Saturday, October 22, 2016
  • Tuesday, May. 24, 2016
Cannes Lions Preview: Perspectives From Film, Promo & Activation, Cyber, Entertainment and Music Juries
McCann Worldgroup's Rob Reilly, president of the Promo & Activation Lions jury.
Reflections from creatives at The Martin Agency, McCann Worldgroup, J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy and Grey

For Joe Alexander, chief creative officer of The Martin Agency, the Cannes bar has been set high as he embarks on the pre-judging process as president of the Film Lions jury which convenes next month. 

Actually Alexander was a beneficiary of that high standard last year when the Film Lions Grand Prix was bestowed on Martin’s “Unskippable Family” spot for Geico. 

Tor Myhren, worldwide chief creative officer for Grey at the time (he has since become VP of marketing communications for Apple), served as 2015 Cannes Film Lions jury president and explained the selection of “Unskippable” for the top honor. Myhren observed that The Martin Agency bucked conventional wisdom by challenging viewers not to watch the ad, which only reinforces what becomes a “can’t take your eyes off of it” dynamic. With the insurance brand pitch wrapped in the first five seconds (prior to the appearance of the “Skip ad” button), a voiceover boasts, “You can’t skip this Geico ad because it’s already over.” Then the action--prompted by inaction--begins. Each “Unskippable” video humorously shows characters pretending to be frozen as action continues around them. In the case of “Family,” folks at the dinner table suddenly becoming “frozen” translates into a golden opportunity for their beloved dog to gorge himself on all the food laid out, making a mess in the process--all with the Geico brand logo front and center.

Myhren said this “deceptively simple piece of communication” demonstrated that film “can reinvent the way you look at media,” even for pre-roll, arguably the least sexy, most deservedly ignored medium around.
Looking back on last year’s major win for The Martin Agency, Alexander assessed that the jury’s selection of pre-roll ad fare was “very courageous. It wasn’t a very sexy choice. Usually film winners are beautiful cinematic stories. Instead the judges went with digital ads that were well done--but quite a departure from the kind of work that’s normally honored. Tor and the jury made that choice and it was pretty telling about where we are as new creative opportunities arise in unexpected places.”

In that spirit, Alexander plans to bring to the 2016 Film Lions jury important lessons learned from his experience as a Cyber Lions judge in 2013. “What I took away from Cyber came from it being sort of a boot camp for understanding all aspects of digital and social. We had such a diverse group of judges in that room--all with a high taste level but different perspectives on what made a great piece of work. It was cool to hear somebody defend something that maybe you didn’t think was that great and to have your eyes opened to what a great idea it actually was. The same open-mindedness applies to film which covers so many different areas today--commercials, digital advertising, varied content forms and experiences. I want our jury to have its eyes wide open to what the possibilities of film are.”

Alexander regards being named Film Lions jury president as “a big honor” with big responsibilities, particularly when you consider, he said, that winning in Cannes “can make a career for a creative. It’s the top of the mountain.” He views his jury president responsibilities as including “reaching out to his group of judges, setting a positive tone. Sure, there is going to be a lot of debate about the work as perspectives come from different cultures, countries and agencies. That’s a major part of the process. But these different factions have to come together to work towards our goal which is to award the very best work and not fall victim to the politics if there are any. That is my job--to keep everybody on the rails, moving toward the same goal of recognizing excellence.”

Promo & Activation
No stranger to presiding over a Cannes Lions jury, Rob Reilly, global creative chairman of McCann Worldgroup, is looking forward to his second tour of such duty, this time at the helm of the Promo & Activation Lions jury. 

Reilly first headed Cannes’ Titanium & Integrated Lions jury in 2012. And a prime lesson learned from that experience was the responsibility that went with it. “As tedious as it can be sometimes, you have to give everything its due, making sure that every piece of work is respected and judged accordingly,” affirmed Reilly. “People work hard on these entries. It’s hard to make great advertising, to make ideas come to life. Judging this work is important. Sometimes conversations can get heated but that’s part of the process. My job is to keep everybody positive and on track.”

Reilly is particularly drawn to Promo & Activation which recognizes creativity that brings brands to life, serving as a catalyst for consumer participation and relevant interaction. 

“It’s not looked upon as one of the sexy categories but for me to motivate someone to action is both powerful and sexy,” assessed Reilly. “I came from a place [Crispin Porter+Bogusky] where we did a lot of TV. We were probably a bit more known for our out-of-the-box solutions to business problems. And that work was motivated by ways to engage with the marketplace. How do you spark people to take interest and interact with your brand? That’s a challenge to which I’ve always been attracted.”

At the same time, in his role at McCann, Reilly observed that while awards are important, the “motto” that continues to resonate for him is that “awards have to be the byproduct, not the motivation for great work. Our goal is to do great things for our clients, to build their brands, to provide value to their clients.” Given this, he noted that’s what Cannes Lions jurors look to reward--big ideas, real brands, the real thing that promotes success.”

