Cannes Lions Preview: Careful, Thoughtful Deliberation During Extraordinary Times
Daniela Vojta, EVP, executive creative director, BBDO New York, is a Brand Experience & Activation Lions juror.
Jurors reflect on the pandemic, social justice, a sense of purpose and responsibility, virtual judging

Cannes Lions judges this time around may be looking at work in some respects through a Glass prism. That’s the assessment of PJ Pereira, creative chairman of Pereira O’Dell and a 2021 juror on Glass: The Lion for Change. The Glass Lion honors work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice. Glass recognizes the brands and creators who are driving progress and change in the world--by reflecting an equal world.

Pereira observed that this social justice component and heralding of brands standing for the greater good are inherent dynamics in Glass deliberation that may permeate judging in other Lions categories in light of the past year-plus--which gave us a pandemic that has disproportionately impacted people of color and the impoverished, the murder of George Floyd, a rise in hate crimes based on race and sexual orientation, and the mainstream emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Pereira observed, “This is the year that maybe everyone has the same feeling that the Glass jury has every year.” 

That Glass feeling stems from an alignment between the judges’ room and society. Women in the marketing world feel the same concerns and injustices that women in the audience feel. Glass strives to attain that same connection between the overall industry and society at large, resulting in an empathetic bond that, said Pereira, can inform progressive messaging. Pereira conjectured that other Cannes Lions categories this year may be reaching for that same kind of alignment. 

Pereira is no stranger to Cannes Lions judging. This marks the sixth time he has served on a Cannes jury--three of which had him presiding over proceedings, heading up the Cyber Lions jury in 2005, the Entertainment Lions jury in 2017 and the Social & Influencer Lions in 2019.

Based on his Lions judging experience, Pereira said it’s paramount for him to “leave preconceptions at the door” and to look at work with a fresh, open mind. It all comes down, he said, to forming an opinion based on the work you see--not having an opinion going in before the judging process begins. “Letting the work speak” is his mantra.

As for his first tour of Glass duty, Pereira related, “It’s such a special jury. The responsibility is big. Being a man on this jury is tricky. I have to do a lot of listening.” Pereira hopes to help in terms of bringing his judging experience into play, trying to help with the discussions so that the most innovative and inspiring work gets the attention it deserves.

His wish going in is what it’s been each time he’s served on a jury. “I want to be transformed by the work and to pick work that will transform the industry. This category in particular has that power.”

With virtual judging due to the pandemic, Pereira guesses that he will miss most the socializing aspect of being on a jury, having meals together, talking over breakfast, lunch and dinner, building relationships, discussing work and sometimes honing your opinions when not specifically discussing the work. Still he’s optimistic that the bottom line will be the same in that he’s on an extraordinary jury during an extraordinary year. He expects to be “flabbergasted and completely transformed by the work. I don’t think that part is going to be different. I’m entering the process the same way as in the past and know at the end I will come out transformed and will have loved what I’ve seen.”

Lion-winning work will be announced and awarded during Cannes Lions Live, a fully digital experience, running from June 21-25.

Tiffany Rolfe
Tiffany Rolfe, global chief creative officer of R/GA, is on her third tour of Cannes Lions judging. She was on the Cyber Lions jury in 2011 and Brand Activation in 2019. Now she serves for the first time as jury president--for the Creative eCommerce Lions. She was supposed to be jury president last year before the Lions were canceled. She related, “Not quite the rosé- filled week I was imagining, but it’s a historic year to be judging considering everything the world has been through. It will be especially interesting to see how e-commerce had to pivot during these times.”  

In terms of lessons learned from her past Cannes Lions judging experience, Rolfe shared, “Over the years I’ve learned to judge the work through the lens of the category I’m in. There are many great ideas out there that deserve to be awarded, but it’s our job as jurors to ensure that the ideas rising to the top represent the best of our particular category. We can’t become too enamored just because it’s a clever concept. 

