Jurors share key insights on evaluating Cannes Lions entries

As the Cannes Lions juries evaluate entries from across the globe, they provide insights into their experience with the judging process, discussing strategies for managing the intensity and ensuring fairness in evaluations.

Pranali Tawte
New Update
Cannes Lions

In 1954, the first International Advertising Film Festival took place in Venice, with fourteen countries and 187 entries vying for the lion-shaped trophy inspired by the iconic statue in St Mark's Square. After stints in Italy and Monaco, the festival found its permanent home in Cannes, France, in 1984. 

Since then, Cannes Lions has grown into a premier event that sets high standards for creativity in advertising and marketing, continually evolving to remain relevant and inclusive. 

Hephzibah Pathak, Executive Chairperson, Ogilvy India told us what the platform means for the creative industry. Pathak said, “It is a gold standard of creative benchmarks and it keeps widening its scope to be current and relevant. It has a finger on the pulse of the marketing and advertising world. It has been most inclusive in its approach - geographies, cultures, diversity.”

Similarly, Kalpesh Patankar, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett United Arab Emirates shared how the festival has gained its status.

He said, “Over the years, the show has kept evolving, including new categories, spearheading innovation, and even involving clients. Stepping out beyond agencies to include marketers, platforms, and technology providers has been a brilliant move that has made the festival agenda more holistic and comprehensive year-on-year. All of this has contributed to giving Cannes Lions the stature it has today."

For the agencies and brands, presenting their work at Cannes Lions is their moment to shine, representing the culmination of extensive planning, creativity, and execution. They aim to stand out in a highly competitive arena, hoping their efforts hit the nail on the head. 

“Cannes is not just about the awards, it's a festival that truly celebrates creativity, encourages personal connections and exchange of ideas between the best minds in the world. It's magnetic, people who come there are inspired and enriched. It's like a crash course in creativity."

Hephzibah Pathak

With last year's festival boasting over 26,992 entries, with new categories this year, the number is anticipated to be surpassed. 

So, as they showcase their best work at Cannes Lions, the jury faces the daunting task of evaluating hundreds of entries, examining months of hard work, each with unique merits. They must maintain objectivity, notice subtle nuances, and separate the wheat from the chaff, all while upholding the festival's high standards. This makes their role both critical and demanding, proving that it's no walk in the park but more like a marathon through a minefield of creativity and innovation.

This meticulous judging process is a cornerstone of Cannes Lions, ensuring that only the most exceptional work is awarded. 

Providing insight into this rigorous procedure, Patankar shared, "Like all award shows, there is an extensive pre-jury for every category that contributes towards shortlisting work from thousands of entries. It is these shortlists that are then discussed by the awarding jury in the room, to pick a handful of few that will walk away with coveted Lions. The judging, of course, will happen in accordance with defined parameters and themes set by the festival organising team in close collaboration with Jury Presidents – to define the next benchmarks for the entire industry."

Now that we know who handles what, let's explore how the jury members navigate the process without succumbing to fatigue.

Finding the balance

In an industry where we're all self-proclaimed masters of creative procrastination, playing deadlines to deadlines, evaluating a huge chunk of entries can be intimidating.It's especially tough when you're already juggling your daily tasks and an additional duty is assigned to you.It's like being handed a full plate of tasks at a banquet when you're already stuffed with responsibilities.

Kartikeya Tiwari, National Creative Director at FCB Kinnect, sheds light on this glorification of procrastination and the resulting fatigue.

Tiwari said, “There is genuine fatigue if we don't plan and move about it with a strategy. There's ample time given to judge the entries, but most of us, especially in the creative field, are procrastinators and we glorify it. We end up thinking and believing there's a lot of time left. We'll finish it off, but not at the Cannes Lions. When you start going through the case studies, you realize each one is going to take a lot of time because you cannot skip any submitted material—there's no shortcut around that whole process. Therefore, my rough plan was to go through a certain number of case studies every day, and I did it in sittings.”

Similarly, Pathak, drawing parallels to the sprints common in the advertising industry, shared how jurors navigate the intensity of the process.

She said, "In our business we are all used to intense sprints – but I think it's better managed by putting aside time every day and judging in smaller chunks. Getting immersed in good work is always very refreshing and energising."

Kopal Naithani, Director & Founder, Superfly Fims shared her approach to maintaining focus and enthusiasm.

"I paced myself by setting aside specific time each day, often dedicating two hours, sometimes late into the night, to go through the entries. I tried to work instinctively, focusing on what I liked, what resonated, and what seemed effective. Additionally, I ensured I reviewed all the details and backgrounds of the work. My goal was to avoid last-minute rushes, procrastination, and to maintain discipline. Although it was tiring, the process became easier as I got deeper into it. Initially, it seemed intimidating, but I gradually eased into it."

Nitin Mantri, Regional Executive Managing Director (APAC), WE Communications, and Group CEO, Avian WE, employed a different strategy by regulating the number of entries he evaluated each day.

He said, “There is reasonable time if you allow yourself to do a limited number of entries per day. Important to take breaks and refresh your mind time and again, and that’s what I do."

Despite the intensity, jurors find joy and inspiration in the work they review.

Naina Meattle, Vice President - Planning, BBDO INDIA, shared her perspective, comparing the judging process to a much-needed break from her usual tasks.

She said, "The cases were so interesting that I saw myself itching to get back to my laptop. It did not feel like a big chore. Judging felt like a break from work and hence I was happy doing it – even if it meant I stole moments between meetings and work. Also, one of the sub-categories I was judging within Direct was ‘Use of humour’ and hence whenever I felt a sense of fatigue, I would switch to that for a few cases."

While there's fatigue, it's the good kind of fatigue. It's like the kind of fatigue your brain has when you're binge watching a very cool OTT  show and you just can't stop. I love that kind of fatigue.

Kartikeya Tiwari

Ensuring authenticity and impact

In the past, brands have been criticised for crafting their work primarily to earn awards. Therefore ensuring that only genuine, impactful work is recognised becomes a key challenge for jurors.

Patankar shared that the jury members are very familiar with the process and if there is any entry that has legitimacy doubts, it will be flagged.

Furthermore, Mantri took a more proactive approach. He said, "If there’s a doubt, the jury can directly engage with the agency or brand involved to seek clarification. By prioritising substance over style and seeking out work that delivers tangible results and genuine change, we can distinguish real, meaningful efforts from those that are merely performative."

Highlighting the gravity of this challenge, Naithani outlined her approach to tackling it.

She said, “Many brands have been accused of ‘woke washing’ and designing their work just to win brownie points. To address this, I made sure to thoroughly review all the case studies. While case studies can sometimes be more impressive than the actual films, I made an effort to conduct my own research on the impact of the work. I was diligent in gathering information and tried to be as thorough as possible. With a lot of work, the quality is evident, but for some entries, there may be doubts. In those cases, I took extra steps to research and verify the authenticity and impact of the work, as much as time allowed."

As jurors navigate the complexities of evaluating thousands of entries, their dedication and passion for the industry shine through, ensuring that only the most exceptional and impactful work receives recognition, further cementing the festival's status as the pinnacle of creative excellence in the advertising and marketing industry.

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