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Insights from inside the jury room

by Ted Lim, Chief Creative Officer, Dentsu Asia-Pacific and Cannes Direct Lions 2017 Jury President

CANNES – People don’t buy ads. People buy relevance.

The digitally-driven marketing landscape is more fragmented than ever. At the same time, the digitally-enabled consumer is more addressable than before. Getting the right message to the right people at the right place and the right time is critical. One size doesn’t fit all anymore.


Now more than ever, marketing needs solutions to cut through the clutter of consumers, channels, content and commoditization. Innovative business solutions that are more relevant and personalized to make the human connection required for business transaction.

Direct marketing is all about relevance. The Cannes Direct Lions received 2,688 entries from 76 countries this year. Just over 12% made the shortlist that a jury of 10 creative directors from the USA, England, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Asia scrutinized over four long days in Cannes.

The Cannes Direct Lions Jury (from left to right) : Brigid Alkema, ECD, Clemenger BBDO New Zealand, Diana Sukopp, Creative Group Head, Grabarz & Partner Germany, Moacyr Netto, ECD, W3haus Brazil, Jason Williams, CCO, Leo Burnett Australia, Nerea Cierco, CD, DDB Spain, Xavier Beauregard, CCO, Les Gaulois France, Rob Doubal, CCO, McCann London, Ted Lim, CCO, Dentsu Asia-Pacific, Sarah Barclay, ECD JWT Global, Joaquin Cubria, ECD, DAVID Argentina.

The jury was one of the strongest I’ve been locked in a room with. One juror was responsible for “Survival Billboard.” Another was behind “Nazis against Nazis.” Some of the brightest minds in our business today. Strategic and creative. Thoughtful, insightful, critical, and opinionated.

We looked for work that targeted a specific audience. We looked for a clearly defined call to action. We looked for measurable response. We looked for meaningful results. Above all, we looked for innovative business solutions that broke the mould. Was the solution different? Did it make a difference? Did it move people? Did it move business? The Direct Lion contenders had to do all these and more.

Compared to the Cannes Titanium and Integrated Lions that I had the privilege to judge last year, the Direct Lions was much harder work. We weren’t just evaluating ideas. We had to pore over the numbers. Fortunately, our juror from Hamburg was living testimony of German precision. She made sure the numbers added up.

The jury was incisive and decisive. We chugged along for four days, recognizing and awarding deserving pieces of work until we hit the final lap. We were divided over the Direct Grand Prix, split over two pieces of work that we loved equally and fought passionately for till our pizza got cold and the beer got warm.

Our two favourite pieces of work, “Fearless Girl” and “Google Home Of The Whopper” were innovative business solutions that transcended categories and redefined direct marketing. Both demonstrated brave strategy and fresh creative thinking. Both broke the mold. They were direct in indirect ways.

“Fearless Girl” was more than an outdoor installation on Wall Street. It was a cleverly conceived PR statement designed to spark social discussion on the subject of gender equality. Made for State Street Global Advisors, it aimed to encourage more companies to put women in leadership.

“Google Home Of The Whopper” was a TV ad designed to talk not to the viewer, but an unsuspecting audience in American homes – Google Home. It hacked the voice-activated device and resulted in hilarious outcomes that caught public and media attention. It didn’t take long for Google to step in and stop Google Home from responding to the cunning TV ad.

After five rounds of debate and voting, the scale tipped in favor of what the majority felt was the braver piece of work. Bold as she was, “Fearless Girl” and the subject of gender equality had public opinion and momentum on its side. Not even the most chauvinistic banker would dare challenge the presence of “Fearless Girl” on Wall Street. Social media would have lynched him.

“Google Home of the Whopper” on the other hand, invaded people’s homes in the most unexpected way. Outrageous and outstanding, one juror called it “the best abuse of technology”. It was intrusive direct marketing. “Google Home of the Whopper” took home the Direct Grand Prix by a hairline margin, beating out “Fearless Girl” that had already won the Outdoor, PR and Glass Grand Prix and went on to take the well-deserved Titanium Grand Prix.

Both pieces of work showed how far the industry formerly known as advertising has come. CEOs and CMOs are looking for innovative business solutions to win in the digital economy. The solution may or may not be an ad. It may or may not involve crunching a zettabyte of data. Sometimes it takes intuition, a bit of courage and a big leap of faith.

Cliché as it may sound, the future belongs to the brave.

Click here for an interview with Ted Lim also conducted at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2017.

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