“Also, especially in more technology oriented categories, it’s important to not let the most innovative ideas fall through the cracks because they are more complicated to understand. They are often the ideas that set the path for the next few years of innovation. 

“And, importantly, this is a creative show. We need to ensure that creativity was core to what made the idea effective. The creative idea played a role in the outsized outcome for the brand and business.”

Creative e-Commerce Lions take on an added gravitas this year, observed Rolfe. “This was an important time for e-commerce--the only kind of commerce possible--this year. Out of necessity, there was a massive shift towards online purchasing during the pandemic, with 5-10 years of adoption and growth happening in just 6-12 months. Crisis is a catalyst for innovation. Creativity helped businesses survive. As the lines become blurred between marketing and commerce, we’ll see brands shift from just thinking of commerce as transactional, to building relationships with customers. It’s important to meet our customers where they are--both literally, the platforms they live on, and emotionally, how they feel in those moments. I believe the Creative eCommerce category will grow into one of the most interesting spaces for new brand experiences.”

The social issues that have emerged front and center this past year-plus also loom large. Rolfe shared, “We will see a lot of work at Cannes this year that tackles these important cultural issues. Agencies have leveraged the power of creativity and the influence of brand partners to make change. I hope to see work that isn’t just performative, but sparks the hard conversations and process of change that needs to happen. We’ll all be assessing if the work is a true commitment supported with meaningful action or if it is just capitalizing on a moment in time. And, while the Creative E-commerce may not be the category where we see as much associated with these issues, there is increasing awareness around the inequities that exist in our economic system today. There is a big opportunity and necessity for innovation when it comes to equity in commerce.” 

Rolfe added, “I’m always looking for work that makes an impact. That can be in many ways. Not every piece of work takes a stand, but it can still impact peoples’ lives for the better in different ways. We need the work that makes noise in big moments, but we also need the work that powerfully solves things for people daily.”

Of the jury dynamic, Rolfe related, “It’s truly an invaluable experience to see work through your advertising peers’ eyes. And It’s important that work is judged through a variety of lenses, experiences, and backgrounds. It ensures the work is judged fairly, but it also adds to our understanding of how the work was perceived in the world by different people. This year, considering it was remote, we’ve made sure to spend time together to build trust between the jury members ahead of judging. And when we come together, it’s my job as a jury president to create the environment where all the jurors can feel comfortable sharing and debating work.”

What Rolfe hopes to accomplish on this tour of jury duty remains steadfast. “As a juror/jury president, I want to celebrate the creative work that makes a real impact in the world. It’s work that pushes the industry forward and inspires creative teams and clients.”

Richard Brim
This marks Richard Brim’s third tour of duty as a Cannes judge, the first as a jury president. Brim, chief creative officer of adam&eveDDB in London, presides over this year’s Film Lions jury. Based on his prior stints as an Outdoor and Entertainment Lions juror, Brim is an unabashed fan of the Cannes judging experience. “I absolutely love it: I love the people you meet, I love immersing ourselves in a dark room eating weird tuna pizza that I’ve never found anywhere else in the world, talking way into the night about the work. I love the collective excitement when we see great work--I remember watching a brilliant documentary from Johnson & Johnson and it was like watching a film with friends, we all gasped at the same time. I love the conversations that you have and I’m sad that all that may not happen this year because we aren’t all together, live.”

Being at the helm of the Film Lions jury is special for Brim. “Historically Film and Titanium have been the categories that are the most scrutinized. With that comes great responsibility. I think that will most definitely change over the next couple of years, but film will still be important because it’s a great medium to tell a story. I want it to evolve to go wider and deeper, and I want what is eligible to be wider. I’d love to see Gold Lions won for 6-second films and for really long-form content. I want to see more diverse storytellers in there and more diverse work, and I think it’s exciting because we are already well on our way to this being the case. That’s what will keep film alive and kicking and keep it healthy. It’s exciting times for film; I think its role is changing constantly, and that’s all right.”

