Monday, April 23, 2018
  • Friday, May. 19, 2017
Cannes Lions Preview: Film, Glass, Innovation, Entertainment and Music Jury Perspectives
Wendy Clark
Reflections from folks at Deutsch, DDB, Venables Bell & Partners, Pereira & O’Dell, J. Walter Thompson

Wendy Clark has a propensity for breaking new ground at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. In 2011, when she was president of Sparkling Brands and Strategic Marketing for Coca-Cola North America, Clark became the first client-side marketer to head the Creative Effectiveness Lions.

Fast forward to today and Clark, now CEO of DDB North America, is set to serve as president of the Cannes Glass Lions jury which by its very definition also looks to bust through barriers. In just its third year, the Glass Lions have gained traction as a platform for honoring creative work which rejects gender stereotypes and confronts prejudice and inequality by representing people in a progressive or socially conscious way.

Upon being named this year’s jury president, Clark said, “The Glass Lion challenges our industry to shift and change culture. Perhaps now, more than ever, society needs to hear, witness, feel and be moved by messages of gender equality, understanding and acceptance. I can’t think of time better spent than identifying and celebrating work that does just this.”

Towards that end, Clark has several priorities in place when presiding over a jury—some of which sprung out of lessons learned her first time around when she headed the Creative Effectiveness judging six years ago. “Your first inclination is to create a shared ambition and point of view among the judges,” she related. “That’s absolutely the wrong way to go. You want the discord, You want the debate. Effectiveness in the eye of one person may not be in the eye of another. The same holds true for the Glass Lions in terms of different perspectives, experiences and opinions regarding what kind of culture shifting truly advances gender equality. You have to resist the temptation of trying to achieve a shared perspective at the outset.”

Additionally, affirmed Clark, it’s key for a jury president to make sure “everyone is heard.” She noted, “The quieter people are often brilliant listeners. And they may in one sentence say more than the big talker does in twenty sentences.”

It’s only after extensive debate, dialogue and a meaningful exchange of perspectives that you can reach “an alignment among the judges,” continued Clark, observing that the process is somewhat akin to an ad agency developing a client pitch. You get a brief and then try to figure out the best creative and strategic approaches. From the get-go you encourage different points of view. But ultimately, by the time you finalize your pitch, everyone is behind what you’re recommending. However, judging at Cannes is all the more daunting because of the time crunch. Clark said that judging is “a compressed version” of the agency process that goes into developing and finalizing the ideal pitch.

Despite its rigors and time pressures, judging can be most rewarding. Clark recalled that serving as president of the Creative Effectiveness Lions was “one of my best Cannes experiences” over the many years she’s attended the festival. “Being on a jury and seeing the world’s best work is something I will always say ‘yes’ to if asked,” she affirmed. “It’s such an incredible education and mind-expanding experience. And to this day all of us on that [Creative Effectiveness Lions] jury are friends. We bonded forever.”

Clark described herself as “giddy” over the prospects of heading the Glass Lions jury proceedings. After its first year as a new category, and year two getting its feet on the ground, this upcoming third year of the Glass Lions, she assessed, finds the category “more mature” with advertisers and agencies more attuned to the nature of the work that merits consideration. Clark noted that there’s an impressive number of Glass Lion entries this time around.

In the big picture, though, Clark looks forward to the day “when there is no Glass Lions category because all of us on the planet have attained equal rights and opportunities no matter our gender. Regrettably we’re decades away from that being the case. But now I’m happy to be part of the Glass Lions journey which hopefully one day will lead to their obsolescence.”

Film Lions
Pete Favat, chief creative officer of Deutsch North America, is also no stranger to the Cannes jury room. Several years back he served as a Film Lions judge and in 2016 he was on the Titanium Lions jury. Now he returns to the Film Lions, but this time as its jury president.

