LBB> How are you preparing yourself for your stint in the jury room at Cannes?
ME> Number one is being familiar with the work. Before we even set foot in the jury room, it’s important to know the work being submitted to the festival — the themes emerging, the types of ideas we’re seeing across the industry. It begins to set the stage for our formal judging process.
In the room, judges only see about a quarter of the initial round of entries, so being tuned into the work and press coverage before Cannes is very important.
With judging, awards, colleagues, clients, events and more in the mix, it’s an understatement to call Cannes a busy week, so without a doubt mental preparation for the long week is key!
LBB> What words of advice will you be giving to your jury?
ME> Any great idea — a winning idea — should stir a bit of envy. In our industry, sometimes the most flattering response to work can be: I wish I made that. So I always say, be hard on the work, but good to the people. When you’re in the jury room, it’s the time to be fair and respectful of each other’s ideas, because there’s hard work and passion behind every idea.
Every year our industry gets more exciting. There’s more innovation. More technological advancements. More channels. More boundary-pushing ideas. But one thing remains the same: people.
At the end of the day, people will always want the same thing. They want to be moved. I want the jury to ignore the technology, ignore the trends. I want them to look for ideas strong in human insight — that touch people in extraordinary ways. Ideas that appeal not just to their heads, but to their hearts.
LBB> The transcendent big ideas are relatively easy to spot, but some work is smart in a more nuanced way — for example, work that plays on the subtleties of a particular culture (the challenges of writing copy in Chinese might be different from writing in English or French). When you’re leading a jury, how do you give space to these ideas in the jury room?
ME> Consideration for culture and context is incredibly important. At J. Walter Thompson we have the Global Creative Council, which is made up of our creative leads from every region. We meet for a quarterly Creative Challenge to review work from across our network.
One lesson from these regular meetings is the value of cultural context — it’s important to allow someone from the culture to speak up and explain why an idea is relevant. Something that may resonate with me as an Australian may not come across the same way to another judge. Case studies walk a delicate line of expressing a sort of universal truth that transcends language, while taking care to explain the unique cultural context and strategy.
Some of the most important ideas are those that can relate intimately to a culture. Fakka, a campaign from Vodafone and J. Walter Thompson Cairo, is a great example of that. Fakka, the Egyptian word for “small change,” leveraged the cultural insight that it is common practice for local shopkeepers to substitute low-value items for a customer’s change. We created a “new currency” by offering micro-recharge cards in more than 46,000 small shops throughout the country, resulting in an incredibly successful campaign. Revenues exceeded the client’s original target by 510 per cent. Without this cultural background, the innovation and value of this idea might be difficult for someone from, say, New York or London to understand.
LBB> Promo & Activation is an interesting category in that there’s a real immediacy in it, since it’s all about on-the-spot decision making. How important is it to put yourself in the shoes of the consumer when judging the impact of this kind of work —how do you do that in the jury room?
ME> Promo & Activation represents the sharp end of what we do as an industry, and it can set the tone for awards to come later in the week. In the jury room we’re not just looking to award work that engages consumers, we also want to see how that work has achieved measurable results. Did the work inspire consumers to DO something?
In many ways, this is one of the most results-driven categories because it demands clear demonstration of its results and effectiveness to really make the case for being an award-worthy piece of work. We’re really assessing on the combination of intelligent strategy and powerful execution.
I’m also focused on encouraging the jury to look beyond this. Bill Bernbach once said, “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”
The Promo & Activation jury will be looking for work that works. But, more importantly, we’ll be looking for work that in some way lifts creativity and, indeed, society to a higher plane. We have to tap into consumer emotions and experiences to solve real problems.
LBB> Obviously you’re going to spend a lot of Cannes 2015 locked inside for jury deliberations…but is there any event or talk that you’re hoping to catch while you’re there?
ME> Yes, I am thrilled to be hosting our seminar! I am sitting down to have a one-on-one conversation with famed Hollywood producer Brian Grazer about his new book A Curious Mind, a personal account of how his enthusiasm to talk to anyone and everyone — from spies to artists to CEOs — has inspired his creativity and career.
I have always been guided by curiosity throughout my career, so this topic is of particular significance to me personally, and is one of the guiding pillars of our agency.
LBB> What do you think the big talking point (aside from the awards!) is likely to be at Cannes this year?
ME> Cannes’ new categories: the Glass Lion and the Data category are going to be game changers for the festival, and touch on two big themes this year.
Our very own Tista Sen will be representing on the Glass Lion jury. The issue of gender representation is something the industry at large has been working actively to correct, and it is important to recognize how the power of creativity can drive positive change.
We’ve also seen the growing role of data and insights in brand strategy. As technology continues to advance, we have an opportunity to leverage data as a powerful creative partner. Customers are demanding more personalized, more relevant and more sophisticated levels of engagement from brands.
Data will never replace human insight, but it can help us understand people in better ways. In the end, people want ideas that move them in profoundly new ways.
LBB> What’s your favorite spot in Cannes?
ME> Moulin de Mougin – It’s a little out of Cannes, but it’s one of my favorite restaurants in the world.