As for what he hopes to accomplish this time around at Cannes, Brim shared, “Apart from the magic of being in the dark room eating pizza together, my wish list is about building a camaraderie that helps us to make the right decisions. The closer you become, the franker you become, and with the frank conversations comes the best curated work. Camaraderie will help us to be less trend-led and to make fairer decisions.”

Asked if the pandemic would inform or influence his approach to judging, Brim related, “I don’t think it should have an impact on our approach to judging. Good work is still good work, and there’s a lot of it this year. People sought different ways to achieve good work, which will be interesting to discuss with the jury, but nobody will be awarded just for doing work during a pandemic year. Yes it was tough, but people have still done excellent work that would stand up in any year.”

Regarding the past year-plus which has seen social justice issues come to the fore and brands taking a stand on these and related matters, Brim observed, “As human beings, and as an industry, what’s happening in the world will inevitably guide our decisions. I’m sure that living in the world over the last year has affected us all, we’ve all been through a lot and it’s affected the world’s equilibrium. The best work historically reflects the world at that moment, and I don’t doubt for a minute that this year will be the same. I’m confident about that.”

Relative to getting the most out of judging virtually, Brim said, “It’s one of my biggest sadnesses this year that I will not be sitting in a room with the amazing people who have been chosen for the jury. I would love to meet every single one of them in person. We will try our best to form relationships where we can have frank conversations, and we will be spending a lot of tine with each other. One of my biggest roles is making sure that people feel comfortable and heard and part of a team that together will go forward and judge the work. It won’t be a case of one loud voice in the corner of the room – it’s like curating the best dinner party, you need to make sure that everybody feels comfortable and safe, and that’s when the best conversations happen and everybody throws themselves into it.

“I know from the last year that if you are not there in person, people can tend to turn off their cameras and look at other work that’s going on, so it’s a very smart idea that Cannes has made a rule that no one should go off-camera, and we should all have two screens so that we can all see the work and each other at all times.”

Sean Bryan
A first round Activation & Promo Lions judge a few years ago, Sean Bryan, co-chief creative officer for McCann Worldgroup, North America, now returns as a final round juror in the same category, which is now dubbed the Brand Experience & Activation Lions.

The category is generating its largest number of submissions ever, according to Bryan, accelerated perhaps in part by the COVID-19 lockdown. “During the course of the pandemic in the last 15 months or so, we’ve kind of been forced into new and different ways of interacting with people,” he observed. Thus interest has grown in a category which goes outside conventional ad boundaries and inherently recognizes interesting ways of connecting with audiences. “Necessity is the mother of invention. This category is one of the most inventive.” 

Bryan added, “It’s fascinating to watch how creative minds have used all the tools at hand in a very difficult year to reach people and connect with them in deeper ways. 

Bryan’s agency did exactly that during the last Cannes Lions in 2019 as m:united//McCann NY won the Brand Experience & Activation Lions Grand Prix for Microsoft XBox Adaptive Controller’s breakthrough “Changing the Game” work.  The adaptive controller leveled the playing field, enabling gamers with disabilities to play as easily as their fully able-bodied counterparts. Some 33 million gamers have disabilities--now they have accessible technology that makes gaming far more user-friendly. Among the components in the campaign was a Super Bowl commercial which introduced us to a number of charming kids whose disabilities don’t keep them from excelling in the gaming field.

Now Bryan continues to look for “ideas that move our industry and culture forward.” It’s a process, he said, that advances the advertising community at large and will also positively impact McCann. Bryan described judging as “an immersion course for me,” yielding insights he can bring back to his colleagues at McCann relative to how the industry is changing, evolving and improving.”

Bryan and his jury compatriots will be gauging that evolution over the past two years given that the pandemic canceled the 2020 Lions. Judges will be looking at work made before the pandemic hit and then campaigns and initiatives which took hold during the pandemic. Bryan noted that he’s already seen a number of case studies that begin along the lines of “we were planning to do blah-blah and then the world changed.” Other entries carry the disclaimer that the work submitted made its debut prior to the COVID-19 health crisis. As judges, he related, “We have to remember the context without dwelling upon it too much.”