Favat believes the timing is fortuitous for him to be presiding over a Cannes jury for the first time, particularly the Film Lions. “I feel a strong resurgence for film. We all appreciate and love technology. And we went on this mad race down this technological path which turned up some great practices and things. Film got kind of pooh-poohed, disrespected along the way—mostly by people who don’t understand how difficult it is to do film well. Ultimately we’ve seen that film can never die. It’s the king of storytelling, the strongest way to get people to actually feel things. VR is starting to bring a new dimension. But film is still at the pinnacle of making us think, and to feel emotion. From a judging perspective, film is tough. Everyone feels they’re an expert. There are tons of opinions. As a judge you have that hanging over you. Is this film worthy of the amazing history and legacy of Cannes. Is this a fresh new story? There’s a lot to live up to.”

In order to properly “live up” to the high bar that’s been set, Favat sees a prime responsibility as jury president being to bring many voices to the fore. “Some people in the jury room are more extroverts than others. It’s important to hear out the introverts for whom it might not feel natural to voice their opinions. Sometimes the judges who aren’t as well known are intimidated by some of the more famous people in the room. I want all the judges to speak up, particularly if they think something isn’t going their way, that work isn’t being recognized in the proper light.”

At the same time, Favat realizes that he has to maintain a delicate balance when it comes to judges who are too vocal. “If I feel like anyone is trying to persuade the room to move in a certain direction—trying to bully—I’ll shut it down. It got that way on a jury I was on for another show. In focus groups, there are people who can persuade the rest of the room to go a certain way. But when I hear or feel something along the lines like ‘I can’t believe you’re voting for that,’ I have to intercede. You can’t bully for votes.”

At press time, Favat didn’t know who would be serving on his Film Lions jury. He noted, though, that he’d like to generally see the client side more meaningfully represented. “I’m on a big mission to bring more clients onto these juries, which is what we did with the ANDYs. Clients offer valuable perspective. The client is critical to making an amazing piece of film. The client has to take a leap of faith for the agency to do great work. Sometimes clients don’t want to go there. It’s up to us to bring these people into the circus tent so they can see how the act is done. A lot more clients these days are willing to participate in that circus. Great creativity is great for their business. The films that win at Cannes for the most part do statistically very well when it comes to selling product.”

This year Cannes Lions has reduced the size of jury members by some 90-plus members across the board as a means to help ensure the highest standard of meaningful debate. Favat noted that the Titanium jury he was on last year was “the smallest I had ever been on.” He likes that dynamic for sparking productive dialogue and for putting more pressure on each judge to do justice to the work. John Hegarty, founder of BBH, was president of the 2016 Titanium jury that Favat served on. Hegarty endorsed Cannes’ decision to streamline juries. “I would rather be judged by fewer jurors who are more focused, more responsible and better qualified,” said Hegarty. “Collective responsibility and the quality of discussion are lost if you have too many judges. Size is no guarantee of strength.”

Entertainment Lions
PJ Pereira, co-founder and chief creative officer of Pereira & O’Dell, takes his role as president of the Entertainment Lions jury very seriously—in large part because of the sense of urgency attached to the category. “Every president of every jury will try to make the case for why his or her category is the most important,” he observed. “But with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and the like, we are clearly in an on-demand world which is destroying every single form of interruption in advertising. And it’s only going to get worse. The Entertainment Lions represent our resistance, our only hope. It’s the one avenue where we realize that we have to compete against regular programming—and it’s possible to do that successfully.”

Pereira knows that success all too well. Pereira & O’Dell is credited with the creation of what was billed as the first-ever social film (The Inside Experience, for Intel and Toshiba in 2011), followed by the 2013 triple Cannes Grand Prix winner The Beauty Inside, also for Intel and Toshiba, which was the first piece of advertising to win an Emmy in competition against regular TV programming. 

In presiding over this year’s Entertainment Lions jury, Pereira said his priority is to find work that fulfills two key criteria. “Agencies have to provide a return on the money brands are investing but also on the time consumers are spending with the work. That balance is the ultimate challenge the industry faces today, and that’s what the Entertainment Lions jury will be looking for.”

Pereira noted that this very challenge makes “those of us in the advertising business the generation that got lucky. We have a chance to tell stories like never before. I believe we’re on the cusp of a golden age of advertising, marketing and creativity. The pleasure we can get from work we are going to do can be unprecedented. We hear from the big Hollywood creators that ad people are more creative, open-minded and easier to work with than the big studio guys. This is a time for a great partnership between brands, agencies, production companies and talent. If we redefine the way we work together based on these new scenarios instead of trying to replicate the past, we will have more fun than ever in terms of what we can create and the impact it can have.”

