Cannes Lions Preview: Fulfilling Your Jury Duty
Debbi Vandeven
Perspectives across such categories as Film, Entertainment, Social & Influencer, Glass: The Lion For Change, Industry Craft and the Dan Wieden Titanium Lions

It’s only natural that jury presidents and judges think that the award category they are involved in is one of, if not the most significant in competition. And generally a good case can be made--and has been in this Cannes Lions Preview by the likes of Social & Influencer Lions jury president Amy Ferguson, Creative Business Transformation judge Michael Treff, Glass: The Lion For Change judge Suresh Raj, Entertainment Lions judge Olivier Lefebvre and Dan Wieden Titanium Lions jury president Debbi Vandeven, among others.

This year’s overall Awarding Jury represents the global industry’s leading talent from a diverse range of disciplines, from across 54 markets--the highest number of markets ever represented on the Awarding Jury. Work from around the world will be judged, awarded and celebrated during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, running from June 17-21.

Jurors have been assessing deserving entries and engaging in give-and-take discussions in the Lions competition since 1954 These thoughtful deliberations have had a positive ripple effect on the industry at large.  It’s a legacy that continues to set a high global bar for juries today spanning creativity as well as strategy.

While the diverse voices and discussions in jury rooms will be loud and clear at Cannes this month, here’s a taste of SHOOT’s dialogue with select judges from the advertising agency side to shed some light on what’s in store on the Lions front.

Joaquín Cubria
Joaquín Cubría, global chief creative officer and partner, GUT, is now on his third tour of Lions jury duty--this time as a Creative Data Lions judge. Getting the Cannes call to serve never gets old for Cubria, who noted, “It’s always an honor and a very enriching experience to judge in person at the festival. Of course I have learnings from past sessions, so this is my advice: go to bed early, you’ll be able to party next year/take a hoodie or a jacket, jury rooms are usually super cold/have fun, be respectful, be open and remember we are here to celebrate creativity.”

Cubria described the category he’s judging this year as being “a big deal. It’s a chance to see some of the coolest, most innovative data-driven campaigns from all over the world and it’s also a responsibility because by the act of selecting what type of work to award, we are collectively shaping industry standards. Data is more important than ever. With so much data out there, being able to use it creatively is key for brands. Data helps make smarter decisions and more personalized, impactful campaigns that will really resonate with people.”

Cubria’s wish list is headed by the fervent desire “that the best work, the one that truly deserves it, wins. Data can be overwhelming sometimes, full of jargon and complexity, but we are here to recognize “Creative Data” so there needs to be a fresh interesting idea in the mix. Data only, no matter how impressive use of it they have done, isn’t enough. And I’d love to have fun. Meet a nice jury and have interesting discussions.”

The experience of judging is enlightening and informing, continued Cubria. “All festivals, but Cannes especially, give you the opportunity to see all together in a very short period of time a lot of great work. And you learn from it. Especially in the jury room, where you get to see and discuss the backstage of the ideas, why are they interesting, why are they different and raise the bar. All that inevitably goes into your future decisions when working at the agency or with your teams. So yes, we all win from the experience.”

Amy Ferguson
When the announcement of the Cannes Lions jury lineups was made, Amy Ferguson was chief creative officer of TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. She has since become CCO of Special New York and a U.S. partner in that agency. As she begins a new career chapter, Ferguson embarks on a high-profile tour of jury duty as president of the Social & Influencer Lions jury. It’s a major responsibility which is informed by her first time judging at Cannes which she remembers as being “incredibly intimidating.” She explained, “I felt like I was only there because I was a woman and I had a lot less experience than some of the other judges in the room. Because of that, I will work hard to make this jury feel very welcoming and open. The discussion and the debate is so important and creating a space where everyone feels free to chime in and share their opinions on the work is important to me.” 