One dynamic he feels is worth dwelling on is the social justice movement that came front and center this past year. “We are in a golden age of purpose-led brands. The challenge now is to acknowledge the brands that tackled the tough issues like racism, Black Lives Matter. I’ve seen 20 case studies for cleaning up plastic in the oceans which is important. I’m not belittling that. But no one is in favor of plastic in the ocean. It’s not a polarizing thing. Brands, though, need to be brave to take on some of these social justice issues.”

Bryan will miss the connections formed during in-person judging. Cannes Lions organizers are trying to facilitate as much bonding as possible virtually. And while the hot and heavy debating over Grand Prix distinction. Gold, Silver and Bronze Lions hadn’t begun at press time, Bryan expressed confidence that “a great crew of fellow jurors around the world” will advance meaningful discussion. One possible silver lining to going virtual is that judging sessions will not be the marathons they were when conducted in person. Sessions are being spread out over more days. “Screen fatigue can be a thing,” noted Bryan, and that will be avoided as the continuous 12 to 14 hour sessions that had been the norm won’t be happening virtually.

Daniela Vojta
Daniela Vojta, EVP, executive creative director, BBDO New York, is serving her first turn as a Cannes Lions juror, though she had judged assorted other shows. She said of the Cannes experience, “I feel like I’ve been preparing my entire life for it (albeit remote)!”

Vojta is on the Brand Experience & Activation Lions jury. She noted, “BE&A started with coupons and clever Guerrilla tactics and has evolved to include fully immersive, 360 brand-building ideas. I think it’s one of the categories that best reflects the evolution of advertising in the past decade. Since it’s not media-specific, it really encompasses everything and anything. Great ideas can be really complex with multiple touch points and tech innovation, but can also be really simple and analog. It’s also a formidable category for purpose-driven work.”

As for her Cannes Lions aspirations, Vojta said, “I want our jury to award the best, most groundbreaking, behavior-changing, mind blowing ideas that send a message to the skeptics that creativity is alive, well and stronger than ever. The work that wins this year is not just a Cannes winner, it’s a ‘pièce de resistance’--a  historical documentation of a tumultuous time when many things, as we knew them, changed forever. There’s so much discussion around the value of award shows, and the caliber of what I’m seeing so far proves that they’re an essential part of our industry (and society), not only to stimulate creativity, but to expose and break barriers between different cultures and POVs. 

Vojta is also enthused over remote possibilities. “I’m taking measures to focus 100% despite doing it (judging) from home. An office lock has been installed and my kids have unlimited screen time and access to snacks during judging to avoid interruption! I wholeheartedly support the festival’s decision to go remote because the current situation around the world would make it really unfair and difficult for judges from countries with travel restrictions and high COVID incidence to join.” 

At the same time, she acknowledged, “I will miss the personal interaction and the bonding that develops when you spend so much time with your jury peers, but when it comes to live discussions I don’t think it will be much different. If anything, being remote will level the playing field a bit. I hope that everyone feels comfortable speaking their minds and present them in an unbiased way. At this point we’ve all been working remote for what feels like decades, so we’re well versed in “zoom etiquette.” If not, there’s always the mute button... But I’m also looking forward to passionate debates that make Cannes, Cannes.”

Some of that debate will concern social justice and brands taking a stand. Vojta offered, “I’ve always been passionate about social justice and work that is bold and disrupts social norms, so I’m glad these are really prevalent this year. Unfortunately, a lot of these issues are systemic and will take a lot more than a Cannes awards cycle to fix. I’m looking for ideas that feel long-lasting and don’t treat these issues as trends; real actions, not just empty words; and will check that when brands take a stance, it feels authentic.” 