This marks the second time that Pereira has headed a Cannes Lions jury; the first coming in 2005 as Cyber Lions jury president. That experience from a dozen years ago carried a lesson or two which he intends to apply to his Entertainment Lions duty. “What I first learned is humbleness when you walk into that jury room. You’re there to learn in the name of the rest of the industry. Whatever you think coming in, you leave that behind. You’re there to be surprised. You have to walk in with an open mind so that you allow the work to show you the potential of opportunities and possibilities you hadn’t imagined before. As judges we are not going to change the industry and the work. We are there to be changed and to tell the story of how we’ve been changed to the rest of the industry.”

Entertainment Lions For Music
Matt Eastwood, worldwide chief creative officer, J. Walter Thompson, is another returnee to Cannes Lions judging. This time around he is a member of the Entertainment Lions for Music jury.

Years back, Eastwood was an Outdoor judge and in 2015 he served as president of the Promo and Activation jury. Unlike those initial two tours of Cannes Lions judging duty, though, Eastwood noted that this year will mark “the first jury I’ve been on with quite a bit of people who aren’t in mainstream advertising. While I’m from an ad agency, others include musicians and artists. Wyclef Jean, for example, is on the Music Lions jury. I’m quite intrigued to see what award-winning work looks and sounds like from his perspective.”

Part of Cannes perennial strength, observed Eastwood, is the diversity of its judges. “You truly have an international group of jurors for whom English in some cases is a second language. That always makes things interesting. But music rises above language barriers.”

Also appealing to Eastwood is the prospect of judging a category that’s only in its second year, meaning jurors can continue to help shape how music is assessed at Cannes. “To be able to build this category as a judge is a great opportunity—particularly a category that is so important. Music is one of the ways you can seriously build a brand. There’s a lot of responsibility involved in recognizing the ways music can make a positive difference for a brand.”

At press time, Eastwood noted that he had already started judging online. “It looks like a strong competition with a good amount of worthwhile work in the category. The bar was set high last year and we hope to raise it even further.”

Lions Innovation
Will McGinness, partner/executive creative director, Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco, first served as a Cannes judge—on the Cyber Lions jury—in 2015. But that experience won’t necessarily do him much good when it comes to preparing for his upcoming tour of judging duty on Lions Innovation—and that fact excites him.

McGinness shared, “In other Cannes categories, you have a good sense of the work you will encounter. But for this [Lions Innovation which recognizes pioneering technological creativity], you go in more blind. That’s what makes this so exciting. You don’t know what to expect. Innovation is such a different animal. Entrants are a weird soup of company start-ups, from ad agencies and places like Silicon Valley. The final round is live on stage.” 

Still, McGinness has an orientation that should serve him well. At Venables Bell & Partners, he’s part of the San Francisco ad and content creation community which, he noted, is “on the edge” of Silicon Valley. “In San Francisco, we’re acutely aware of technology. We have tech innovators and startups in our own backyard. There’s lots of cross pollination. We’re evolving into a place which is inherently more innovative in technology and the ways in which we communicate. And that’s what we’ll be exploring [at Cannes].”

What McGinness experienced in his first go-around as a Cannes judge, though, still applies in the big picture today. “You get the real sense at Cannes that the global ad community is coming together for the week, celebrating the best work in the world. People are flooding into France from all these countries. You viscerally feel that you’re in the world of advertising.”

As for the value of the judging experience, McGinness observed, “I try to keep tabs on things in the world from an advertising perspective. But judging at Cannes entails much more. You’re forced to comb through everything and evaluate it on a deep level. From this, you gain a ton of insights into how marketing operates. You are exposed to a giant cross-section  of what the industry is doing. And you get to have these debates and conversations with jurors from all around the world. You get different perspectives and impressions. You taste different flavors of the work. You have to trust your gut and be open in conversation. The conversation that happens in the later rounds of judging is fascinating.”

The overall 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity runs from June 17-24.