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Time Tunnel: automotive

A journey through seven decades of brand creativity

To celebrate the work of previous generations of fearless marketers and creative visionaries, we take a look back through Cannes Lions winners from previous years, and discover that creative bravery isn't a new phenomenon.

created on Thursday 9 Mar 2017

Although it looks like car brands have some catching up to do, automotive brands have been picking up awards at Lions since (almost) the very beginning. 

The year is 1956: Elvis makes his TV debut. Excited U.S viewers can tell their British friends all about him on the telephone, as the first undersea transatlantic telephone line between the United States and Great Britain opens the same year. Europe makes its own contribution to pop music by holding the first Eurovision song contest in Switzerland. Meanwhile down the road in Venice, the Ford Motor Car Company becomes the first car brand to win a Lion. 

Currently this film is missing from the Lions archives. But we know this pioneering piece of work was called 'Ford Doctor', and won a Gold Lion. In the same competition, Ford also picked up an 'Honorable Mention' (think 'Shortlisted' in modern Cannes terms) for something intriguingly titled 'Shoe'.  

From this year onwards, auto brands become a regular and increasingly prominent fixture in the winners of creative work. Here we take a look at some examples from seven decades of creativity...

1957: Chevrolet

Chevrolet 1957
Champs of the Alcan Run, by Chevrolet
Honorable Mention, 1957 

The oldest extant automotive Lion winner is this film produced Campbell-Ewald Company. More of a mini-documentary, we imagine this was the sort of thing played in U.S cinemas in between the cartoons and the main feature. With its triumphant opening fanfare, this is more reminiscent of a Government-produced public information film - but this definitely a love letter to trucks, sixty years before Jean Claude van Damme did the splits. 

1961: Volkswagen

Volkswagen 1961
Italian Designer, by Volkswagen
Diploma, 1961

This stylish, almost noir-ish piece came from Doyle Dane Bernbach Inc, a name which lives on today as DDB. This was the first year Volkswagen took home an award (a Diploma is equivalent to a Silver Lion). To date, VW has taken home 412 awards at Cannes Lions. 

1971: Ford

Ford - 1971
Noise, by Ford
Bronze TV Lion, 1971

The very macho voiceover in this commercial was from the actor in the Twilight Zone. Maybe someone at J. Walter Thompson was a fan? 

1985: Citro├źn

Citroen - 1985
Le Beauty Sauvage, by Citroen
Silver Film Lion, 1985

It's got Grace Jones driving a car, out of Grace Jones's mouth. We've nothing to add here, apart from to say that if this got a Silver, we hope the 1985 Golds were pretty exceptional. 

1992: BMW

BMW - 1992
Mouse, by BMW
Gold Film Lion, 1992

By getting a small rodent steers vehicle, Hunt Lascaris TBWA pre-date Volvo's truck-driving hamster by more than 20 years and took home a Gold Lion. BMW would return 10 years later to Cannes with 'The Hire', and rewrite the rules of branded content. 

2003: Peugeot

Peugeot - 2003
The Sculptor, by Peugeot
Gold Film Lion, 2003

With just 26 Lions to its name since it first won in 1977, Peugeot hasn't enjoyed creative success to the same level as other brands on this list, but this Gold winner from 2003 also took home the Journalists Award (a now-retired award based on popular choice) in the same year. 

2014: Honda

Honday - 2014

Sound of Honda / Ayrton Senna, by Honda
Titanium & Integrated Lion, 2014

This multiple Lion winner took home 14 awards in 2014 - which was a golden year for automotive brands, being the same year Volvo Trucks won big with its Live Test series.