Glenn Cole
Sitting on the Entertainment Lions jury is Glenn Cole, founder and creative chair of 72andSunny. This marks the first time he has been able to accept the invitation to serve as a Lions juror. He’s no stranger to the fest, though. In the past he’s been at Cannes to “connect with far-flung peers, partners and clients. And sometimes speak. I’ve never had time to immerse myself in jurying.”

It’s an immersive experience he’s embracing, particularly in the Entertainment category. “I’m happy to report that the line between marketing and entertainment is blurrier than ever. I see more sophistication in the executions and partnerships than ever before. Not long ago, you could get away with labeling a well-produced 3-minute commercial as Entertainment. Not anymore. The best branded entertainment now competes with the best pure entertainment.

“Consumers have more control than ever, and they only opt-in to the best entertainment, regardless if a brand is involved or not. They only care if it resonates. All content is now held to an Entertainment standard, which is a much higher standard for attention than paid media requires. I’m excited about this because the quality of work will get higher and higher. The risk of being overlooked by consumers will force more meaningful conversations with brands, the economics will demand more resonant work, and there will be less reliance on creative salesmanship to get great work made. In a lot of ways, the world has gone hyper-transactional. But in this space, more than ever, the emphasis is on deeper connection, deeper emotion and deeper resonance. Sign me up!”

As for what he hopes to accomplish as a juror, Cole shared, “My number one wish is to be challenged by truly innovative storytelling. We all aspire to it, we all talk about it, but it’s rare to come across true breakthroughs in storytelling. I hope exposure to more work from more cultures in more channels and mediums inspires me to see the game board in an entirely new light. As a jury, I hope we identify some real gems that others can learn from and inspire a new wave of innovative entertainment.” 

The pandemic has also informed his judging perspective. “On a personal level, I explored more content than ever,” said Cole. “I hunted through more streamers than ever before, I experimented with more platforms than ever before, I examined more formats than ever before. In all, it really diversified my entertainment preferences and habits. Sometimes in radical and surprising ways. And that experience did evolve my point of view about effective and/or entertaining content. Now I wonder how or if a piece of work could cut through? Is it something someone would share or recommend? Is it truly unique or just a variation of something else? Would it stop me if it wasn’t served to me? The bar was raised over the past 12 months. I feel like I have a more critical lens now.”

Over the past 12 months-plus, burning social issues have taken center stage. On that front, Cole affirmed, “I respect content, brands, platforms and communities that take a fearless stand. Moreover, I respect creators who find magnetic ways to pull people into hard topics and conversations. I hope to see work that not only entertains but also raises our collective consciousness about important social issues. If I see work that does both, I’ll definitely linger on it. It’s incredibly hard to conceive, make and distribute that kind of work. But I’d like to see (and make) more of it.” 

Relative to virtual judging prospects, Cole said, “I am relentlessly drawn to seeing the world through the eyes of others. That’s the attraction of participating in a jury like this. Forcing your collective field of vision to be wider than it could possibly be on our own. But for better or for worse, when it comes to jurying virtually, I think about things more than I talk about things....  you watch a lot of work on your own time in your own space in your own way. You mull on it. You dare it to stick with you the next day. You interrogate it. You try to identify your own biases and how they impact your verdict. On a lot of levels, I love it. I feel like I truly consider the work more than ever. On the downside, I only know what I know and I only see the world as I see it. 

“Personal discussion, in-person discussion, interpersonal discussion can really help you see what you couldn’t otherwise see,” continued Cole. “For me, and my creative process, which is largely editorial in nature, I miss that. I value outside perspective and bake it into my creative deliberations. And there’s just less of that in a virtual environment. We have zooms. We have text and email. We wechat. But it’s different than shooting the shit. We try, but it has constraints that force more order and reduce the valuable messiness and chaos that can often lead to a radical outcome. All in all, though, I still think the best work is floating to the top. Virtual jurying does not favor or hamstring any work. 

