Cannes Lions 2017: what the judges think

Members of this year's juries discuss the evaluation process, the winners, key themes and their personal favourites.

Grand Prix: Whirlpool ‘Care counts’ by DigitasLBi Chicago


Simon James - global lead, data analytics

Rapidly evolving technology is expanding the possibilities of what marketers can achieve with data. Yet it is often the simple ideas that evoke the biggest response. 

"AiMEN" for Canal+ was probably the most creative use of artificial intelligence and IBM Watson – it was on-brand, salient and applied AI to do things that a human can’t do. For creative teams to adopt data-driven technologies, they need to be exposed to campaigns like this one.

Other gold winners had societal good at their heart and behavioural change on their mind. "Reword" is an anti-bullying browser plug-in. Sberbank turned an outdoor campaign into a market research tool to link small businesses to their communities. "AAMI SmartPlates" helps transform how young people learn to drive.

The Grand Prix winner, "Care counts", was based on a simple yet compelling insight that school attendance is affected by access to clean clothes. Whirlpool didn’t feature this in an ad. It installed its machines in 47 schools and gathered data for a year until it had proof, then told the world about it.

At a time when society is worried about who is gathering data for what purpose, it is vital that brands big and small demonstrate that there is value in data – not just to fill their own pockets but to have a positive impact.

Grand Prix: ‘Innovating saving’ by R/GA New York


Jen Smith - global creative director

Four thousand entries across 37 cate-gories. The big question this year was: what is media?

As judges, we were looking for work that demonstrated: 

• The craft of media planning;

• Insight: understanding how the media channel works with the audience and the brand’s values;

• Media as the idea, not the distribution.

It was for this reason that we awarded the Grand Prix. It was a close decision but, out of all the entries, it demonstrated planning, insight and idea. It involved data, social listening and a breadth of scale, with a result that was genuinely impressive. We concluded that it was an idea we were jealous to have not been part of.

Across the other work, it seems our best is demonstrated when there is a big problem to solve – we were inundated with entries from non-profit organisations, charities and corporate social responsibility. While worthy, it was disappointing not to see similar work from the biggest in our industry – Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson etc.

Telecoms companies did well creatively to showcase their product offering, and there was some great work from Heineken, Netflix and Burger King.

Finally, the big learning is that it is the year of the statue: from Fearless Girl to Graham to breast-feeding mannequins – if you want to make an impact, you must make a "thing".

Grand Prix: State Street Global Advisors ‘Fearless Girl’ by McCann New York


Nilufar Fowler - global client leader

Previous juries for the Glass Lion have spoken about this being the hardest category to judge and, within 15 minutes, I understood why. The range of work was vast, spanning everything from documentary films to art installations to children’s workbooks and beyond. 

Comparing such a diverse body of work felt like an impossible task and choosing a favourite in a category where the work is deeply emotive was tough.

It was very clear that this was a good year for Glass. There was little work that felt like tokenism. When you review the work as a collective, it’s surprisingly easy to see authenticity and commitment to a cause and equally easy to spot "wrapping paper". Such work got very short shrift indeed. 

One disappointment was the lack of work that addressed the issue of men being part of the solution. It was a source of irritation for every juror that a mere handful of entries saw it as men’s responsibility to be accountable for their own actions. And the stats we saw around transgender discrimination, female genital mutilation, domestic violence and rape, for example, made for depressing reading. It is clear that we have a long, long way to go before we are even close to a solution to many of these problems. 

Choosing our winners was tough, but "Fearless Girl" was the right choice. A rare instance when marketing transcends our industry and becomes a cultural phenomenon that will likely outlive every reader of this column – "Fearless Girl" deserves the near-universal recognition it has gained.

Overall, it was a great year with some great work tackling great causes. Is the problem solved? Not even close. But do I feel more positive that we’re on the way? Based on this body of work – hell, yes. Bravo to the brands and organisations that are taking a stand. You are all my heroes. 

Grand Prix: Recruit Lifestyle ‘The family way’ by Dentsu Y&R Tokyo


Karen Boswell - head of innovations
Adam & Eve/DDB

I saw two main themes in the Mobile category. First, as the category suggests in its call for entries, we’re finally starting to get to grips with the fact that "mobile" isn’t just the smart-arm extension of its 2.32 billion global users. We’re moving well beyond a mobile-first world in every market. Second, we’re not just creating amazing content but experiences and services that go beyond the normal utility we have come to expect. 

Standout work expertly exploited a mobile-centric approach in an increasingly fluid set of human-centred design. "Chat yourself", a Facebook chatbot helping people with Alzheimer’s to remember things, left me breathing a sigh of relief. "Google Home of the Whopper" leveraged a clever (if not mildly alarming) convergence of channels executed in an effectively simple way. Other shout-outs: the Gorillaz app launching their new album and "Hungerithm", which nailed an on-trend, end-to-end consumer journey.