Ferguson is enthused about the category over which she’s presiding. “There is no doubt that Social & Influencer is one of the most timely categories in terms of providing a snapshot of where the industry is right now. Pretty much every campaign or piece of creative work has some aspect of social to it. Our job, and it’s a big one, will be to decide which ideas are helping to change how we think about Social & Influencer work. Which ideas are using Social & Influencer in new and surprising ways.” 

In terms of her focus at Cannes, Ferguson shared, “I want to put an emphasis on real results and actual impact. A great idea, brilliantly executed is table stakes. Did the work do something for the business or the brand? Did real people see it and give a shit about it? That’s what I want to be able to point to. We have an opportunity to make a case for brave and bold creative work being good for business and as an industry we desperately need to do that more and more.”

Judging will also have a positive ripple effect on Ferguson and her agency. “I think it’s invaluable to step out of your day-to-day and really focus on the best work coming from other agencies. It can be inspiring but also it can be a wake-up call that there’s a lot of great agencies out there doing good creative work. It forces you to take a hard look at the work you’re doing and push yourself and your agency to figure out how to make work that can truly stand out.”

Rodrigo Jatene
Rodrigo Jatene, chief creative officer of Wieden+Kennedy Sao Paulo/Latin America, returns to the judging room as a Film Lions juror. He is no stranger to jury deliberations, having been a Direct Lions judge in 2016 and serving on other shows, including D&AD, The One Show, Clios, ANDY Awards, New York Festivals and Ojo. Going into the 2024 Lions, Jatene shared that “my expectations are the best possible. This year, I will be sharing the room with people I respect and admire a lot, in a category that I have always dreamt of being a part of. What I am sure of is that it will be exhausting weeks of work but full of inspiration and learning.”

Jatene further observed, “I have been preparing for this jury for 25 years. I believe that the best way to prepare for any judging is by working, creating, questioning, discussing, and doing—seeing what is done in the world, accumulating references, and refining your criteria. The only things jurors can bring into the judging room are their points of view and the experiences they have accumulated over their careers. The more one has done, seen, discussed, and learned, the more prepared they are.

“In general terms,” he continued, “Lions were created to recognize exceptional work. But we need to dissociate the two things: not all exceptional work wins a Lion, and one can argue that not every Lion is awarded to truly exceptional work. Therefore, I believe that for creatives nowadays, doing exceptional work will always be the most important thing. Winning a Lion is the consequence that it sometimes happens. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

Jatene is “really looking forward to seeing how brands around the world are tapping into creative storytelling in new ways. There can be so much noise in advertising, but outstanding content is always rooted in great insights, flawless execution, and true creativity.”

Being on the Film Lions jury represents a golden opportunity, related Jatene. “Having the chance to see all the best work done in the last 12 to 15 months from every corner of the world and to discuss the best of the best with some of the greatest exponents of our industry is an absolutely unique experience. I think that being a juror at any festival, but especially at Cannes Lions, adds perspective, helps refine one’s own criteria, and generates enormous learnings for any creative’s career.”

Olivier Lefebvre
Olivier Lefebvre, president and executive creative director at FRED & FARID Paris, is now on his second tour of Cannes Lions jury duty--this time has an Entertainment Lions judge. He served on the Creative Data Lions jury back in 2017. “Being on a jury is always a rich learning experience. You need to listen and respect everyone’s opinions while also presenting your own and persuading other jurors. It’s a unique exercise that combines diplomacy and the power of conviction. Generally, it goes very well, and it’s always a wonderful human and sharing experience. I always come back more enriched from this kind of jury duty.”

He’s particularly enthused about being on the Entertainment Lions jury. “It completely reflects what our industry should be today. Nowadays, brands need to go beyond just communicating a message to sell. They need to entertain, create experiences connected to their brand purpose, and ensure people engage with their message. This is the essence of this category. In fact, for several years now, some of the best campaigns at Cannes Lions have been in the entertainment sector. That’s what makes this category one of the most exciting categories of the festival.”