TBWA\Chiat\Day jurors
Serving on Craft juries are a pair of TBWA\Chiat\Day artisans--David Banta, executive creative director, NY; and Anh-Thu Le, director of production, Los Angeles. The former is a judge on the Industry Craft Lions Jury. Le is on the Film Craft Lions Shortlist Jury

This marks Banta’s first time judging the Cannes Lions. He embraces the opportunity to judge Industry Craft Lions. “I believe  craft is at the heart of every execution, in every channel. As an industry we have the chance to bring the highest level of taste to social, digital and experiential, as well as more traditional categories.

“As a juror I hope to find the hidden gems of craft that might get overlooked otherwise. Because of the pandemic, we are judging remotely, which is a challenge because of the time differences between jurors and the complications of juggling the volume of meetings with work.”

Banta’s clear focus is on craft. “I don’t think the social justice issues should impact the craft category. A good idea is a good idea, and the craft behind it can make it more memorable in the world.”

He added, “This is a very different year, and I appreciate the opportunity to judge, even though we can’t be in the same room. I hope I get to come back another year and do it in person, but I think this year’s judging will be historically important because it marks the return of Cannes, and the beginning of a return to normal in the ad world.”

Meanwhile Le reflected on the importance of the Film Craft competition and recognizing deserving work. “The Film Craft category focuses on every element of production and how execution can elevate the creative idea. This category emphasizes the aesthetics, quality, and visual expression of a film that pushes execution to new levels.

“These finer details of direction, cinematography, editing, visual effects, music, art direction/production design are among other subcategories that a film is judged on. These disciplines serve as the backbone for every decision producers and creative teams make to tackle the creative idea in new ways.  Craft is about attention to detail.  It hits on all levels of execution visually, audibly, and viscerally that captures, draws in and truly engages viewers. It’s the artistry in storytelling that when done well may exhibit itself front & center or at times be the invisible hand that guides the flow of the idea almost effortlessly.  Film creates an immersive experience that with finesse and craft permits powerful intrinsic storytelling.”

Le shared, “As a producer, the Film Craft category has always inspired and captivated me to continue my passion for detail with rigor and resolute. This allows for the exploration of vast options in execution that ultimately enhance the creative idea.  Craft has always been a part of filmmaking and when coupled with the art of nuance it serves as a creative advantage. How we use it to elevate and orchestrate the execution process is what separates good content from exceptional filmmaking.”

Le is also part of a team that has to assess an expanded span of work chronologically. “This year is unique in that for the first time, we’re judging two consecutive years worth of work. The pandemic has created countless challenges that our industry had to navigate in order to push the limits of what is achievable.  It has highlighted that our industry has the ability to overcome adversity--no matter how daunting - while displaying resilience and solidarity.  I’m constantly amazed and proud to be a part of an industry that shows such tenacity for pushing through barriers to keep creativity alive.

“As films in the earlier stages of the pandemic resorted to found footage, animation, repurposing of assets and other avenues of execution to deal with the restrictions; our industry quickly adapted to create new solutions that allowed for production to continue safely and creatively. This ingenuity and perseverance allowed for the production of world-class work that breaks through the clutter.

“Cannes Lions,” she continued, “is an award show that celebrates the best work from around the globe recognizing craft and creativity.  People will remember these films because they were acknowledged for the coveted Cannes Lions award representing creative excellence. Most importantly these films must endure the test of time--pre and post-pandemic--and be worthy to stand alongside the winners that came before them.”

As for the value of brands and creatives committing to social justice issues, Le observed, “As a country, we have endured an incredibly trying year. Progress and change will take time as these issues have persisted for many years past.  However, it’s the progressive movement forward, our commitment, and actions that are most promising to witness.  Brands and organizations are coming forth with positions that define their values and stance on social issues and they are including these messages throughout their core communications. 

“Communication can be a powerful force if it is done with complete transparency, honesty and authenticity.  If any of these three are missing, viewers may perceive it as insincere and possibly opportunistic.