I must acknowledge the Grand Prix winner, "The family way" – our only contender as a jury. It leveraged the phone’s most popular asset, the camera, to enable male home fertility testing, tackling both the issue and the taboo surrounding it head-on. 

Biggest disappointment? Not one virtual-reality entry that was true to the immersive capabilities of the medium.

In summary: some truly fantastic work, a brilliant experience but still so much unexplored territory to be ventured into and claimed.


Peter Gatley - creative director 
Grey London

I’ll start by reporting that the trend for submitting press ads as posters is as strong as ever. 

"I really, really like it. But it’s a press ad." 

A simple enough phrase to learn in three languages, if I’m ever invited back. 

I’m pretty sure it was days before I saw a piece of work that resembled an actual poster. 

That said, the winning campaign made up for the wait. 

Gold in every category it was entered, Twitter’s "Reclaim the hashtag" yet again demonstrates that nothing has the ability to shout "ICONIC BRAND" more powerfully than posters that are this good.

But 2017 will obviously be remembered for "Fearless Girl", also a Grand Prix winner.

Moving on from the traditional: "Payphone bank", Colombia; "Meet Graham", Australia; "Boost your voice", US; "Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks", India; "Air-ink", Australia; "The conscious crossing", New Zealand; "Give the rainbow", UK.

Is "doing good" a trend? If yes, this army of excellence is killing it. "Doing well by doing good" is now such a force that it will crush those that do not play a part.

Grand Prix: Transport Accident Commission Victoria ‘Meet Graham’ by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne


Lisa De Bonis - executive digital director
Havas London

We have pored over more than 4,000 pieces of "digital" work. And the recurring debate – often before even discussing whether we loved an idea or not – was whether it was genuinely "cyber".

It quickly became clear that no single definition was going to satisfy a jury as diverse as the ideas it was judging – from branded tech to virtual-reality demos to 360-degree reveals to "content". Which is why, when it came to the Grand Prix, I was glad that we were able to award three.

Our first winner, the Aland Index, measures the true cost of consumption and triggers more responsible behaviour. It was an important reminder that we have a legitimate role to play alongside consultancies in creating real-world solutions, not just advertising them.

Our second award went to multiple Grand Prix winner "Meet Graham" because it was undeniable that big data and technologies such as virtual reality allowed us to gain the superpowers needed to experience the unimaginable.

The final Grand Prix went to MailChimp because it was inspired by pure "cyberness": search typos and subcultures as beautifully random as whale noises and nail art. 

So while Cyber will probably remain the hardest category to define, this experience makes me believe that we’re getting increasingly closer to understanding what it’s truly capable of.


Chris Turner - senior sound designer,
Jungle Studios

The judging process was tough, as was making a shortlist with so many entries. It should be, though, as the awards can transform the fortunes of those involved. 

I was fortunate to serve with 14 other people who not only championed great work but were big-hearted enough to listen to other opinions. 

The category offered a wide variety of work, but there were a couple of common themes. Equal pay for women and lane departure for cars featured prominently.

Unsurprisingly, the strongest category and the longest shortlist was for script. Radio truly is the home of the copywriter.

In the end, South Africa dominated. The scripts were all of a high quality and I was envious of the sound designers working there. "I love radio" is something I hear UK creatives say all the time – and yet our offering here was poor in comparison.

I had my favourites – and I’m pleased that they all won awards. KFC’s "Sad man meal" by Ogilvy & Mather Johan-nesburg, the Grand Prix winner, is exceptional – a great expansion on its win last year. As a jury, we felt a promotion brief rarely got the craft this spot delivered. 

Another standout was "Love song from a murderer". We were unable to award a Grand Prix as it was a non-profit organisation but please listen to it!

Grand Prix: Adidas ‘Original is never finished’ by Johannes Leonardo


Matt Eastwood - global chief creative officer
 J Walter Thompson 

This was my first time judging Entertainment for Music and only the second year of the category at Cannes. In that sense, the category is still evolving. But, over five days, my understanding of the role of artists and composers in the creative process also evolved. We were blessed to have a jury that included mostly artists, composers and music company executives. It was brilliant to see the role of music for brands through their eyes.

Interestingly, we all agreed on a similar principle – the music must serve the brand and the brand must serve the music. Only when those two missions aligned did we truly find magic. One of the biggest decisions we made was not to give two Grands Prix like the jury did last year. Our feeling was that choosing one Grand Prix from the two music video categories and then another from all work across the remaining 22 categories seemed unfair. As one juror said: "The categories are all equal. All of those people who lived or died creating the work deserve the same consideration." 

So, in choosing the Grand Prix, we looked at the award as a whole and eventually chose "Original is never finished" from Adidas. Not only was it an incredibly complex and well- orchestrated campaign with music at its heart, it spoke to the very manta of Cannes – original is never finished. We felt that it perfectly summed up the essence of Entertainment for Music – brand, creativity and with music at the core.

