A geek’s look at Lions

Issue 21 | November 2011

When I collate the data for the media-specific categories, we see dimensional mail and large ambient attract a lot of attention, getting 124 entries each. Naturally, integrated and the broad digital stream get the lion’s share (excuse the pun) with 148 and 176 respectively.

But when we focus on the shortlists we see a very different pattern in the media categories. Again, all things being considered equal, if 10% of all entries are category X then 10% of all shortlists should be category X. However, large ambient accounts for 12.6% of all entries and a hugely inflated 17.8% of all shortlists. The small ambient category improves from 8.8% of all entries into 10.3% of all shortlists, and print jumps from 4.7% to 7.5%.

The most underperforming media stream is poor old flat mail, accounting for 8.9% of all entries but a plummeting to a mere 5.6% of all shortlists.

One stream that could be easily overlooked is the smaller digital stream that covers banner advertising. Even though it only shows a small increase from 4.7% of entries to 5.6% of shortlists, it accounts for 13.8% of all trophies, resulting in an overall conversion rate from shortlist to Lion of 67%! Two-thirds of online advertising that gets past round one will continue to race through to trophy status.

Meanwhile, the previously well-rated small ambient stream shows absolutely no conversion to trophy – an indication that there’s a lot of really good small ambient ideas that start to impress the judges but nothing truly amazing to make it past the final round. Personally, it appeared on the judging floor to be a result of the judges’ impression that the small ambient channel has a very low degree of difficulty and probably attracts a lot of speculative or pro-active work from award-chasers – something that every jury member is experienced enough to recognize.

Finally, I looked at the data for the categories based on industry sector (and I’m quite proud of this graph). Each building represents a different industry, the footprint of the building indicates the percentage of all entries and the height of the building represents the percentage of all trophies.

Clearly the Charity segment accounts for the bulk of entries (26.5%) and the bulk of trophies (27.5%). It’s for this very reason that the Cannes Lions rules prevent any charity work from receiving the coveted Grand Prix – perhaps an indication that it’s too easy for charity work to be great, unfairly skew the competition, and thus prevent paying clients from being recognized for their hard work.

And once more, all things being equal, buildings should be as wide as they are high. Therefore we’re looking for buildings that are taller than they are wide, indicating a higher conversion rate from entry to trophy.

The first thing we should notice is the Loyalty segment accounts for 2.6% of all entries, but 0% of trophies. The learning here is two-fold: all loyalty marketing is shit, and we really need to lift our game if we ever want to win a trophy for our clients’ loyalty programs.

The three industry sectors with the best return are Travel and Entertainment, accounting for 5.6% of entries but around 10% of all trophies; Public Services with 6% of all entries and 10% of trophies; and Business Products that cover just 4% of all entries yet get 10% of all trophies.

Therefore, from all the data collected, collated and construed above, I arrive at my undeniably accurate and foolproof formula for winning a Cannes Direct Lion:

1. Be Belgian.

Belgians account for only 3.3% of all entries, yet 9.9% of all shortlists and 10.5% of all trophies. They clearly pre-judge themselves wisely and only enter a high standard of work. Of all countries, they have less work knocked out from one round to the next, resulting in 1 in 3 of all their entries collecting a Lion.

2. Do Digital.

Not the ordinary banner or website kind of online, the ‘other digital’ category – it makes up 13.5% of all trophies. Sure, you have to get past the grueling round one, but with a staggering 2 in 3 entries converting from shortlist to trophy, you have the best odds of carrying a Lion into the infamous gutter bar.

3. Have Travel and Entertainment clients.

Or clients in Public Service or Business Products. These industries have double the chance of converting from entry to trophy.

4. Be Tri-lingual.

You’re Belgian remember? They largely speak English, French and Flemish, and that can only be a good thing. Along with the smattering of German they like to drop on occasion.

5. Be 35.

If you’re older than this, you probably want to shave off a few years anyway. And if you’re younger, you probably haven’t hit your career prime just yet.

6. Be named Sebastién.

It’s a good enough name for a Creative and it belongs on a Belgian.

7. Look like this:

Seriously, this is Sebastién de Valck. He’s a 35 year old Belgian Creative from Mortierbrigade whom I met on the Cannes Direct Lions jury. He’s a lot of fun, can drink with the best of us, and jumps from English to French to Flemish to German as soon as he hears someone else speak one of these languages. He’s a great guy and at one point in the judging he began to stress when he saw his fellow judges critique his work. I put one hand on his shoulder, calmed him down and said, “Don’t worry. The judging isn’t over yet. We’ve still got the final round to get through.”

He cleaned up, taking home a suitcase of Lions. I hate him. Sorry Sebastién.

Now, obviously we can’t all be Sebastién. But he’s who we have to beat. And he has a distinct advantage according to the data. Whether you like crunching numbers or not, the odds of winning a Cannes Direct Lion aren’t working in your favour. Unless you’re seriously talented and create great work. Which is why the Lions are the trophy the world aspires to win.

Special thanks go to my fellow jurors for providing more insights than any data could give:

Alexander Schill (Jury President), Gary Schiener, Mat Zucker, Chris Clarke, Simon Robinson, Markus Ruf (“We are a small and strange country”), Raúl Pérez, Alex Lim, Tony Bradbourne, Naohiko Oikawa, Lotta Mellgren (“Can we watch the AV please?”), Arturo Massari, Yoram Levi, Mark Ringer, Myles Lord, Raj Nair (the coolest dude in India), Bruno “Tesco” Moreira, Antoine Becotte, Ana Paula Marques, Albert Essenther, Tiago Mendes, Xolisa Dyeshana, and German “Friendship Machine” Yunes (who also took home a ton of Gold).

Locked in a room for five very long days with you all was the most fun I’ve ever had. In all my career, I’ve never laughed so hard on a judging panel.

Thank you, from “that bloody Aussie”.

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