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Gaming Cannes: 2023 Cannes contenders in gaming  

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — The highly anticipated Cannes Lions Festival Festival of Creativity, commencing on June 19, will see the introduction of the inaugural Entertainment Lions in Gaming category. As the Festival expands its scope to acknowledge the significant influence and innovation within the gaming industry, Rey Tiempo, our resident video game connoisseur, highlights some of the best gaming x marketing work that has earned the praise of the latest and most prestigious industry award shows.

Let’s debut a new segment for Game On! 

“Achievement Unlocked” will be our regular shout-out to some of the best gaming x marketing work that has earned the praise of the latest and most prestigious industry award shows. For this initial entry, we’re featuring our picks from the recent Spikes Asia, D&AD, One Show, and Clio winners.  


The timing couldn’t be more perfect as well, as Cannes Lions Festival Creativity will be debuting its very own inaugural Entertainment Lions in Gaming category this year. Not to mention, Game On and adobo Magazine will be onsite at this year’s show, so let’s take a close look at some of the most promising gaming work that will be competing in Cannes in a few short days,

Before anything, a quick guide to our methodology: Game On seeks to properly dissect the work in the most reliable and fair way possible by truly understanding the interplay between the gaming world (the authenticity of the gaming experience) and the marketing/advertising world (the innovative branding approach that makes it a winning case). In true gaming x marketing style, we will be putting both our gamer and advertising hats on to present the two points of view, detailing why some work just works—and maybe why others spell Game Over even before we Push Start!

With that, let’s-a-go! 

Through their Eyes – Maybelline New York 

The Gamer POV: 

This work has managed to touch on a very real issue, something authentic to the female gamer experience, and something very, very close to my heart  as I have witnessed the situation happen to my close friend’s daughter, who is an active online gamer. Female and female-identifying gamers simply experience online gaming in a very different way, especially when playing with a group, especially when playing a game with a largely male demographic, and most especially when choosing to reveal their real identities. To raise better awareness of the problem, the solution was spot on by having the males experience the abuse firsthand. Amazingly, all it took was a very simple voice-changing technology. The result was a real eye-opener, pun intended. 

The Advertising POV: 

As a brand, it just made perfect sense for Maybelline to do this. I would have loved to see more male gamers take the challenge on, with more online games featured, not just the most obvious shooting games. As a case, it could actually stand firm even without the mention of the live tournament and the custom Fortnite map, because those elements didn’t necessarily help the overall idea. Sometimes, as advertising creatives, we just could not resist the urge to add more elements to an already strong and simple idea, maybe in an effort (and unnecessary pressure) to project scale. I see this happen very often, especially in gaming work. Sometimes, it is best to keep things small and simple but powerful, to keep the core idea pure. In gaming, being laser-focused on your target and, above all, authenticity are key. The work has already won in D&AD so we’ll definitely keep an eye on this in Cannes! 

Unbranded Menu – McDonald’s 

The Gamer POV: 

Game developers and creators, for years, have parodied the McDonald’s chain of restaurants. This is a fact every hardcore gamer knows. Whenever there’s a need for game developers to feature a video game world version of a fast food chain, a burger joint, or any restaurant that features burgers and fries, you can be sure they will use and easily parody McDonald’s iconography with the colors, logo, and especially the menu items. It’s the best way for them to simulate the real world without actually paying for the branding and the hefty royalties! As a result, if you’re a gamer, you will always encounter McDonald’s-like food across the video games that you play: from open-world games to food-management type games, action games, competitive games, and even science fiction games not based on reality.

The genius breakthrough idea of the brand here is instead of paying millions of dollars for brand sponsorship, like what other brands usually do to appear in these games and appeal to the gamers, it realized it already is in these games anyway. Not only that, but it has also been in gamers’ consciousness for years. What it did next was nothing short of branding sleight of hand, as it started “claiming” back these McDonald’s food-alikes across the gaming worlds (it was like exposing a hidden gaming multiverse menu composed of burgers from one game and fries from another game, and drinks from another game) by engaging gaming influencers and starting a virtual scavenger hunt of these food items, then relabeling them with its proper McDonald’s real-world menu item counterparts.

By tapping into yet another gaming endemic behavior, screen grabbing gamers’ favorite moments in-game, then posting them as proud achievements on its social feed in exchange for real-life McDonald’s product, the result was a gaming community-led cooperative and competitive game within a game, looking for McDonald’s iconography in the virtual-verse and reactivating interest in an already hooked demographic.  

The Advertising POV: 

The campaign is probably the most clever and seamless case of a branded gaming effort in recent years, and it carries the purposely ironic “Unbranded” in its title. I’m Lovin It! The work has already won a Grand Prix in Spikes, and we’re keeping an eye on this one in Cannes.