Grand Prix: Channel 4 ‘We’re the superhumans’ by 4Creative


 Adrian Rossi - executive creative director
Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

Is Cannes still relevant or is it just a licence to print money? It has certainly changed.

This year, it is more corporate than ever. One look at La Croisette and you can see it dominated by the tech companies. There are fewer creatives (and even fewer next year, thanks to Publicis). 

It is less a festival of creativity now and more a corporate networking event. 

One of the most significant changes is the explosion of categories (that’s loads more money into the Cannes coffers). Getting a gold 15 years ago in the south of France ordained you as a prince or princess; a Grand Prix and you were a frigging king or queen to be triumphantly carried around the agency on the executive creative director’s shoulders. 

This year, winning the big prizes is ridiculously difficult. But data (jeez, a creative uttering that word) would suggest it was much, much harder in the past. 

Every year, there are the bear-trap trends that catch people out. Films that fell into this were manifesto mood films masquerading as ads. "Real people" in deep, meaningful situations. Brands tackling social issues became so last year. 

The winners stood out as they had exceptional craft (remember that oft-forgotten thing?) and, of course, fantastic ideas that created an emotional reaction. Yes, a lot has changed, but the Grand Prix winner, "We’re the superhumans", would stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of all time.

The answer to that first question is yes (just) and yes (buy shares in it).

Grand Prix: Burger King ‘Burning stores’ by David Miami


 Daniel Fisher - executive creative director
The Martin Agency London

Three thousand, one hundred and twenty. That’s the number of pieces of print work that awaited us on the morning of our first judging session.

It may be a category with dwindling entries but that’s still a shitload of print work to go through, especially as many of them had case studies and we only had four days to reduce that number to a handful of golds and one big, shiny Grand Prix.

Ours was a small jury, and there was a collective desire to champion work that was reinventing the category in an age of "if it didn’t happen on Instagram, it didn’t happen", as our president, Fran Luckin, said in her opening talk.

So did we find "the future"? I’m not sure we can say that, but we did see some brilliant work. And, after hours of debating, we gave the Grand Prix to Burger King "Burning stores", which we rewarded not just for its bravery but for the fact that it was a print campaign that managed to generate a million conversations. No easy task, that. And all around an idea that came straight from the brand’s core proposition.

One last thing worth mentioning. This was my first time judging at Cannes and it was a real eye-opener into how tough those jury rooms are. Just getting a shortlist is an achievement. So if you got that far, here’s a hearty pat on the back from me.

Grand Prix: Art Institute of Chicago ‘Van Gogh’s bedrooms: let yourself in’ by Leo Burnett Chicago


Fernando Machad - head of brand marketing,
Burger King

It was a really exciting experience to participate in the Creative Effectiveness jury this year. The calibre of the jurors was incredibly high. They were very diverse in background, ethnicity and gender, and came from both agencies and brands.

All the entries were strong as one of the criteria in this category is to achieve at least a shortlist at Cannes Lions 2016. That is a great filter that guarantees we are only judging campaigns that stood out when it comes to creative.

We ended up awarding five golds and one Grand Prix. The golds were all incredibly strong cases, such as "Share the load", "Bajaj" and "Manboobs4boobs" (the last campaign won in the "for good" category so was not eligible for the Grand Prix). 

In the end, "Van Gogh’s bedrooms: let yourself in", "McWhopper" and "The Swedish number" ended up fighting for the Grand Prix. To be honest, any of these pieces could have won. But we decided to award the prize to the idea/campaign that managed to create a massive business and brand impact: "Van Gogh’s bedrooms". An idea that was executed in one location with a relatively small budget but created a wave of talkability everywhere, leading to solid and lasting business results. 

Integrated Grand Prix: Boost Mobile ‘Boost your voice’ by 180 Los Angeles


Kate Stanners -  chairwoman and global chief creative officer
Saatchi & Saatchi

This year, the Titanium and Integrated categories were separated but judged by the same jury. With its first-ever 50/50 gender split, it resulted in a different conversation in the jury room.

 Titanium is a tricky one – much of the work is there because it is uncategorisable, which makes for an eclectic body of work. So you ask yourself: is this a game-changer?

To make the shortlist is an incre-dible achievement. I was sent out of the room as Deutsche Telekom "Magenta" by Saatchi & Saatchi was discussed. The Channel 4 campaign was also hotly debated. Both sat on top of the contenders list for the whole discussion, only to miss out on one of only four awards to be handed out.

 With much heartfelt discussion, we selected the four pieces because of their impact. Kenzo found its way in because of the impact on the beauty category and how it spoke to women in a way that they haven’t been spoken to before – a liberated, expressive and powerful inner voice. "Fearless Girl" won the Grand Prix because its impact is undeniable.

 Integrated was tough because there was so much amazing work. Ultimately, the Boost Mobile campaign won the Grand Prix. It blurred the lines of media channels, knew its audience and spoke to them, and changed how the US votes forever.

 In these categories, the colour of the metal does not always do the work justice. The shortlists are definitely worth a peek.

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