Cyber Lions
Though scheduling didn’t work out, leading to his turning down an initial invite a few years ago to serve on a Cannes Lions jury, Brent Choi, chief creative officer, New York and Canada, for J. Walter Thompson, is glad that the stars aligned for him to be a judge for this year’s Cyber Lions, a competition honoring creativity that’s experienced digitally. Entries need to demonstrate a worthy idea indigenous to, or enhanced by, the digital environment. 

Choi has been a Clios and LIA judge in digital, garnering experience which for him hits home the importance of going beyond case studies and actually interacting with the work, whether it be a mobile app or a game. “I remember at one point being impressed with a great case study but then I was asked if I had downloaded the app. Once I did, I found that the app was awful. We all have become case study experts. But you have to dig deeper, beyond the case studies. Downloading the app, playing with the app, gives you a more accurate picture of the work’s value. You have to invest more time. I had a previous Cannes judge tell me to be prepared to lose a month of your life judging digital work. This goes beyond film where all you have to do is watch a :30 or :60 and then go on to the next one. I’m already into the pre-judging process for the Cyber Lions.”

Yet putting in that extra work is rewarding as is the inherent dynamic of the Cyber Lions jury as compared to, for instance, that for the Film Lions, observed Choi. “You tend to have all integrated creative directors on a Film jury,” he said. “By contrast, a digital jury is much more diverse with a mix of creatives, a UX person, creative technologists. You are getting many different perspectives which prove that much more valuable as you collaborate on judging and debate the merits of the work.”

At the same time, Choi would like to see Cannes in some respects resemble his Clio and LIA judging experiences which were marked by “a pretty good atmosphere with judges getting along and no pressure from anyone pushing a particular agency network or country.” Choi is hopeful that politics don’t come into play at Cannes though he noted that the stakes are higher with Lions in the balance. “Cannes has become the measure of the industry, the height of achievement. It’s like winning an Oscar as compared to a Golden Globe or a People’s Choice Award. The other awards are nice but an Oscar means you had a great year; it can make a career. Cannes has reached that stature in our business.”

Entertainment Lions
Cannes this time around marks the launch of Lions Entertainment, which yields two associated Lions: the Entertainment Lions replace the Branded Content & Entertainment Lions, while the Entertainment Lions for Music competition has been born from music’s significant role within the entertainment sector.

Teddy Lynn, chief creative officer, content and social, for Ogilvy & Mather in North America, is an Entertainment Lions juror. Several years ago he served as a judge in the predecessor Branded Content & Entertainment Lions. That prior experience, said Lynn, will serve him well this year. “The last time I was really surprised about the level of work and energy required to be a judge--and the reward it gave back. It was more intense than I had imagined. You spend eight to ten hour days with a room full of amazing people. There’s no down time yet it’s incredibly fun and rewarding. You hear different perspectives and see the value of work that you might not have seen fully before. The lessons learned in that room play a defining role in what I do to this day.”

Based on what he derived from his first bout of Cannes judging, Lynn views being on the newly formed Entertainment Lions jury as “a privilege and a big responsibility--I think even more so this year because of the new weight being given to entertainment with the new categories. Theres a greater responsibility to help define what advertising in entertainment means and what are the best examples of that kind of work. Our decisions will influence plans and what others choose to make in the future.” 

Regarding what he would like to bring back to his Ogilvy colleagues based on what he experiences as an Entertainment Lions judge, Lynn related, “It’s very easy in your day-to-day job to miss what’s going on in the world around you. It’s easy to miss the best work outside your own native region. My getting exposed to the best work and bringing it back and encouraging our people to see and engage with it can only help us as an agency. And there are also amazing relationships that form in the judging room. You learn about cultural influences, the nuances within a category, how different people tackle briefs. You hear informed people challenging and defending work. You gain insights into what makes certain work special and why we need to protect the process that led to that work. There are good human lessons too. You learn about what good relationships can do, the importance of positive collaboration. Collaboration has become a bigger part of agency life--not only within but externally with media companies and production houses.”

As for the Entertainment Lions for Music, Josh Rabinowitz, EVP/director of music, Grey Group, is president of that inaugural jury. “It speaks to the importance of music in entertainment,” said Rabinowitz. “It’s been a long time coming and it’s a really smart move. Music is such an important part of culture. And we’re recognizing brands and content creators aligning themselves with music to do the best, most relevant, creative work. If we can start this Lions for Music competition right and it begins to build, five or six years down the line, this will be as significant as any other major music award around.”

Still, Rabinowitz will bring to his jury the same priorities and sensibilities he exercised during his past tours of judging duty at Cannes. “It’s all about honoring creativity, originality and craft. This is a Festival of Creativity. And it’s on that basis that the music should be judged, as the music relates to the work in a great, meaningful way.”

Rabinowitz noted that the Lions for Music jury is not comprised entirely of people from the business of advertising. “There are some ad industry people but also we have a music artist, someone from a music company, a media-related company. We have a jury reflecting that we are embracing music as an important part of entertainment and culture rather than just an important part of advertising and branding.”