Awards and Events in association withCreative Circle

Amani Duncan Wants to Create a Jury Room Where “Everyone Feels Welcome and Respected”

Advertising Agency
New York, USA
Ahead of the Entertainment for Music Cannes Lions category, the CEO of BBH USA speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about wanting to “experience FOMO” for work she didn’t create

A first-time jury president for the Entertainment for Music category at Cannes Lions 2022, CEO at BBH USA, Amani Duncan is ready to see the work that follows last year’s winner, Lil Nas X. Having preciously served on juries, Amani is no stranger to the process behind judging advertising’s most coveted awards, but in her jury room this year, she’s ready to champion inclusivity and respect as she supports her fellow judges.

Amani began working in the recorded music industry straight out of college and she’s ready to feel FOMO, be inspired by work that wasn’t created by her own agency and celebrate all things creative. With this year’s jury taking place in person for the first time since the pandemic, she’s excited to see the face-to-face discussions which will determine this year’s award winners. She says, “I don’t think I’m alone in the excitement around getting back to judging, participating and connecting face-to-face. I believe the industry has done a good job pivoting during the pandemic, but nothing replaces coming together in person.”

LBB’s Nisna Mahtani spoke to Amani about what she’s expecting to see this year.

LBB> For you and your leadership style, in your opinion, what makes a good jury president? And how do you hope to lead the jury room?

Amani> While this is my first opportunity to serve as jury president, I think one of the most important things someone in this position can do is create an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected. We have a big responsibility as the awarded work sets the tone and tenor for the industry in the following years so it is critical that the jury president facilitates stimulating and honest conversations to ensure the best work is represented in the final outcome.

LBB> What is it about the Entertainment for Music category that really excites or interests you?

Amani> I spent a decade working in the recorded music industry. It was my first job out of college. I zagged for decades, holding positions in various industries that all understood the importance of music. The introduction of the Entertainment for Music Lions six years ago was simply confirmation that brands and creators understand how important music integration is when connecting to existing customers and recruiting new ones.

LBB> It’s the first in-person Cannes since the start of the pandemic, a pivotal moment for an industry that’s been massively disrupted - how do you think that’s going to shape your thinking about your category in particular?

Amani> I’m thrilled that my first jury president experience will be in person – and I don’t think I’m alone in the excitement around getting back to judging, participating and connecting face-to-face. I believe the industry has done a good job pivoting during the pandemic, but nothing replaces coming together in person. Also, debating the merits of work takes on new meaning when done in person. The passion someone may feel about a piece of work is hard to truly feel via a computer screen.  

LBB> What are you looking for in a great Entertainment for Music campaign, as compared to other categories?

Amani> The Entertainment for Music Lions is a relatively new category compared to the other Lions categories – it was launched in 2016 – therefore it is still a ‘white space’ compared to the other Lions categories. How music can be used in content continues to evolve and its use is showing up in very interesting ways. I am excited to see how creatives and brands continue to be provocative in this space. I also want to experience FOMO – to see a piece of work that I am jealous that my agency didn’t produce.

The biggest trap I believe is one we can easily fall into – that is to debate between a traditional music video or content with music integrated.

LBB> Two Entertainment Grand Prix for Music were awarded last year - to Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road and GUT Sao Paolo’s Mercado Livre work. How have these winners affected and influenced the category and is there anything about them that you'll be looking for in entries this year?

Amani> I was a juror last year for Entertainment Lions for Music so I remember quite well the healthy conversations about both pieces of work. Many jurors felt it was important to have what I would refer to as a “traditional’ music video as a contender and Lil Nas X was hard to beat because of the undeniable cultural and business performance impact the artist and the song had that year. That set the bar for what’s to come so I hope we will see work that exceeds last year’s Grand Prix.

LBB> The transcendent ‘big’ ideas are relatively easy enough to spot, but some work is smart in a more nuanced way. When you’re leading a jury, how do you give space to these ideas in the jury room?

Amani> Before we step into the jury room, we have established guiding principles and one of those principles is to remain open, thoughtful and curious about the work throughout the process. And it is the role of the president to keep everyone honest about it. You don’t want to be the one that misses the diamond in the rough because you were drawn to the flashing lights.

LBB> How important is the ‘craft’ of the campaigns - compared with other factors such as innovation, purpose, and effectiveness of outcome? What are some of your main criteria when judging and where does ‘the craft’ rank among them, for this category and generally?

Amani> In the famous words of BBH’s co-founder Sir John Hegarty, “All roads lead to the work.” Craft is critically important in the industry and when judging in this category. The importance of craft has been constant in my varied career. When I worked in the record business, I was in video production. We treated music videos like short films with multi-million-dollar budgets. Even when budgets decreased and creators became savvier with producing content, craft was always at the forefront.

When we look at a piece of work, we must ask ourselves many questions, such as 'How is this work creatively leveraged to communicate with consumers?', “What is this work doing for the brand?” and “Is the marriage between the music and the craft successful?'.

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