Going into this year’s Lions, Lefebvre said, “I don’t really have specific expectations. As a juror, my role is to support the category president and follow the direction he wants to take with this year’s awards. The goal is to recognize the best work from around the world that has made a significant impact this year. And of course, all of this happens in a professional yet relaxed atmosphere.”

The judging experience informs him and his agency, continued Lefebvre. “Being part of this jury helps us better understand how people in our industry from around the world think and work, considering their different opinions based on their age, gender, culture, education, and worldview. It’s incredibly interesting and one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had. When I return from a jury, I aim to share these learnings with the creatives and everyone at the agency. It helps us better understand our French and international clients. Although it’s not easy to convey such an experience verbally, it’s very important to try.”

Karim Naceur
Karim Naceur, global head of TV production at BETC, is on the Film Craft Lions awarding jury. Last year he was on the Film Craft shortlist jury, which he described as “a wonderful experience for someone like me, who loves films and analyzes a lot the techniques involved in making them, the ways of telling stories in images, and seeing if the emotions come across well. It sharpens my eye and gives me references to judge the evolution of filming techniques and assess their mastery.”

Naceur pegged Film Craft as “my favorite category, as it showcases the most beautiful advertising work from around the world. I love it every single time.”

As for his wish list this year, Naceur shared, “I appreciate films with strong storytelling and mastered images, beautiful sequences, well-integrated postproduction that you can’t feel. I’m really looking forward to the integration of artificial intelligence this year. I wonder if productions have started to integrate it into their films, and at what level.”

Of the in-person jury room dynamic, Naceur observed, “Sitting together around a table to discuss the quality of a film in person creates a real debate that you don’t necessarily find on Zoom. You get a much stronger sense of everyone’s convictions in person. Sometimes, there are even outbursts or hasty departures from the room over a disagreement; in Zoom, the person would have just disconnected (lol). Nothing can ever replace a good face-to-face discussion.”

In terms of how judging can inform him and his agency, Naceur noted, “Watching the world’s finest advertising films is bound to excite my interest, and it’s my duty to pass this on to my teams. Last year, I prepared a selection of the 20 films that made the biggest impression on me, and that’s part of our corporate culture. At BETC, we’re very attached to the Craft, so we keep a close eye on what’s being done around the world and by our competitors, and Cannes is the best indicator of world standards. This allows us to rank ourselves on the global scale of advertising production. This year, I’m looking forward to seeing how artificial intelligence will be integrated into our campaigns. We’re working hard with Prose and Pixels (aka POP, our new Havas/BETC production network) on AI.

“Our ambition, and my ambition, is to take part in shaping the future of creativity, and to remain curious and constantly on the lookout. Our goal is to strive for excellence and remain the world’s leading agency (BETC ranked first at WARC).”

 
Suresh Raj
Suresh Raj, chief growth officer at McCann New York, is serving as a Lions judge for the first time--selected as a member of the Glass: The Lion For Change jury. Raj described being chosen for the Glass jury as “already a career highlight,” explaining, “This panel offers an incredible opportunity and inflection point for my ongoing work as an openly LGBTQ+ and minority leader to champion diversity throughout the industry. Additionally, as a growth professional, rather than a business lead, strategist, etc., I am doubly honored to be included and excited to lend my 25 years of experience in the industry to the panel.”

Raj further shared relative to the appeal and relevance of Glass, “I have been on the ANA/Cannes Lions CMO Growth Council as a non-brand member for the past three years and joining the judging panel feels like a natural extension of the work we’ve done. As part of the council, we put into place requirements for all submissions to include information on the team that delivered the work as a very simple, effective measure and mark of change in the industry, as well as added a proof point of authenticity to the work entered across categories. On the panel, I’ll see this criteria in action and use it for its intended purpose in judging.”

Regarding his wish list as a juror, Raj succinctly stated, “More than anything creativity. Specifically, creativity that differentiates itself through brave ideas. Campaigns fueled by inspired strategy that created a strong landing point to deliver emotive creative, with clients and agencies who are brave enough to pursue them. And importantly, ensuring that strategy and creative were inspired and delivered authentically through lived experience. Being in person with a room of marketing professionals allows for this work to spark engaging and important dialogue, with individuals bringing matured and informed views on the world and the work to the table.”