“Films that highlight issues or promise change,” continued Le, “speak to a more socially aware audience and will therefore be judged on how purposeful and thoughtful the message is delivered. In addition to brand actions, consumers seek for a connection with its messaging and those messages must resonate with them.  These social issues are now front and center, and will continue to remain which will start to encourage deeper conversations for our society as a whole.  

“After a year of reckoning, this year especially is an essential moment for brands and agencies to create content that reflects their values and their commitment to change and most importantly, content that reflects our audiences authentically and wholeheartedly. I’m looking forward to seeing culturally relevant work that speaks to human truths; work that projects empathy and celebrates humanity; and work where storytelling can aid in driving meaningful change through diverse perspectives.”

Regarding the value of judging Cannes Lions entries, Le related, “As an international award show, Cannes Lions allows us to see films that touch on cultural relevance from those around the world.  It provides a glimpse of a diverse, innovative, and international perspective. Being a juror allows me to witness bold and courageous work that has the ability to influence and activate change.  I hope to come away enlightened, inspired, and motivated to continue to use creativity as a driver for expression. 

“Judging work of this caliber ignites a creative fuel that in turn empowers brave decisions for future work.  Cannes Lion recipients are bestowed with a legacy of being celebrated for their creative excellence.  I’m honored to participate in the process and be able to witness and experience what some have described as a Master Class in creativity.”

Vishal Dheiman
Vishal Dheiman, VP, head of innovation at BBDO New York, is serving as a Cannes judge for the first time--appropriately enough on the Innovation Lions Jury. He’s proud of being chosen for the duty, noting that “somehow it feels like added recognition of the great work we’ve produced over the past three years.”

Dheiman added, “Hopefully it’s not the last time I get to be a juror, I’d love to experience judging in person.”

Reflecting on the Innovation Lions category, Dheiman shared, “To be honest, firstly, I’m blown away by the talent of the judges in this category. It’s a privilege to be able to talk with people that have such an influence on pushing companies, networks and creativity around the globe.

“Secondly, the vast spectrum that the Innovation Lions category covers is remarkable. It’s truly unique in its breadth of work.”

His jury wish list is topped be a strong desire “to learn,” to “soak in as much as I can from the ideas we’re reviewing and my fellow jurors. I wish we could do it in person so we got time to really connect and go deeper on the work. I love just sitting back and watching how everybody’s brains function. We all think differently and these ideas are a true representation of that. 

“There is a book by Walter Isaacson called ‘The Innovators.’ It basically goes all the way back to innovations from 1843, through now. It tells the stories of how each idea can lead to the next. It’s exciting to analyze the path these entries have taken, but also to think about what doors they open for the years to come.”

As for how the pandemic had informed or impacted his approach to judging, Dheiman commented, “Screen time has become our lives. Judging takes up a few more hours of screen time a day focusing on the Cannes work. I’ve had to be really intentional about judging remotely: staying focused, taking breaks, giving extra time to each idea, and really exploring all areas that have been submitted to give everything a fair opportunity.  

“The past one to two years have been a struggle for everybody; understanding how people produced ideas is important. We’ve had extra layers of complexity and so, really analyzing ideation and production/execution before the results of an entry seems more crucial this time.”

Bruno Abner Rebelo 
This turn on the Health & Wellness Lions jury is the second for Bruno Abner Rebelo, EVP, chief creative officer, McCann Health. He served as a Health Lions juror back in 2018, recalling, “The Cannes Lions jury is like no other that I’ve participated in. It’s a really intense experience and the amount of work is really heavy. But you really learn a lot from it. From my past experience,  I learned the mechanics of the festival and what to look for in a case to make the fairest  judgment possible.”

Rebelo observed, “Health & Wellness has evolved a lot. With just a few years of existence, it has now become one of the most important awards at Cannes, especially now after the pandemic. We see more and more non-health brands stepping in at the Health arena and we see Health cases winning big at different categories outside Health. Health became a place where creativity can be truly meaningful and this category is proving that year after year.

