Cannes Lions Preview: Jury President Perspectives, Priorities
Titanium jury president Colleen DeCourcy, chief creative officer, Wieden+Kennedy
Insights from creatives, execs at W+K, McCann, Leo Burnett, VML, Isobar
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Colleen DeCourcy, chief creative officer, Wieden+Kennedy, is serving back to back as a Cannes Lions jury president. Last year, she chaired the Cyber Lions jury. Now, she holds the presidential reins of the Titanium jury. 

DeCourcy is no stranger to Titanium, having previously served as a judge in that category back in 2007. Asked to reflect on how Titanium has evolved over the years, DeCourcy observed that the question itself may be flawed. “I’m not sure if  Titanium has evolved or needs to.  Its evolution is built into its definition.  The category is and has always been ‘the way forward.’ So, the answer to that question changes every year but the category remains the same. I was drawn to Titanium in 2018 because I’ve never been more in need of a sign from above that says ‘Colleen! This is what’s coming.’”

The Titanium Lions, assessed DeCourcy, have been deeply relevant over the years. “When we’ve gotten it right, Titanium winners have proven to be the front edge of things to come. Not a trend but an emergence of beliefs and behaviors in our work and in the industry. The evidence of that being the case in the past is there,” she affirmed, citing the following list of high-profile honorees:

  • BMW Films--Branded content/entertainment.
  • Jay Z DeCoded--Experiential Design and engagement with consumers.
  • REI #optoutside--Corporate citizenship in action.
  • Fearless Girl--Mass scale ideas that live outside of media buys.
  • Nike Fuelband--The era of wearables that really was the beginning of the era of data.
  • Best Buy’s Twelpforce--The collapsing of the distance between brands and consumers.

DeCourcy’s wish is that she can help continue that tradition of recognizing breakthrough work. “I’m hoping our jury adds something of meaning to that list.”

DeCourcy finds the judging process inspiring. “The value of different perspectives in a jury room is the same as the value of different perspectives in a creative review,” she observed. “When you get more points of view, the work changes for the better. It gets richer and more nuanced and more interesting.  Every year that I’ve led a jury, I’ve had to take on and consider a lot of different points of view in order to get the jury to a conclusion everyone is satisfied with.  It shakes me out of my world view.  It’s good for my own creativity.  I’m often amazed at what I see in the work when I look through another set of eyes. 

“I recently watched Tina Fey’s interview with David Letterman,” continued DeCourcy. “She talks about the table read at SNL being a democratic process and so you need someone in the room who gets your jokes--someone who can vote for the idea. ‘It’s not purposeful, it’s not institutional but if there’s not a person in the room who gets it, well, she doesn’t get anything on (the show).’  I think that’s true not just of gender but of race and culture.  That’s why I love the Cannes jury process. There’s usually a person who can appreciate every joke.”

Brand Experience & Activation
Rob Reilly, global creative chairman, McCann Worldgroup, recalled his first tour of Cannes Lions jury duty, serving as a Titanium & Integrated judge in 2010 when Robert Greenberg, chairman, CEO and global chief creative officer of R/GA, stepped in as jury president, succeeding Bob Scarpelli, DDB Worldwide’s chairman and CEO, who was taken ill.

Reilly said he learned lessons from Greenberg which he applied to the first two times he served as a Cannes Lions jury president. And Reilly plans to hold true to them again for his third time which currently has him presiding over the Brand Experience & Activation jury. “I remember how fair Bob (Greenberg) was, how he asked for everybody’s opinion. The responsibilities are not only judging and voting but also making sure that everybody has a voice, is heard and respected. At the same time, you have to keep the train going. If everybody speaks about everything, you’ll be there ‘til 5 in the morning. You have to stay on track. You want to make sure there’s still enough energy in the room when you get to the final rounds of judging. As president you’re half leading the jury and half HR person, making sure there’s enough food, that you’re taking needed breaks so that the enthusiasm and energy level is high throughout the process.”

