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The Best Week Of My Career A Juror’s Perspective

James Nester, Executive Creative Director Weber Shandwick

Issue 36 | September 2015

To the couple snapped having sex on the red carpet of the Palais: If you want a really intense experience at Cannes, try judging Cyber.

This must be the most demanding category to judge, with almost 4,000 entries and each often including websites, games and products, which had to be examined. It was exhausting but there again, it provided a much greater and sustained high than a drunken quickie.

Because, despite its rather nineties name, Cyber must be one of the most progressive and creatively stimulating categories at the Festival.The monumental task started a month before Cannes. As well as doing the day-job, each juror needed to score around six hundred entries. Ingeniously, this process was gamified – we could see the progress of the other judges. A clever way to keep competitive ECDs plugging away.

In Cannes itself, we were put up at the Carlton. Hurrah! At last I got to stay there rather than just buy overpriced drinks in the bar! My fellow judges were a friendly bunch, eager to chat, no obvious egos, phew. We spent the next four days in a room with no windows, facing the walls.

Day four was the first day of discussion.

Our jury President, Jean Lin, did a fine job. She put her own viewpoint on the back seat, allowing us to come to our own conclusions. Debate flowed freely though some jurors were more vocal than others. In the West, people love to talk, it's taken as a sign of competence and strength. But jurors from the East were quiet unless directly invited for an opinion. Despite our cultural differences, we remained happy, high-spirited and by the end, friends. We argued about the definition of storytelling for a while. These days, anything and everything gets classified as storytelling, with or without a narrative. The term definitely seems to have loosened since my mum read me 'The Three Little Pigs'.

Probably our biggest debate was around the Grand Prix. As Cyber is such a huge category, rules allowed us to select up to three Grands Prix awards to represent the diversity of the digital world.

That would have been sensible since the work neatly divided into:
a) digital campaigns and experiences, such as the wonderful Geico 'Unskippable Prerolls' or the Google Street Art Project,
b) social campaigns that used the power of people, such as The Ice Bucket Challenge, and
c) creative technology, such as Optus's 'Clever Buoy', RGA's 'Hammerhead' and Samsung's 'Safety Truck'.

But, after voting, there was a clear front-runner. Drogs5's 'I Will What I Want' for Under Armour made an empowering statement while encapsulating the potential of digital better than the other contenders. Here was a campaign that seamlessly fused social thinking with digital experience and innovation.

Trends?
Oculus Rift made a big showing with dozens of very similar executions, which, together, provided a useful lesson why it's wise to be wary of jumping on the latest gizmo. More impressively, this was 'The Year of The Internet of Things', with numerous ingenious inventions shortlisted and awarded Lions. Next year, expect to see more digital inventions and more agencies collaborating with tech start-ups. As always, there was also debate about the sort of work that won, some people complaining that advertising isn't about saving the world, it's about selling stuff.

Come on people, shouldn't we be encouraging brands to do some good? I do agree that in future, we might press harder for evidence these CSR-type campaigns were not just quick stunts designed to win Lions. There is always criticism of Cannes as an adworld 'bubble', celebrating work that only adfolk ever see. To that point, I was glad to see 'Ice Bucket Challenge' getting the recognition it deserved, a campaign that made a huge impact in the real world.

These were among the most invigorating weeks of my career as I absorbed the perspectives of the other judges, their differing backgrounds, viewpoints and cultures.
The experience also gave me insights into how to best to package our work to impress a mind-boggled jury. I got to spend whole days immersed in the very best work in the world without the demands of clients, bosses, wives or children to disturb me. Heck, I even got to stay in the Carlton. The taxi strike in protest to Uber as I struggled to leave Cannes was a timely reminder: digital ideas have the power to change the world.

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