1990s saw a new group of people become big spenders – Gen X. Unlike previous generations, Gen X wasn’t so easily convinced by traditional advertising. They were sceptical of all the flashy marketing, and this made ad companies shift their approach. Ads became less forceful and more playful, sometimes even poking fun at themselves.

Going Global & Saving Money:

With the world becoming more connected, companies wanted to sell their products everywhere. But spreading their budget thin meant they had to find clever ways to reach a lot of people without breaking the bank. Smaller, specialized ad agencies started popping up, focusing on specific groups of people or finding the best places to show ads.

Award-Winning Ads:

Remember those classic commercials from way back? Well, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity celebrates the best of them! In 1990, this event marked a turning point. Traditional ads were still popular, but new, exciting possibilities started emerging. It was a time when traditional advertising methods were beginning to share the spotlight with the fresh possibilities of the burgeoning digital age.

1. Maxell won Cannes Grand Prix

Forget crystal-clear sound and perfect fidelity. Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury took a hilarious gamble with Maxell tapes’ “Into the Valley” ad in 1990. This multi-award-winning campaign poked fun at the often difficult to understand pop lyrics, a bold move considering most music media ads highlight pristine audio quality. But their gamble paid off big time, landing them the prestigious Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix that same year.


2. Gallaher won Gold 

As the curtain closed on an era of tobacco advertising in the UK with a television, cinema and radio ban in the early 1990s, the company Gallaher, with its Hamlet Cigar brand, took a final victory lap. Their iconic “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet” campaign, which had graced the airwaves since 1966, snagged the coveted Gold award at the prestigious Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 1990, a testament to its lasting impact. Channel 4 later cemented its legacy by ranking it as the eighth greatest television advertisement of all time in 2000.


3. Opticians Federation won Gold

This funny public information film from the Opticians Federation, UK, likely no longer exists in its original form. It may have evolved into either the British Optical Association (BOA) or The Optical Confederation (OC).  Like any well-meaning industry association, the OC (or perhaps the BOA) also seems to have aimed to raise public awareness about optometry and eye care – interestingly enough, with great success, as evidenced by their Cannes Lions award.


4. Baltimore Symphony Orchestra won Gold 

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is an American symphony orchestra based in Baltimore, Maryland. Drawing parallels to sports, this commercial positioned the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as Baltimore’s “other major league team,” implying a level of excellence and competition similar to professional sports franchises in the city. It likely also aimed to invoke civic pride, positioning the BSO as a cultural institution that rivaled the city’s major sports teams in importance while highlighting its artistic merit.

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