Seeing and Being Seen: What You Don’t See at Cannes Lions
Editor’s Note: The following article on was contributed by two jury members at Cannes Lions festival 2016—Emma Carpenter, creative director at Accenture Interactive, Cape Town, and Yaprak Gultay, service design lead, Fjord Istanbul. Carpenter was selected to judge the Mobile Lions, and Gultay was selected to judge the Digital Craft Lions, a new category in 2016.
Presence is everything at the Cannes Lions festival, and the recent 2016 Lions were no exception. As the agency networks, brands and tech giants compete to buy huge swathes of beach and construct ever grander stages, it’s clear that bigger is definitely better on the Riviera. But beyond the lavish parties, yachts, gold trophies and carafes of rosé, there is a more discrete side to the annual advertising frenzy: the process of evaluating the game-changing work of the year.
As judges for the Digital Craft and Mobile Lions, we’ll share insight on parts of the festival that most attendees don’t see.
Behind the Jury Room Door
Emma Carpenter: There might be one thing that’s better than receiving a Cannes Lion, and that’s determining who will win it. Being invited to judge the entries at Cannes is possibly the highest professional honor you can receive in the creative industry, and it’s serious responsibility. While 15,000 delegates are soaking up the sun, attending inspirational lectures, test driving the latest VR gear, and partying late at The Gutter Bar, 387 jurors across 24 categories were locked in windowless jury rooms sifting through 43,101 entries to find that one piece of magic: the coveted Grand Prix.
“When a jury is still sitting and arguing at 2 a.m., it’s because they want to ensure those entries remaining on the table are the best of the best.”
Five days of tough questions and debate means you’ll miss the happenings at the Palais, but you’ll be part of something greater: the process of finding the needle in a haystack, that iconic piece of work that will define the future of the industry. Of the more than 20 internationally respected jurors we sat with, everyone had their opinions. While we guarantee there was no block voting, cheating or skullduggery (there are two Lions monitors in each room at all times), each of us measured what we saw against our own vision of exceptional work. While there is a certain mystique about judging—what do jury members look for? how do they score?—there are clear guidelines, the process is extraordinarily fair and every entry gets a shot at the glory. When a jury is still sitting and arguing at 2 a.m., it’s because they want to ensure those entries remaining on the table are the best of the best. The fact is, only three percent of Lions entries go on to win. We’re a tough crowd and we have to be: After all, we stake our reputations on what gets awarded.
A few winners from the Digital Craft category,
a new category in 2016, which Gultay was selected to judge:
Yaprak Gultay: As a juror, your first and foremost responsibility is about celebration of the work. Cannes Lions is about inspiration and creative excellence and, as recognized practitioners, we determine what type of work deserves to be honored, and we define the celebration. Digital Craft Lions was a new category for 2016 and, as jurors, we had to define sub-categories and identify the leaders of each. It was a challenging task. Each time I looked at a work to decide whether or not it should be shortlisted, these were the questions I asked myself: “Is this the type of work I want to see more of in the world? Is this a strong statement about where digital craft should be headed?”
“If you want a strong case for a Digital Craft Lion next year, show how it’s done, how it functions, where your craft is the strongest and why it matters.”
After three days of shortlist creation, the Digital Craft jury met in a room for frank and open discussions about the chosen work. This process created an exchange of knowledge and ideas, of passion and fuel. As a new category, we were also cognizant of shaping the criteria and standards by which to honor digital craft in the years to come. The debates are about speaking your mind, hearing diverse perspectives then ultimately voting with your conscience. Even though there were a lot of inspiring sessions at the Palais and hot topics I tracked through Snapchat, I would choose again to be in that room, even during moments of heated debate and frustration, discusses the world’s best work with my esteemed colleagues. The experience of being in a room for six days with the same people felt a bit like a reality TV social experiment but it brought us closer together. After a few days, the debates continued outside the dark, sequestered room and were accompanied by a bottle of rosé with new friends and colleagues.
