Cannes Lions 2022: What does it really take to win a Titanium Lion? Merlee Jayme argues it’s harder than you think

CANNES, FRANCE — Let’s start by defining what a Titanium Lion usually is.

If you look at past years’ winners, The Nike+ “Fuel band,” Metro Trains “Dumb Ways to Die,” Domino Pizza “Emoji Ordering,” REI “Opt Outside,” The Palau Pledge, Burger King “The Whopper Detour,” you’ll see the brilliance in thinking, the boldness in execution, the perfection in craft and that all these don’t belong to a category box. But what really sets these apart from other lions?

Dan Weiden, the founder of the celebrated agency Weiden & Kennedy, defined this well: A Titanium “stops you in your tracks, and makes you reconsider the way forward.”


The Titanium Lion, the industry’s most sought-after award, was launched way back in 2003 by the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity to honor creative marketing that transcends categories.

The jury was always made up of past jury presidents. Being the jury president for Radio & Audio last year, it was such an honor for me and a humbling experience to be invited to this great group of amazing creative heads and clients.

WPP’s Global Chief Creative Officer Rob Reilly was our jury president this year. In an earlier Zoom call with us, he asked all of us to define this year’s Titanium. One volunteered “A titanium is a progressive idea,” others added, “unpredictable, powerful, inspiring ideas that have the power to impact change in the world,” “a flawless idea that has a domino effect in our industry.”

After shortlisting 25 ideas out of 200 entries from all over the world, we watched live presentations and grilled them with our tough questions. Here are a few of the learnings I listed in my brain:

  1. Innovations can razzle-dazzle in case videos. However, be prepared to explain this step by step to the techie jury member.
  2. Don’t make false claims to make results look bigger. Scaling an idea is the one thing the jury is very interested in. They can smell an overclaim even from a mile away.
  3. Brand relevance is important to a jury who believes that our job is first and foremost to sell over being purposeful.
  4. The level of difficulty of an idea and how smart creativity has succeeded in overcoming the impossibility never fails to amaze the jury.
  5. The idea should be big, making a huge impact in the market where it’s from, and the world.
  6. The idea can be borne out of a collaboration of organizations like the government, schools, hospitals, production groups, media agencies. This doesn’t mean that the idea itself is the collaboration. The idea should be clear and simple enough for the jury to grasp, despite possible overlaps and complications.
  7. Purpose is good. But sometimes, we had to set this aside to evaluate whether the idea was great or simply hinged on a great cause. At the end of the day, we always asked ourselves, “What are we voting here?”

In the end, the jury was unanimous in choosing a Grand Prix. We all zeroed in on this one initiative that reached out to its younger audience in stealthy ways which helped to make the message relatable and digestible. We all believed that “Long Live the King” successfully connected with teenagers regarding knife violence that is not in a sermon-preachy way. This was a really onerous factor to do so that you virtually must sneak that objective in,” Rob Reilly mentioned. “This discovered an option to get to teenagers in a method that doesn’t flip them off. It virtually has to really feel undetectable.”

The “Long live the King” campaign brought Kiyan Prince to life after he became a victim of knife violence 15 years ago.

My own personal take?

Through the years, we’ve worked hard for the longevity of our brands, their equities, and brilliant campaigns.

Our Grand Prix is ironically all about the longevity of life.

To bring to life purpose in a positive light.

To experience the potential of a bright future.

To provide a strong voice of hope.

To let the youth experience Kiyan Prince’s life; if he was with us today and not a victim of knife violence, in their very own world of games, sports, communications, and brands from FIFA and EA to JD sports.

This was truly a powerful way to keep his memory and cause alive for years to come.

It was safe to say that this work went through an eye of a needle. Flawless, faultless, scam-checked, scaled for the world. And to all five winners of the Titanium Lions, know that your wins were all well-deserved and should be celebrated. Big-time.

Merlee Jayme is known as the “Chairmom” ever since she founded her agency in 2005. She is one of Southeast Asia’s most prominent creatives, and one of the eight women in the top 100 Chief Creative Directors global list from The Drum in 2019. Her team was responsible for bringing home the country’s first Cannes Lions award in 2008 with “Duct Tape” for women’s rights group Gabriela. She recently parted with Dentsu after holding the Chief Creative Officer post of Dentsu APAC for two years.

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