Reilly headed the Titanium & Integrated Lions jury in 2012, and Promo & Activation in 2016. He views the Brand Experience & Activation Lions as combining elements of the competition categories for which he earlier served as jury president. He sees innovation, breakthrough ideas, a brand defining itself while moving people to action as among the dynamics he and his judges are looking for from Cannes Lions entries this year.

“Brand experience is the way the brand shows up in people’s lives,” said Reilly. “And if done well, it seeps into culture at touchpoints, motivating people to do something. That can be magical. I pushed Cannes to include Activation in this category. Our job in the end is to get people to do something, to activate them.”

Reilly added, “We want to reward the breakthrough ideas of the year but it doesn’t mean we ignore well executed good ideas. A lot of ideas are derivative of past ideas. That doesn’t mean they aren’t fantastic and wonderful in their own right, especially if they motivate people to take action.”

Reilly is particularly enamored of such action when it’s in the realm of doing good. “There’s been a lot of purpose-led marketing in the last few years. I hope that’s more than a trend. I hope that it’s here to stay. Brands need to be meaningful in people’s lives. You can make money and still do the right thing. People expect a lot from brands. Agencies and brands have to be the ones pushing that agenda. More big brands are doing some amazing things. Doing well for your sales and having a positive impact on people’s lives are not mutually exclusive.”

Sustainable Development Goals
Though this is his fifth tour of duty as a Cannes Lions jury president, Mark Tutssel, global chief creative officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide and creative chairman of Publicis Communications, is setting foot on new ground this year, presiding over judges for the first Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Lions.

The creation of the SDGs was announced last September at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. The 17 global goals--unanimously adopted by world leaders at the UN in 2015--represent a collective ambition to better society and sustain our planet. Cannes will recognize the creative community for work that champions these goals. All entry fees for this competition will be donated to projects that further the goals, based on consultation with potential beneficiaries such as the UN, UN agencies and NGOs.

Tutssel affirmed, “It is an honor to be asked to lead this inaugural jury. The word ‘united’ has stood out to me from the beginning as a point of differentiation. In the most literal sense, the power of the United Nations commissioning this category focuses our efforts around the most pressing global problems, and motivates us to set a new standard for creativity that contributes to the betterment of our lives. Additionally, the top five holding companies have united for the first time, sitting together to celebrate the year’s most innovative work. And the work that we reward will exemplify the power of creativity to unite the world to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for everyone.”

Relative to laying the foundation for the new SDG Lions, Tutssel shared, “We’ll be looking for wildfire ideas that ignite meaningful progress that are both sustainable and scalable--ideas with the power to capture imaginations, weave their way into culture and drive real human behavior change. This is a remarkable opportunity to reward truly innovative work that contributes towards a better, fairer and more sustainable future. The Sustainable Development Goals Lions will be the ultimate standard by which these ambitious creative initiatives are measured. I’m humbled by the opportunity to help set the vision for this category moving forward.”

Tutssel further sees himself and his judges as being able to inspire the industry at large as well as themselves. “The work celebrated through the Sustainable Development Goals Lions will surely inspire all of us to take bigger risks and experiment in ways we hadn’t thought of before. Cannes Lions is one of the most inspirational places on the planet. I look at the entire experience as an opportunity to steep in creativity so I can be an even more effective creative leader for our network.”

As for how his past Cannes Lions judging experience will inform his current jury duty, Tutssel observed, “We’ve long known that creativity has the power to solve real problems for our clients, and that it’s the most valuable asset in business today. My previous jury experience has only reinforced that truth and given me a tremendous perspective on the incredible creative solutions our industry is delivering for marketers. We have the responsibility to also channel that talent and energy into transformational creativity that aligns with solving the most urgent challenges faced by our planet.

“Awards,” continued Tutssel, “are a measure of our industry’s overall health and keep our standards of creative excellence high. I’m excited to apply that same standard to work that’s quite literally changing the world, and to celebrate ideas that break through and create meaningful, positive change.”

