The Cannes Lions trophy, as we know it, was not known by this name in 1954, when the festival saw the light of the day in Venice, Italy. Back then, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was known as International Advertising Film Festival. The second festival was held in Monte Carlo and the third in Cannes. Post that, the event’s venue flitted between Venice and Cannes till 1984, which is when the venue for the festival was moved to Cannes permanently. The venue was frozen but the trophy continued to evolve. Let’s take a look at the journey of Cannes Lions trophy from the time when it was just The Lion:
1. From 1954 to 1969, the awards committee recognised and awarded creative work with a Grand Prix which was called ‘The Lion’. “The first Festival was held in Venice hence the inspiration for the trophy came from the venue and the trophy was named ‘The Lion’ after the Lion of St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco in Italian) in Venice,” says Terry Savage, chairman, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The first ever Grand Prix, in the form of a winged lion, was awarded to a film called ‘Il Circo’ (Italian for the circus) for Chlorodont toothpaste, produced by Ferry Mayer.
2. In the year 1969, the concept of Gold, Silver and Bronze Lions was introduced. The same year, event organisers approached the Argentieri Miracuolli jewellery store of Milan to reproduce the winged lion of Venice in trophy form. Interestingly, in the same year, a French movie ‘Slogan’ was released which showed actor Serge Gainsbourg as an adman who goes to Venice to pick up his ‘Gold Lion’.
3. The first ever Grand Prix Film Lions (in a trophy form) was bagged by Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) for a TV commercial released in the USA for United Cerebral Palsy Fund; and MacDonald Publicidad SRL for a Pepsi-Cola film for cinemas released in Argentina titled ‘Nino’ (Spanish for young child).
4. Come 1984 and the trophy had to shed its wings and emerge in a new avatar. The change in design of the trophy was a culmination of a series of events. To begin with, the venue for the festival was moved from Venice to Cannes permanently because Venice was plagued with incessant transport strikes and logistical issues. The event organising committee had to face the wrath of Italian officials who weren’t happy to see the venue shift from Venice and had therefore banned the use of winged lion replicas as trophies for the event. Therefore, the trophies needed to be redesigned. “The Lion was given to a French Artist who stylised what she thought the new trophy would look like. It was then given to the Arthus-Bertrand Company in Paris which actually makes the trophies,” explains Savage.
5. Chiat/Day Los Angeles was the first agency to win the Grand Prix Film Lions trophy (minus its wings) at Cannes in 1984. And they won it for the legendary Ridley Scott directed ‘1984’ advert for Apple Computer. Since then, the Lion sans its wings has stayed as the symbol of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
6. Apart from an interesting evolution, there are engaging tales attached to the legacy of the Cannes Lions trophy. Savage took us back to the 50th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to reveal one such tale. It was the first time that Procter & Gamble decided to attend the event. The brand was represented by Jim Stengel, then global marketing officer, P&G, who was accompanied by his team at the event. On a Wednesday when the gathering was celebrating 50 Years of Cannes, Stengel was called up on the stage to receive an award. Trying to hasten on his way back to his seat, he tumbled; he fell off the stage and the trophy fell to the ground with him. The trophy broke into exactly two pieces. Perhaps Savage is right when he says, “The trophy has been through a lot of things!”
With inputs from Campaign UK archives.
The hidden signature
Arthus-Bertrand, the Paris based company that has been making Cannes Lions trophies since 1984, has a small signature behind each trophy. Next time you bag a trophy and spot the signature, you will know what it stands for.