When judging craft, seeing the work and experiencing it makes a world of difference. Not all the work will be able to be seen by a jury, for example, digital installations. Sometimes we also had to judge projects we couldn’t fully experience. As judging criteria, we went by the level of execution and the role of digital craft for the user experience. Successful work all had a good narrative that emphasized the process, functionality and why digital craft was a key component of the experience. If you want a strong case for a Digital Craft Lion next year, show how it’s done, how it functions, where your craft is the strongest and why it matters. Based on our experience, I predict we’ll see new subcategories emerge for 2017. My bet is on digital installation and technological craft applications. Nabbing a medal and even being on the shortlist is a great honor and the biggest question of the week is always, “Who won the Grand Prix?” When discussing our candidates, these were the phrases I heard most frequently: “This the work I’ve been talking about since Day 1,” or “If everything was done in the way that this work is executed, wouldn’t the world be amazing?” You see, digital craft is not only about being innovative; it’s about creating a meaningful experience with exquisite execution.
The Real Business Happens Away from La Croisette
Emma Carpenter: Excluding the flight and the outrageously priced accomodations, many people choose not to pay €4,050 to attend eight days of talks, award shows and networking events. They are in Cannes that week to strike deals, to negotiate contracts or to sniff out new business. There are many exclusive fringe events that only the privileged few know the location of—mansions out of town holding lavish parties and branded super yachts battling to host the biggest celebrities and CEOs. This is the corporate side of Cannes and the real reason why it is so successful after 63 years in the same location—because the fear of missing out is so great that everyone who is anyone will be attending.
A few winners from the Mobile category, which Carpenter was selected to judge:
Gender equality, diversity and transparency
Emma Carpenter: This year at Cannes, the hot topic was women—or the lack of—in the industry. Only 40% of the jury members were female—yet this was touted by Festival organizers as a major accomplishment. Many speakers got up on stage to talk about unconscious bias, advertising stereotypes and the lack of diversity. You couldn’t fail to miss the conversation on stage, in the newspapers and at women’s breakfasts. The legendary Cindy Gallup was vocal on everything from equal pay to shattering gender stereotypes in advertising. Yet for all this heated discussion, women are still under-represented in senior creative leadership roles, and ads are still made “by white guys for white guys.” I was proud of the moment my jury removed an entry due to its portrayal of a woman in a revealing, tight red dress. With a little more thought the creative team could have made her the center of the action, but instead they chose the easy route and used her as decoration. A great technical execution died that day because the entry conformed to a gender stereotype that could not be overlooked. This incident and others like them show we’re still a long way from equality but, as the 2016 Lions demonstrated, at least the conversation has taken center stage.
Yaprak Gultay: Cultural diversity is a very important component of the Lions, and the same applies to the jury. Each representative brings a different point of view and cultural insight. We had a refined balance in our jury, which helped us to understand the applied work in a much more informed way. Judging is about looking for meaningful work. Every year, a lot of high-quality creative work is done around the world, and the jury should also be motivated and empowered enough to understand the meaning behind the work. You may think one visual representation is fun and engaging, where it is actually a stereotype in another culture. You wouldn’t want to award that attitude for any work. We as the jury hold the responsibility of defining quality work, and it should be well considered with a global lens. Having diversified specialists from each expert area is also crucial and an ingredient that affects the entire process. In the Digital Craft jury, we had experts from User Experience, User Interface, Technology and Virtual Reality. This helped us understand the value of the craft behind the work in a much deeper way.
Once a year, the Cannes Lions puts on a show—a creative spectacle of grand proportions that entertains and inspires but, in the background, also enables people to meet and do business. It gives a voice to incredible campaigns, technology, craft and innovation—all on a world stage. It awards brave work that speaks for itself, challenges the status quo and advances the industry. There will always be those who choose to hide behind tradition, but every year Cannes gives us a glimpse of the future: a chance to see what next week, next month and next year will bring. It gives us all the chance to create the new and to be seen doing it.