Digital Craft
Jean Lin, global CEO of Isobar, is presiding over the Digital Craft Lions jury. She is no stranger to being at the jury helm, having done so for the Cyber competition in 2015 when she “learned that rewarding great work takes time and preparation--but it is worth it. The jury needs to leave agency ties at the door, and judge fairly and impartially. The Cyber jury that year certainly did that faithfully, and I am sure we will do it with the same integrity this year with Digital Craft.

“In an omnichannel world,” she continued, “craft is a critical component of creativity, because without it, you cannot realize the true potential of the idea. I am looking for work that can demonstrate how data, technology and design connect people to the soul of a great story, in ways that are inspiring, intuitive, and almost invisible. I also want to ensure that we reward real work that makes a real impact.”

Lin has a deep sense of the responsibilities inherent in assessing Digital Craft. She related, “Today excellence in Digital Craft means to create experiences that are evocative, choreographed for people, and intuitively linked to enable the brand idea to travel and transact. Being part of the Digital Craft jury at this time in the experience economy means that all eyes will be on us to find genre-defining work. It is something that comes with great responsibility. We must respect the craft. Because craft is what people see, feel, hear, touch and experience about a brand. It enables ideas to be evocative, to deliver powerful narratives by defining the space for brands to live in people’s lives.”

Her Cannes Lions priority “is to encourage rich and interesting conversation in the jury room, to enable the team to arrive at digital craft creative excellence. Our team focus will be on rewarding technological artistry--through flawless design, execution and outstanding user experience.”

Lin parallels her role as Isobar CEO to that of jury president. “As CEO, my role is to stimulate innovation by encouraging dialogue and diversity of thought, followed by chairing the analysis and concluding on the best positive outcome. My role in the jury room will be similar, but focused on establishing a consensus around one specific subject--the best, most creative and most impactful craft.”

In turn, her jury work could positively impact Isobar. “I will be bringing the jury’s specific talking points back to the Isobar teams--so hopefully I will be directly influenced by the breadth of experience of the people brought together by the Cannes Jury team and the wider festival. The conversation should prove a great temperature gauge for how brands and agencies are prioritizing craft within their organizations.”

As Debbie Vandeven, global chief creative officer of VML, takes the reins of this year’s Entertainment Lions jury, she has the benefit of having learned first hand from the stellar work of another jury president.

“In 2014,” she recalled, “I was lucky to have a wonderful jury president, Susan Credle, FCB global CCO. I hope to guide the discussion and help everyone listen to multiple opinions as she did. One of the best things about my experience on the Promo & Activation Jury was learning and listening to others. I believe the best work rises to the top, but with a global jury you really do discuss details about the ideas that can help you form a better understanding for the region and the work.”

Vandeven believes she drew a plum jury assignment this season. “The Entertainment Lions are important because the industry has been evolving from interrupting what people are doing or watching to becoming what people are seeking. From entertaining film to television shows and documentaries to music, gaming and sports, entertainment is a way for brands to become culture, not just shape it.”

Vandeven said her priority as Entertainment Lions president “is to help the jury find the best entertainment storytelling in film, gaming and sports that have brand relevancy. I am hopeful that both the format and platforms we are creating as well as the audiences we are creating for have given us new and different manners in which to engage. I am eager to see if we have elevated the use of technology to create more immersive and transformational work in VR, AR and live content that will help shape what comes next in entertainment.”

And a global perspective can help determine what’s next. “I think working with creatives from around the world is the best part of jury experience,” said Vandeven. “I have a global role at VML and work with teams from many different regions, but when you are with a group for a week and spend hours discussing work, you bring back a diverse knowledge base to where you live and work. I think you learn that we are more alike than we are different. And a great idea that is culturally relevant and connects emotionally can find a place with a jury across all geographical boundaries.

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity runs from June 18-22.


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