The world’s expectations of digital work have grown exponentially in 2020 and 2021, as we’ve retreated from a pandemic and lived our lives increasingly through screens. As a result, 2020 was a sink or swim moment for many brands to step up and create digital experiences. Those that were made beautifully will be those that the Cannes Lions digital Craft jury, headed up by president Jax Ostle-Evans, managing director at Stink Studios, will award.
LBB’s Alex Reeves sat down with Jax to hear her approach to the category for the two years’ worth of work she’ll be judging.
LBB> After a year and a half of Covid-19, why does the business and creative world need award shows?
Jax> That’s a very important question. The pandemic should have sparked a priority shift and made us re-examine different aspects of our industry to see what we can change for the better, and that includes awards shows. It’s right to look at everything through a new lens after the year we’ve had. But creativity is what is helping businesses and brands survive in this tough climate. Cannes Lions is a celebration of creativity and we need that inspiration more than ever. Awards are an important way to define and promote the greatest work from this period, enabling us to learn from the best. Moreover, the hard work that people put in during such a challenging time deserves to be recognised.
LBB> You’ll be awarding 2020 and 2021 Lions. I know the years are being judged separately, but it must be super-illuminating to see the comparison between pre-Covid and Covid work. I know it’s still in the pre-judging phase, but have you noticed any trends, or has it given you any new perspective on how the industry has changed?
Jax> Not a trend as such, but more a reaction to restrictions and brands responding to people being at home, we can see that there was an influx of work that aimed to help, support and entertain people in their homes, with brands positioning themselves as a companion to consumers, through, for example, using voice recognition to create in-home experiences. It will be fascinating to see how this potentially becomes a trend and how it will continue to impact the relationship between brands and consumers into 2022 and beyond.
LBB> The digital craft category has become even more important in the past years as more of people's experiences have shifted online. How will this play into the work you will be judging and how you'll evaluate it?
Jax> Experience is everything. I will be judging the craft on how it makes me feel, because that is what stays with you and keeps you engaged. The technological innovation behind digital craft should be invisible to the user. Great craft is never clunky or laboured, but invisible and intuitive.
Consumer expectations of digital have grown so much as we’ve immersed ourselves in the virtual world, and the need to invest in digital craft is greater than ever. Get the craft right and the rest will follow.
LBB> The Grand Prix in digital craft went to Carlings' adDRESS The Future' from VIRTUE Copenhagen in 2019. What is it about that campaign that you'll be looking for in work in 2020 and 2021?
Jax> ‘adDRESS The Future’ was an innovative, ambitious campaign driven by an important purpose - sustainability. This year, I want to see big ambitions from the entries. Purpose will be the word that is repeated on a loop this year, but you need to act on that purpose and get others doing the same to give it meaning.
LBB> This has been a year that has seen many businesses in many industries change what they do and how they do it – pivoting into, or significantly upscaling ecommerce, for example. So in some ways, this year’s Cannes Lions is a launchpad for the future. How does that frame how you’ll be looking at the work? Does it give the juries an extra responsibility?
Jax> I think of Cannes Lions as more of a building block than a launch pad – a chance to define the best, analyse the ideas and learn the lessons. There is so much to learn from the dramatic changes that brands, businesses and entire sectors have undergone this year, and the incredible innovation we are seeing as a result. Juries have a responsibility to select the work that teaches and inspires us to do better.
LBB> What’s your favourite example of digital craft of all time?
Jax> I remember The Wilderness Downtown launching and thinking, damn, that's good, it made me cry and it's going to win all the awards, and it did, including the 2011 Cannes Lions Grand Prix. It's a perfect example of hidden technological innovation (11 years ago) allowing the user a seamless, emotional and deeply nostalgic and memorable experience.
LBB> What advice will you be giving the jury?
Jax> Vote with your gut. How you, as an individual, react to and experience the work is all important, so hold on to that. It’s also vital to leave the biases at the door.
Every jury must focus on fairness and allowing everyone an equal voice in the discussions. Thankfully, we’re seeing more diversity in juries – including a slightly heavier female weighting in juries and presidents at Cannes this year – which is changing the entire process for the better.
LBB> Cannes is also a time of celebration. What will you be celebrating this year?
Jax> I’ll not only be celebrating the brands that are doing something different in digital craft and the exceptional artists who created it, but the producers who overcame so much, particularly during lockdown, to deliver the work.
LBB> What do you hope to see at Cannes 2022?
Jax> I’d like to see us give back to the creative talent at those agencies around the world that have not been able to afford to enter their great work in awards shows. It would be wonderful to see our industry coming together to make the pool of creative work that is considered for awards much wider and more diverse. By doing so, we would set the bar for the work we create, and the value we deliver our clients, even higher.
I also really hope to see my wonderful global Stink Studios family who I've not seen for two years and give them loads and loads of cuddles.