Cannes Lions Jury Notebook: The 26th Juror
Late into the evening this past Sunday at the Cannes Lions Festival, with 24 creative directors from 22 countries around a big horse shoe table littered with snack bags and coffee cups, I raised my right hand to vote my last vote.
If you care about important things like politics or student council elections, this won’t be worth its digital newsprint. But if you care about marketing and where things are going creatively in advertising, Cannes Lions is the biggest show of all.
My vote was to award a coveted 2011 Grand Prix in the Direct category, of many juries that week which included Film, Cyber, Outdoor, Media, Radio and Promotion. Our medals would publicly reflect the freshest, boldest, most surprising and effective work that engages customers created anywhere in the world (and by agencies willing to pay the steep entry fees).
Among some solid choices in our Direct category were gold winners from hours earlier in our voting, such as Coke’s charming The Friendship Machine and the impressive De-code Jay-Z with Bing. Whatever we chose would be among the most remembered from this year and a benchmark for future years. I’d be a part of a team that was either brilliant and prescient — or sloppy and foolish. (How quickly we chose would also affect my mood and stomach. We had spent hours and days in the same room, not to mention I was probably going to be very late and un-showered for an arranged dinner.)
For the Direct Grand Prix, our final choice was something surprising and from a surprising place: Romania. American Rom was a stunt in which Rom —a failing local candy brand wrapped in the Romanian flag — briefly and bravely altered its packaging to, of all things, the American flag. Stirring national pride and enormous debate on social media and with in person protests, Romanians quickly re-claimed their chocolate bar and after about a week, Rom packaging returned to normal —but with a burst in sales results, raising it to #1 in its category for the first time in a decade. Like other work under consideration by our Jury, it was a brave solution to a real business problem. It was also timely; research had recently unearthed low national pride at the time. As our jury president, Alex Shiller of Germany, pointed out the crucial role of the customer in standing up for their country and their chocolate. If Romanians hadn’t gotten involved, he’d said, they’d be stuck with a chocolate bar on the shelf in the American flag.
Alex had given each of us a golden bullet our first day. It was to remind us to look for work that wasn’t just good, but pierces through to your heart. For me, I felt like in addition to holding a bullet, I was also wearing an eyepatch. My vision of what great work should look like during judging was being shaped by another presence felt around us in Cannes, especially this week during what would be his 100th birthday — our company’s iconic founder David Ogilvy, creator of many provocative and memorable campaigns, including the Man in the Hathaway Shirt.
“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” According to both legend and people who worked for him, D.O. had extremely high standards for the content of the work. He thrived on both revision and on coming back to clients with new ideas. He was a champion for big ideas, a stickler for small details, an advocate for the customer and an early fan of direct response. Cannes Lions too are about celebrating ideas and rewarding bravery. In my five days helping sift through 1,800+ entries in Direct alone, we saw a variety of novel solutions which excited us.
- A pop-up store in Washington Square Park in New York City that you can only see with your smartphone.
- An exhibition about human rights in Burma in which you are encouraged to touch it.
- A mobile application that teaches you how to do a proper naval salute (which helps the government recruit the right candidates).
Other voices in my head and around it. In addition to what David Ogilvy might have thought, I found judging to challenge two other forces of opinion: first, the opinions of experienced creative directors from all different cultures and tastes; and secondly and perhaps most importantly, my own voice and opinion. What did I admire most? Of what was I most envious? What pierced my heart? I write more about it and share some links to work on a company blog here.
I’m terribly happy about going back to a work of creating versus judging. The difference of course, is because of this experience and its external and internal pressures, I’m privileged with a far better perspective and view of what gold looks like. And with both eyes open.
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