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Cannes jury reveals the impossible truth about winning a lion.

Many people come to Cannes for the superstar keynote speakers. Sarah Jessica Parker and Kanye West made appearances this year while, crushingly, Aaron Sorkin cancelled at the last minute. Quite a few come to drink pink wine and trade gossip. And then there is a dedicated contingent who come for the awards, which is the reason Cannes exists in the first place.

This year, the organisers have provided a real treat specifically for people interested in trophies: a series of talks called “Jury Insights”.  Each day, the jury from the previous night’s ceremony open up and talk about how they chose the work they did and (crucially) why some very, very good work that teams spent months working very, very hard to bring to life, simply didn’t make the cut.

First cab off the awards rank was the Promo and Activation Jury, who revealed probably more than they should have about the grueling (at 3200 entries this year, you better believe it was grueling), task of sorting the storytelling wheat from the in-store sampling chaff.

Here’s their advice on the all-important case study video:

  • You’ve got 30, maybe 40 seconds to capture interest or you’re out.
  • Put the insight and idea in the first half, demonstrate craft and results in the second (or you’re out)
  • Don’t let your VO say: “And it worked!” (or you’re out)
  • Don’t let your VO say:  “Our brilliantly creative idea was…” (or you’re out) That’s for the jury to decide, not you.
  • Spend more time refining the clarity of the case study narrative before you worry about making it pretty.
  • But then spend plenty of time making it pretty (or you’re out)

The other thing that emerged from the session was the feeling that the thing that is really being judged are the judges themselves. They talked a lot about the scrutiny they felt their choices were under and even talked about the task as one of ‘curation’.

Judging the judges

The results for one category tend to get looked at as a whole and, because people are so interested in trends and patterns (shortcuts to meaning). As a result, the make-up of the group of awards can tend to skew individual decisions. If there are too many gongs going to tech-led ideas, for example, the judges felt it was important to balance it out with some decidedly analogue executions. Similarly with the mix of charity clients to big, corporate brands. And regions (can’t have too much from Brazil, for example). Not to mention holding companies or individual agency networks. And if your idea is an absolute screamer but happens to be very similar to another, completely unrelated piece of work from somewhere else on the globe (happens more than we care to admit), then both pieces cancel each other out and neither of you get a shiny statue.

BA, Cannes, Grand PrixFor the agencies and creatives that expend sweat and cash to enter, this information is fascinating, but ultimately of no use. It’s tempting to try to plot a contrarian approach (make your work deliberately analogue, for example), to improve your chances of standing out, but you can’t possibly know in advance if the top-flight entries in a category are heavy on digital or analogue.

A Cannes Lion has always been a hard thing to win. With the scrutiny of the jury and the swelling number of entries every year, it’s not going to get any easier. Except if you’re the genii behind something as jaw-droppingly good as the #lookup work for British Airways. Six lions and a Grand Prix for the team at Ogilvy London, led on the suit side by a good mate of mine, Chris Slough, shows that it’s not impossible, just really, really hard.

 

Barrie Seppings covered the CannesLions Festival of Creativity for Ogilvydo.com where you can catch all of the #OgilvyCannes coverage

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

 

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Even then, they are still kind of dopey. Ok, dopey is a bit harsh. At best, they are an imprecise measure of a spectacularly subjective quality, which is, ironically, ‘quality’. At worst, they can totally warp an agency’s culture and turn relatively normal people into career dickheads. Irregardless, it was welcome news to learn that both our China team and our Sydney team were handed silver trophies from the DMA Echo Awards last week.

When we’re talking about demand generation in particular, the Echos are the creative awards you want to win, because of the fairly significant and reasonably rigorous effectiveness component of the judging criteria. The work has to be good, it has to be real and it has to have worked.

What was really interesting was that the two pieces of work were for the same client, reaching the same (basic) audience, entered in the same awards category to produce the same awards result: silver. But the 2 pieces are radically different from each other – in form, strategy and tone.

The Ogilvy China team produced a branded content film called Parallel Paths for the Notes productivity suite, which told the story of two young and hungry salesmen climbing the corporate ladder, and let the Lotus information flow naturally throughout the story. This piece picked up a similar coloured trophy from Spikes just a few weeks earlier.

The Sydney team were tasked with convincing CIOs to outsource parts of the workload and resources they would normally consider to be the domain of ‘their department’. The approach here was to appeal to the audience as people, not roles, and draw a parallel (see what I did there?) with their own workloads – in this case, mowing the lawn.

DMA echo, award, Ogilvy Sydney

It’s hard to ignore the fact that someone just sent you a load of grass.

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The “Grass Pack’ as it became known is particularly interesting, as it’s almost retro in execution: a completely analogue, dimensional mailer. It was particularly effective, I believe, because of the contrarian approach the team took to delivery. The average IT manager’s inbox is overflowing with messages, while their in-office pigeon holes would be lucky to see more than the occasional leaflet. If you want to stand out, move away from the crowd, which is part of the reason why a piece of artificial turf outperformed a dozen email campaigns, combined.

I don’t like to say “I told you so”.

I love to say it. Which is why I’m going to point out that I called Direct Mail “The comeback kid” a couple of years ago, and I think the assertion is still valid. There are a lot of fundamental disciplines that classic DM can offer to digital campaign planning (the importance of the list, the creative opportunities of segmentation and personalisation, the advantage of perceived value versus actual cost and so on).

But if you treat the desk space (rather than the desktop) as media space, the reach and frequency of creative mail can be spectacular, especially if you are selling into a ‘buying cell’ of multiple stakeholders and decision-makers.

I don’t think these pieces are good because they won (I think they are good and they won). We’ve had other great pieces struggle in award shows this year, I believe, partly because the complexity of the solution slowed them down. We’ve even had pieces rejected by awards show entry co-ordinators for being in the wrong category, only to be rejected again in the categories suggested to us by those same co-ordinators, again for being in the wrong category. At that point, you know it’s time to walk away from that particular casino.

Again, congrats to our China team for creating entertainment from email software and to our Sydney team for cleverly moving against the herd.

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About the Author: Barrie Seppings blogs about making things better – for clients, brands, agencies and humans. He is currently Regional Creative Director at Ogilvy Singapore and he likes boards surf, skate and snow. Follow him on the Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, or add him on Google+

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