In terms of what he hopes to accomplish as a judge, Rebelo shared that he wants to award work that: Pushes the category forward; pushes the humanity forward; is inclusive and original; and triggers emotion, changes behavior and has scale.

As for how race relations and social justice issues will impact his judging perspective, Rebelo explained, “I’m a Brazilian, North Africa descendant, born to a really poor family. I’ve lived and experienced social injustice since I was born, so despite anything that happened in U.S. this year, my vote has always been conscious of social issues and will always be.”

Regarding remote jury duty, Rebelo related, “I assume we will all miss being together, I really do. We are judging work from 2020 and 2021, 100% online, but the festival did an amazing job with creating a great infrastructure to support that. Beside the fact that I really miss getting together with the jury, the results, of course,  will not be affected by the fact that we are remote. The rest of the jurors and I are all putting a lot of heart on this to ensure that. It still is an amazing experience to be exposed to such a great volume of the best work and a great honor to have a seat on the Lions Health Jury.” 

Rafael Pitanguy
Sitting on the jury for a relatively new category--Entertainment Lions for Sport--is Rafael Pitanguy, VMLY&R’s chief creative officer in Brazil. This marks his second time as a Cannes Lions judge, the first coming in 2017 on the Mobile jury. He’s not sure how much help his first tour of jury duty will be on his current assignment. “Well, it’s hard to imagine how much the world has changed in just four years. No matter how many times you’ve judged before, it will always be a new experience for everyone involved. The fact that the whole process will happen during the biggest health and economic crisis of our generation changes everything completely. And when we consider that everything will happen online and that the work of two years will be judged in just a few months, all our previous experiences must be rethought.”

Still, being a Lions judge, observed Pitanguy, “is such a unique opportunity to spend some time just seeing great ideas, great craft, getting to know different approaches to problems you faced before. This couple of months energizes every creative like no other time of the year. No doubt the biggest accomplishment I can get is the chance to rekindle the love I have for advertising.”

Entertainment Lions for Sports started in 2019. “In its first year, it was already one of the most disputed categories in the festival,” noted Pitanguy. “Most of the work awarded was bold, inspiring, and ambitious, like Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy,’ or Telefonica’s ‘E-quality,’ just to mention a few. What surprised me this year, in a really good way, was the fact that even with most championships and tournaments canceled because of COVID, brands and athletes didn’t lose their unique capability to inspire fans all over the world. Last year, athletes and teams decided to take a stand against injustice all over the world. That proved to us that sports can inspire us to do more but can also inspire the world to be more. Fairer, more equal, more peaceful.”  

As for the remote judging dynamic, Pitanguy sees a silver lining. “I believe that online judging gives us the possibility to focus 100% on the work. When the judging happens in Cannes, no matter how dedicated you are, there’s always a dinner with a client you must go to, a lecture you need to attend, etc. With online judging all the attention is aimed at the work submitted.”

He went on to observe, “Well  if the judging had happened last year, in the beginning of the pandemic, no doubt the remote process would have been a bit more complicated. But now we are totally used to remote working. From day-to-day meetings to big pitch presentations, everything is happening online for some time now. It doesn’t matter if it’s in person or not, judging Cannes is still one of those rare opportunities where you get the chance to spend a few days with some of the industry’s most brilliant leaders. To discuss great ideas with so many great people is life changing, it doesn’t matter if it happens in a Zoom meeting or at the Palais.”

On the social justice front, Pitanguy shared, “For many years brands acted as if they were not part of the world. Fortunately, this has changed. Consumers want to know what the brand they are going to buy from believes and what that brand is doing to make the world a better place. Or at least, not to make the world worst. When a brand takes a stand and walks the talk it tends to be a sign of bravery. And bravery is something that a jury considers when choosing the work that should be awarded. But, on the other hand, we must be extra careful not to award work that’s just opportunistic, to recognize brands that use such important social issues only for its own benefits, changing beliefs from one week to the other. Change takes compromise.”  


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