Is it a Lion?
Where do I even begin. I entered the jury room as a boy. It’s three days later, and I am now a small, unshaven, emotionally-unstable boy with an eye twitch. Judging Cannes changes you. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
According to our jury manager, we began with 2200 entries. Then from prejudging we eliminated down to 1200 for live judging. The so called long list. And now at the end of day three we have reached a short list of about 250 entries. Its not the shortlist. But it is a short list. The official shortlist will be ready to publish at the end of today (Thursday).
So how did we get from 2200 down to 250? And how will we select from this list the rare and coveted lions we are to hand out?
Spotting bad and average work has been easy. The challenge, for myself and many of the other jurors, comes in separating the good from the great. The great from the exceptional. And the exceptional from the transcendent.
So I’ve created a few criteria for what I think a Lion-winning entry should live up to. Five questions to ask myself with every new entry, whether it’s a print ad, a radio spot, a piece of tech or a PR case study:
Is it emotionally stirring?
If it makes me laugh, cry, shout out loud, get a chill, or even feel sick to my stomach… then we’re off to a good start. If it can do all of those (and several entries achieve this) then now we’re really talking. Great work should move you in one way or another. Any entry that I cannot feel in some way, if its all in the head… for me its automatically not a shortlist contender.
Is it original?
There are a lot of trends right now. With many entries, It’s unfortunately easy to trace their lineage back to a famous case from years past that was clearly the inspiration.
Nivea Doll, Hair Fest, Penny the Pirate, Live In My Skin, Hope Soap, Game of Balls, This Bike Has MS. You can see the influence of these classic cases in many of this year’s entries. The entries that will truly stand out will defy any prior reference points, and you can imagine them setting a new standard to be respectfully copied for years to come.
Is it flawless?
As a jury, we’re only allowed to hand out so many lions, which means we have to pull out the magnifying glass after a certain point. You can have an amazing concept, but the photography could be better. Or the photography is amazing, but you miss the opportunity to truly integrate your headline graphically. Or your activation idea is awesome, but the case film fails to make a vital point. So… your qualities will get you in the door, but your flaws will send you right back out.
Is it surprising?
This has been the year of the twist. Loads of great films (sorry I can’t mention any of them by name just yet) with a killer twist at the end. A twist that can take you from chaotic violence to ridiculous humour. Or a twist that takes you from a hilariously hateful tale to a place of total sincere inspiration. The greatest entries this year have me saying at the end, “I did not see that coming” or “What just happened?”
Is it important?
For me, there are two sides to this. The first is a matter of the impact which the project will have on the world. Can the project save lives? Can it connect people with the medical care they need? And can it do that long after the rosé bottles run dry? What is the project’s enduring legacy? And the other side is about us, the ad industry. Is the project important in that it will set a new standard for excellence for ideas or craft? Will the project inspire you or help you take your own work in a new exciting direction? In the end, does it lift us up as advertisers and as humans? People spend a fortune to come to Cannes seeking inspiration. As a jury, we cant let them down.
In the end, its hard to look at an entry and think, “This is great. I wish I’d done it. I’d be proud to produce it. But… its not a Lion.” And that’s exactly what we have had to do in order to get to the crème de la crème. Cannes Lions stands for the best, and only the best, work in the world and they have entrusted us as jurors to uphold this standard. With the shortlist that we have selected, I hope that we upheld this standard, and we all hope you enjoy the entries we’ve selected.
Until next time!