Raj concluded, “Coming away from the festival, I hope to bring back a reaffirmation of the knowledge that creativity and storytelling (both integral to the marketing we do) are not a commodity, but core facets of the human experience and building community. This reminder also speaks to the conscious inclusion we strive for at McCann, and I hope we can further embed these ideals into the talent we have and elevate it further to be part of the DNA of our creativity.”
 

Michael Treff
Michael Treff, CEO of Code and Theory, too is taking on Lions jury duty for the first time. He’s been chosen to serve as a member of the Creative Business Transformation jury. “One of the most exciting things about being a juror is that it’s a constant opportunity to open your worldview about what other work you may not be aware of. From a personal perspective, I find it extremely inspiring because it enables me to learn new things. 

“Given how prestigious Cannes Lions is, I plan to be thoughtful and respectful of all the time and effort that went into the work while also holding it to an incredibly high standard. Being clear-eyed and focused about the criteria, standards and impact is important to me.” 

As for the importance of the Creative Business Transformation category, Treff observed, “People think because AI has captured the headlines that, all of a sudden, transformation is more important. But I would argue that every business should be going through or pushing for transformation at all times--especially when you’re in a position of strength, as opposed to being forced to change because the world changes. Usually, late movers and reactors don’t necessarily seize the opportunity to the fullest extent, whereas businesses with a culture that embraces constant change generally do. 

“Yes, there is going to be a lot of attention on it this year, specifically around technology adaptation. But I would argue that there are many spheres of transformation happening all at the same time. There’s technology. There are new ways of working and technology to power workforce enablement. There’s AI and its impact on generative creative endeavors and how it can enable and empower businesses. There are seismic changes in human behaviors happening. There are ontological questions for a lot of businesses in categories that are going through disruption. For example, what is the meaning of a financial services institution? What is the role of institutional education? What is the future of media? All of these sorts of standard pillars of categorization are being redefined. 

“We believe that transformation is a discipline that you should never stop doing,” continued Treff. “You should never be done transforming. So a lot of what I’m gonna look for in the work is around identifying real challenges that require a significant change in people, resources, workflows and outcomes, with emphasis on the outcomes.” 

In terms of his wish list, Treff shared, “I hope that I’ll be the least informed person in the room with the most to learn because my fellow jurors have such deep experience and hopefully differentiated perspectives. I hope there are lively debates with discourse and dialogue around what it means to award this type of work and the categorization and criteria of what we’re trying to award.” 

As for what he would like to walk away with from the judging experience, Treff noted, “It’s important to bring back an expanded perspective. There should be much more clarity around what transformation means for others and ourselves. And hopefully, I’ll be able to bring back different perspectives about new work and new ways of thinking. I’m looking forward to getting a real sense of where the rest of the industry is and where it’s heading.”

Debbi Vandeven
Debbi Vandeven, global chief creative officer at VML, is no stranger to the Cannes Lions jury room. She first served on the Promo & Activation jury in 2014, then president of the Entertainment Lions jury in 2018 and as president of the Social & Influencer Lions jury for 2020-’21. Now she is president of The Dan Wieden Titanium Lions jury.

Relative to what she’s learned from this varied judging experience at Cannes--and how she would apply it this time around to the Titanium proceedings, Vandeven remarked, “I absorbed so much every time. The key learning I’d apply this year would be to make it a point to hear everyone’s viewpoint in the jury room. After all, the jury is made up of people from all over the world, each coming with their own unique cultural context. That’s why it’s so important to hear from everyone, even if they need to be encouraged to offer their opinions.
 
