Guest Blog: Thanksgiving condensed into 5 ads – Clare Hill, VP of Marketing, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Thanksgiving is taking place today in America and the country is starting its holiday period with celebrations across the country. But there’s an overarching belief that Thanksgiving doesn’t get the same hype that other holidays do. After the ghosts and ghouls get pulled off the shelves, we are greeted by rosy-cheeked Santa Clauses and a variety of Christmas trees – it’s always seemingly received the shorter end of the advertising stick. However, there are a number of fantastic brands that have proved this belief wrong.

From turkey, Black Friday, Macy’s Parade and charity to football, family, feasting and the Pilgrim Fathers, we’ve combined everything that makes Thanksgiving advertising special.


Saints and Strangers “Prayers” by Variable New York for National Geographic

The Pilgrims landed at New Plymouth in 1620, but that was really only the beginning of the story. This promo for the scripted film “Saints and Strangers” tells that whole story. Centred around the idea of prayers from both Pilgrims and indigenous peoples (the chant was written and performed by Native American Jesse Bowman Bruchac), the spot echoes the idea that no matter how different they may have been, their fundamental experience was quite similar.

An entry from 2016


Madden NFL 15 by HEAT for EA Games

It’s Madden Season was a music video featuring gamers’ favorite celebrities, athletes and pop culture references. It starred Kevin Hart and Dave Franco engaging in the ultimate Madden rivalry. The two traded trash talk and pranks, before sitting down to play Madden during a party in which Franco’s house burns down. During every NFL game, the Madden GIFERATOR fused live NFL data with Madden 15 game footage to generate a live stream of GIFS that were personalised to fans based on their favorite teams. Fans were also able to create and send their own rivalry-themed GIFs.

A Gold winner in 2015


OptOutside by Venables Bell & Partners for REI

Instead of offering discounts to lure shoppers inside on Black Friday, REI announced that they would be doing something unprecedented: shutting all 143 of their stores, ceasing to process orders on their website and paying 12,000 employees to spend the day outside. Employees, members and the public were encouraged to use this day to reconnect with the outdoors and each other. They created an integrated campaign to invite the public outside with us, building a movement around the hashtag #OptOutside.

A double Grand Prix winner in 2016



Coke Parade by Wieden+Kennedy Portland for Coca-Cola

In this classic campaign, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons vie for a Coke bottle balloon during an aerial tussle in the skies of NYC.

A Silver Lion winner 


Pumpkin Patch by Deeplocal for Google

The Google Photos Pumpkin Patch sprouted in Times Square on October 29, 2015. It was the perfect place for New Yorkers and visitors to relive their fall memories and create new ones. Along with 8,700 free pumpkins ready to be picked and gorgeous fall foliage, the event featured pumpkin carving robots and artisan carvers primed to carve participants’ photos onto pumpkins. Attendees could get their photo taken at our fall photo booth and see it displayed on a billboard in Times Square. Local Brooklyn bluegrass band, the Defibulators, supplied the soundtrack, while opportunities to find photos fast with Google Photos were integrated throughout the experience

An entry from 2016


In this collection, Thanksgiving award winning campaigns span CPG, Entertainment and Retail and we know over the past 20 years many other sectors focus on this as a time for event status marketing campaigns. The creative approach has been applied to sell products, or with respect to REI, this double grand prix winning work was executed on actively not selling products and closing its stores! What is consistent across all of these campaigns is that they demonstrate innovative and creative ways to reach audiences.


Subscribers to The Work can access more campaigns that are part of this playlist, as well as lots more curated collections of the world’s best ideas. Find out more.


Written by Clare Hill, Vice President of Marketing at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity & The Work


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