Opinion: 48 hours of dreaming; a day of judging and a day of attending Cannes Lions

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Aalap Desai

Aalap Desai of DENTSU CREATIVE India and a juror at Cannes Lions 2023, takes us through his experience at the festival, capturing the essence of the global advertising fraternity in Paris.

Attending Cannes Lions and being on the Radio and Audio awarding jury have been two of the most amazing experiences of my life. Both were firsts for me, and they hold a special place in my heart. However, upon reflection, I realized that they were actually two very different experiences, even though they took place at the same festival. Hence, I decided to pen down a day from each of these experiences.

24 hours of final judging day:

7 AM: Wake up and feel the pressure to contribute meaningfully and make a lasting impression.

8 AM: Meet the other jury members for breakfast. We all stay in the same hotel and do everything together.

8:30 AM: Walk to the venue with the festival host, as we are scheduled to start in 30 minutes.

9 AM: Commence the awarding process for the day. The process involves moving up from the shortlists and progressively awarding bronzes, silvers, golds, and eventually a grand prix. Our task is to evaluate and award 23 pieces from approximately 70 shortlisted entries.


11 AM: Engage in extensive discussions about the pieces. These discussions are in addition to the ones we had during the shortlist evaluation. Each jury member is encouraged to voice their opinions and advocate for a particular piece that they believe deserves recognition. We engage in lively debates and arguments, and ultimately, we all cast our votes. In case of a tie, the jury president has the deciding vote.

1 PM: We were originally scheduled to award the bronzes and move on to the silvers, but we haven't made any progress in that category yet. We take a break for lunch. Even during the meal, we can't help but continue discussing the pieces. By now, we have a sense of which ones have become favourites among the jury.

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2 PM: We finally begin awarding the bronzes, a total of 23 pieces that will serve as the foundation for further awards. The Cannes Lions team has organized a mock voting session beforehand to ensure fair and informed discussions. The jury engages in extensive discussions, with each member supporting different pieces.

4 PM: We successfully award all the bronzes. Despite the time passing, we remain energized and enthusiastic. The discussions continue, becoming even more intense as jury members passionately advocate for their preferred choices.

6 PM: Out of the 23 bronzes, we award 11 silvers. It is during this process that I realize the limitless passion the human heart can hold. Discussions become more fervent, and everyone has formed strong opinions about the pieces they believe deserve recognition.

8 PM: Now, we delve deeper into the awards. We award 4 golds from the pool of silvers. As a jury, we prioritize diversity in the list, opting to recognize different pieces rather than awarding multiple metals to the same ones. This decision sends the right signals and results in a more well-rounded playlist of awarded works. Each of the gold winners represents different aspects, including craft, purpose, and results.

9:30 PM: After multiple discussions and different points of view, we unanimously award the Grand Prix to Skinny. We believe that the Grand Prix should serve as a guiding light for the industry, representing where it currently stands and where it should aspire to be. Skinny successfully checks all the boxes, making it a deserving winner.

10 PM: The judging process concludes. We feel immense satisfaction with the pieces that have been recognized and supported. I personally recommended bringing back two pieces that went on to win silver awards. Additionally, I passionately advocated for a piece that exemplified exceptional craftsmanship, which was ultimately awarded a gold. It has been an incredibly fulfilling day. We congratulate each other and commemorate our time as a jury by signing a poster. We then proceed to celebrate with dinner and drinks.


12 AM: I lost track of time amidst the merriment and indulged in a few too many drinks.

24 hours attending the busiest day of the festival (Day 3):

8 AM: Wake up feeling stressed once again about what to wear. Skip breakfast due to oversleeping.

9:30 AM: Head to the venue to attend some exciting sessions. I particularly was looking forward to Kevin Hart's session, as I am a fan. The festival app is incredibly convenient for planning sessions, and the morning ones are usually less crowded.

12 PM: Continue attending more sessions. Some may consider me a geek, but the speakers at these sessions are industry leaders I have been reading about, and the sessions are both informative and enjoyable. Each session lasts around 30 minutes, allowing me to cover a lot of ground.

1 PM: Attend a few live presentations and then make my way to the showcase of works. Seeing my own work displayed there gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I even linger nearby to overhear conversations others are having about it.

3 PM: Enjoy lunch at the Dentsu Beach house. Almost every network agency has its own designated space, and this is where global teams gather. It is a fantastic opportunity for presentations, conversations, and bonding over a few drinks.

4:30 PM: Feeling a bit exhausted, possibly due to the sun or my age catching up, I decided to head back to the hotel room for a quick nap and refreshing shower.

6 PM: Meet up with friends outside the venue and spend some relaxed time together. We enjoy some delicious peach sorbet ice cream.

7 PM: Attend the ceremony, which turns out to be a wonderful experience. The work showcased is impressive, and applauding those who take the stage serves as motivation to strive for excellence.

9 PM: Join the Times of India party, where I indulge in delicious food and engaging conversations. It's a refreshing change to have some Hindi music and enjoy spicy dishes that satisfy the taste buds.

11 PM: Proceed to the Yahoo Beach house to experience the much-awaited DeadMau5 concert. It is something I have always wanted to do, and I absolutely loved it.

12 AM: I lose track of time as the night progresses, and I find myself caught up in the festivities, indulging in a few too many drinks.

The judging experience made me truly appreciate the value of even being shortlisted or winning a bronze or silver at the world's largest advertising festival. It highlighted the significance of recognition within the industry. On the other hand, attending the festival itself opened my eyes to the sheer size, power, and coolness of the global advertising fraternity. The past week has been a whirlwind of emotions, but I am incredibly grateful to have had both of these experiences this year.

This article is penned by Aalap Desai, Chief Creative Officer, Creative Experience, West, DENTSU CREATIVE India.

Disclaimer: The article features the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the stance of the publication.

dentsu creative cannes lions Jury chair radio and audio jury Aalap Desai