As for the increased relevance of her judging category, Vandeven observed, “It used to be that the Titanium Lions represented work that didn’t really fit a specific category — like innovation work or big integrated campaigns. But because the Lions have expanded so much, every kind of work now has a much better opportunity of being acknowledged. As a result, the Titanium Lions at their core now represent the work that’s setting the bar for the future of the industry — which means there’s definitely pressure to make sure you’re making the right calls as a jury.”
 
Vandeven further affirmed, “My wish is that we find work that sets the bar for the future of the industry. Work that surprises us and expands the idea of what our industry can do — in the same way that Nike+ FuelBand opened our eyes to how we could impact product design. I’m also excited to experience the in-person jury room dynamic. On the Titanium jury, we’re in a unique position to learn from the actual teams who did the work and discover more than the two-minute case study could tell us.”

Defining the positive ripple effect of jury duty, Vandeven noted, “The biggest benefit to being on a jury is understanding all those unique creative perspectives from around the world. It’s extremely inspiring to be around your peers for a week! I also look forward to seeing all the winners across the spectrum of shows. It’s wonderful to discover work that sets a new bar and will have an impact on the world so I can bring that inspiration back to influence the future work we do as an agency.”

Shamel Washington
Shamel Washington, associate creative director, Deloitte Digital, is serving as a Pharma Lions juror. Asked is he had been a Cannes Lions juror before, Washington quipped, “Yes and no. I was part of the shortlist jury for Cannes last year, however, this will be my first time attending Cannes as a jury member! The main lesson I’ve learned is that no matter how much time you are spending reviewing a piece of work, keep in mind that the creators spent 10X as much time creating it. Additionally, advocate for the work you truly believe deserves recognition because it can change someone’s life.”

Regarding his Lions category, Washington assessed, “We are in the midst of a creative renaissance in the pharma field. Campaigns are getting bolder, and the skill level is on par with any other category in the field.”

Washington added, “I’m looking forward to the in-person discussions because that’s where the big decisions are made. I love hearing how other jurors perceive work and how it aligns (or clashes) with my perception. Then we make our case on where the work should land.”

As for the value of the judging experience--in terms of how it informs him and his agency roost, Washington shared, “It furthers my appreciation for the process of getting an idea to the award show level. From ideation to understanding that the selling of the work doesn’t just stop at the client level. Agencies must find new and innovative ways to keep jurors engaged and break through the clutter.”
 

Stephanie Yung
Stephanie Yung, chief design officer at Zulu Alpha Kilo, is entering the Cannes Lions jury room for the first time--serving as an Industry Craft Lions judge. She feels fortunate to have been selected, asking rhetorically, “How often can someone dedicate the time to focus solely on craft as it relates to work from around the world? It’s also a huge honor to be a part of this show because of its reach and its regard as setting the benchmark in creativity. I’m particularly interested in seeing how craft shows up globally--what is shared between regions and cultures and what’s unique and distinct. 

“When I think of the learnings I’ll bring from serving on other juries, it is ensuring that I’m taking the time to understand the social/cultural context of the work in order to bring a more unbiased point of view. At the same time, while this category has craft at the fore, craft can only be as powerful as it relates to its concept, originality, and relevance to the brand and to the audience. So those will be important considerations when evaluating the work.” 

Relative to the relevance of the Industry Craft category, “At this moment, with the prevalence in AI, the idea of craft is more important than ever for its role in creativity and in ushering new ideas into the world. Because great craft has the ability to make you feel differently and see differently and to pay attention to something you might have passed over before. Without craft, there’s no soul. So, I’m glad we have the opportunity to put it front and center.”

Yung further shared, “On my wish list as a juror is to see awe-inspiring work that I’m jealous of, which will undoubtedly happen! And of course, healthy discussions.” 

Being a Lions judge represents a wonderful opportunity, affirmed Yung. “Because of the nature of our jobs, we are all somewhat aware of the work or creating the work that’s happening around the world. But the ability to see all of the best work together in ‘one place’ can be pretty powerful. With that in mind, I am certain to bring back inspiration and an expanded perspective to share with colleagues at Zulu Alpha Kilo.” 

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