Los Santos +3ºC – Greenpeace Brazil 

The Gamer POV: 

Los Santos, the virtual open-world city in the game Grand Theft Auto V, is probably one of the most popular games, considering its thriving relevance after its initial release ten years and three console generations before ago. It also remains one of the most realistic depictions of an actual city in the gaming world.

The idea for the campaign was simple and brilliant enough: demonstrate the real effects of climate change as it happened to a city, as close to reality as possible. Greenpeace Brazil did this by “modding” or modifying the original game and creating another version of it. To be clear, Rockstar Games, GTA V’s publisher, did not have a hand in this effort. This version of Los Santos is entirely its own, and that’s how modding works.

A hardcore gamer viewing this work will definitely know that modding is quite commonplace and has been enjoyed by gamers since the inception of games themselves. GTA V itself regularly attracts its share of modding communities. These are very niche communities though, brought about by the technical challenges posed by modding. The use of game streamers, therefore, was a great solution to reach non-modding gamers and the casual audience and served as an engaging “live demo” to illustrate the situation to its viewers.

As a GTA V gamer though, I doubt if it would encourage me to actually want to play this modified Los Santos, for the simple reason that it did not look like a very fun place. Gamers play to escape the real world, and I wouldn’t want my real-world crises to follow me to my escape. Perhaps, however, that was the brilliant point: to show how unpleasant the experience was, and how much more devastating a real-world occurrence would be. Ultimately, if viewed as a demonstration piece for popular influencers to play and to deliver an impactful show to its audience, this work actually works. 

The Advertising POV: 

What this modified world created was a very big open-world statement on climate change, complete with its own billboard ads and even its own radio stations and radio ads. It was like having a living, breathing, virtual terrarium of a world affected by climate change, fully interactive with ad placements that support the cause.

As an idea though, I could not help but put this under the advertising award shows microscope, and compare it to similar past efforts. The work “Los Santos Pride” particularly came to mind, and that was done six years ago. Although it for another entirely different cause, it used the same modding technique and even featured the same virtual city and the same game.

I was also reminded of this 2015 work, “World Under Water,” which was also a demonstration of a world reeling from the effects of climate change, albeit using a totally different platform. This now begs the question for future shows: should we be recognizing gaming efforts that have already worked for other platforms in the past? As an industry, I feel this is the best time to think hard about this. 

Clash from the Past – Supercell Clash of Clans 

The Gamer POV: 

At a time when every story can be confirmed almost instantly and at a time in when communities of the most hardcore, dedicated gaming fanbases are arguably the strongest, it was admittedly a bit of a stretch to claim that Supercell Clash of Clans “made the internet believe” about the game’s false history. What was so admirable about this effort, however, was the level of craft and attention to detail.

From the creation of the incredibly detailed “mockumentary,” the expertly-changing nuances of every era’s gaming visual style, the release of collectible merch made available in ecommerce, to creating actual mini-games based on the different fake eras of Clash, every bit was a sublime crafting success. It was a fully-realized love story of everything that is to adore about video games and the historical and cultural impact they have in our lives. A fake history with very real emotions involved. Bravo! 

The Advertising POV: 

The idea seemed very simple. Supercell Clash of Clans, with no history to build on, fabricated one for itself to create brand affinity. We have seen this happen not just with brands, but with countries and cultures alike. Gaming is no exception. In this case, it was applied most impressively with an exceptionally well-crafted film at the core of the idea. I imagine this piece of entertainment will live on and be loved by gamers as well as non-gamers alike. 

FIFA 23 x Ted Lasso – EA Sports / Apple 

The Gamer POV: 

Can you imagine one of the most popular and legendary TV shows with a well-loved fictional football team, appearing in one of the most legendary sports games known for its ultra-realistic graphics and real-life football teams? That’s as meta as it gets in the gaming and marketing world. This wasn’t the first time we saw fictional sports teams appear in sports simulation games. While those past efforts were achieved through “hacks” or “mods,” meaning there were no official tie-ups, and were usually created by dedicated fans or clever programmers, this campaign was as official as it got. It was a successful tie-up between two popular properties, and a marriage made in true sports gaming and TV series heaven.  

The Advertising POV: 

The work is the epitome of relevance in terms of branding, media, and laser-targeting the right audience. I imagine this to lay the groundwork for future marketing and official tie-ups in sports games and other media, and I am truly excited about the possibilities.


Rey Tiempo is Head of Experience and Innovation at Digitas. He has served as President of the Creative Guild of the Philippines, and has spent the last twenty-plus years being part of award show juries and leading teams to award-winning creative and effective work in Publicis Groupe, VMLY&R, Dentsu, BBDO, and Leo Burnett. Gamer, musician, comic book enthusiast, and relentless collector, Rey keeps himself immersed in platforms by creating music and gaming content. Currently playing: Street Fighter 6, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. 

Artwork by Dennis Nierra, Creative Director at Publicis Jimenez Basic. Currently playing: God of War Ragnarok, New Game Plus mode. 

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