VMLY&R associate creative director Dhruv Warrior was one of the online jury members on the Direct judging panel. He reveals what he learned from his time behind the scenes and on the ground in Cannes
I have dreamed of going to Cannes for more than a decade and, now that it’s happened, I’ve come back with some amazing memories and experiences. Most importantly, I learned a lot of new things. It was a rare opportunity to attend some incredible talks, meet amazing people and see what’s leading the way in advertising and everything connected to it.
I was part of the online jury for the Direct category. Before we actually begin judging and are given access to the entry database, Cannes shares a video guiding us on the judging and scoring process, how long you should spend on each entry and other things to keep in mind to ensure the you are judging fairly. The jury president also shares a message to guide us on what we should be looking for in each case video and what criteria make an idea stand out.
Nicky Bullard, our jury president set some very clear guidelines for a category that is not easy to judge, and it was definitely helpful.
I think the direct category is pretty challenging to judge, because technically any and all work can be considered direct. So, the real challenge is identifying the ‘directness’ of the idea and whether it truly fits in the category. One of the key guidelines we were given as a jury was to pay attention to the results each idea had. This played an important part in my judging. I found myself doing a lot of research into each case to ensure I was giving every entry a fair shot. To be honest, the Direct category is a tricky one, so it was a great experience for me. It tested the limits of what used to be considered a traditional awards category.
The good thing is that I got to see everything from furniture design to micro audience targeting on Instagram. One of the things that has stuck with me this year are amazing ideas and innovations that don’t clearly highlight the agency. I’ve seen case videos that focus on brilliant designs and tech developments that just left me wondering what the agency actually did. Should those ideas then be awarded because the idea was amazing? Or do we just cut them from even making the shortlist altogether because the agency didn’t have a clear role? Those were tough decisions to make. And definitely something to keep in mind for all future case videos: Make the agency’s role clear.
The results from the second round of judging at the Cannes Lions threw out plenty of surprises. Not just in Direct but across all categories. The juries were tough this year and awards were hard to come by. I met plenty of people who were almost in a state of shock at the results. In some cases, rightly so. But no one ever said it was easy to win at Cannes. It never has been, and it never will be. It just so happened that this year was one of the tougher years to win a Lion. Plenty of pieces that were expected to win and pick up metal didn’t. The expected big winners did make their mark, but Lions and even shortlists were hard to come by. This year the agency of the year won with 68 pieces of metal. Compare that with last year’s winner, who had more than a hundred, and you get a clear picture of how difficult it was to win this year.
Still, we’ve been lucky this year to have a few outstanding pieces like Nike’s work with Colin Kaepernick and the Dream Crazy campaign (pictured) and The Whopper Detour, which defied the social good trend and won big for FMCGs.
There was a very clear trend this year, and that was around social good and issues affecting our society. It was a ‘Cannes for Change’ and the message for brands is loud and clear: People want their brands to have a purpose, to stand for something, to do good for our world and society. It’s a message worth paying attention to.
I’d like to leave you with one of my favourite moments from the awards. It was when Eldar Yusupov, took the stage to receive one of his many awards for ‘ThisAbles’ – a Health Grand Prix winner this year. The writer, ideator and star of the film and case video suffers from cerebral palsy, but he didn’t let that get in his way to winning. On stage he pulled open his blazer to reveal a message on his T-shirt: “Never Give Up”. Not a single person was sitting. Almost all of us had tears in our eyes.
So if you want a standing ovation, never give up.