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Mariana O’Kelly Is Looking Forward to Work That Causes Envy and The Buzz of an In-Person Cannes

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Ogilvy’s global executive creative director and jury president of the Radio & Audio Lions tells LBB’s Ben Conway about preparing for the jury room, falling in love with audio and why “a great idea is always king”

Mariana O’Kelly Is Looking Forward to Work That Causes Envy and The Buzz of an In-Person Cannes


“A Grand Prix for me is the piece of work that usually ends all debate. The piece that causes no questions or frowns or division in a very diverse jury with mixed skillsets. It’s the idea every single person in the room wishes they’d done.”

Mariana O’Kelly, global executive creative director at Ogilvy is anticipating quite a serious selection of work at this year’s Cannes festival - work that aims to “affect change in society” but has a great idea at its core. Speaking to LBB’s Ben Conway, the jury president for the Radio & Audio Lions shares her criteria for Grand Prix-worthy work and the reasoning behind why ‘craft’ is held so highly in the category, as well as discussing how she will create a space for the jurors to have a voice and understand the nuances of each piece.

Her advice for other jurors and presidents? Bring a jumper with you and leave your prejudices behind. 



LBB> How are you preparing for the jury room this year?


Mariana> Well, I know it's freezing cold in those jury rooms, so I’m taking a sweater together with a good dose of open-mindedness.



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?


Mariana> Every jury is made up of smart, strategic, creative and diverse people. They are all there for a reason. I’d love for everyone to have a voice in the room and bring their best authentic non-political selves to every discussion. It’s my role to create that space so we can curate the best of the best.



LBB> What is it about the Radio & Audio category that really excites or interests you? And what are you looking for?


Mariana> I am an art director by trade who fell in love with audio a few years back. Why? Because great radio and audio has the power to show me a picture in my mind no Hollywood production budget can match. Something so powerful and unique, I would never be able to art direct it. So I guess you could say that I see sound.

A great idea is always king. Yes, we have a list of criteria we are using this year, but I think it all falls away in the presence of a great idea. It’s like you don’t have to think about anything, it’s just there, presenting itself as an undeniably great piece of work.



LBB> And what are the current big debates within that specific category - or more generally across the industry - that you expect to see coming through in the judging?


Mariana> Within our category there is lots of work that wants to affect change in society. Innovative ways to turn audio into a cause for good. Work that makes you think, not laugh out loud. So I am expecting quite a serious year.



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? 


Mariana> It’s always better to feel creativity versus talking about it. I think the buzz of Cannes and the actual real presence of so many amazing minds will bring a fresh perspective to discussions.



LBB> What are the traps or pitfalls that Radio & Audio campaigns often fall into that you'll be wary of in your deliberations? And what takes a piece of work to that next ‘Grand Prix’ level?


Mariana> I have seen a lot of work where a song is used to solve a problem. If a song is used, it needs to be the execution of a great idea. It cannot be the idea itself, otherwise it will disappear in a sea of tunes out there. A Grand Prix for me is the piece of work that usually ends all debate. The piece that causes no questions or frowns or division in a very diverse jury with mixed skillsets. It’s the idea every single person in the room wishes they’d done. 



LBB> The Radio & Audio Grand Prix was awarded to Area 23’s ‘SICK BEATS’ campaign last year. How has this affected and influenced the category and is there anything about this winner that you'll be looking for in entries this year?


Mariana> It was a big idea that used music in the execution of it. It wasn’t just a song. The song served a very specific purpose. And even though it crossed over into Health & Wellness and Technology, it used audio at the heart of the idea.



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?


Mariana> The better the writeups to entries that are nuanced, the easier it is to understand the cultural relevance. Some entries do a better job with that than others and make the process of judging it a pleasure. I always urge the jury to read the writeups and ask if they don’t understand the context.



LBB> What are some of your main criteria when judging and where does ‘craft’ rank among them?


Mariana> In the Radio & Audio category, it’s all about the craft of the execution. Some things we will be looking for: Is it immaculately executed? How it’s coming to life – the craft, the effort, the love put in. Casting – is it the perfect voice for the spot?  Is the Audio Immersive? Does it have great sound design? Is it simply beautifully written? What is the emotion it evokes, does it make me feel something?



LBB> Outside of the jury room, what do you think will be the big talking points of Cannes 2022?


Mariana> I think it will be a little more organic this year. As nobody has seen each other in real life in three years, there will be a lot of catch-ups on life, health and happiness in general. That’s certainly the part I’m most looking forward to. 


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Ogilvy North America, Fri, 17 Jun 2022 15:48:00 GMT