Cannes Social & Influencer Lions judging was an onerous but rewarding experience


The diversity of work in this inaugural category made judging the winners challenging, says Anthony Svirskis, the chief executive of Tribe.

Being presented with a new category at Cannes has been an enlightening, edifying experience, fraught with emotion. It wasn’t plain sailing. Judging the inaugural Social & Influencer Lions came with its challenges, the biggest of which was the fact it had never been done before. We essentially had carte blanche to determine the criteria for winning submissions.

This was all the more onerous due to the heterogeneity of the submissions. Social & Influencer incorporates such a diverse body of work that standardising scoring – establishing best practice – involved some serious reverse engineering of each entry.

I’ll use three Lions-winning submissions to explain what I mean. The first was Audi and Candide’s Ski the World. It was a video designed for social, sharing and commenting. Some 800,000 people shared it, which for a fairly niche campaign, were amazing numbers.

The brilliance of creative video placed in a social channel isn’t necessarily enough to win, though. On this occasion it clearly was. But the social medium is so much more diverse than video.

One of the Gold winners was Ogilvy, working for Greenpeace. It recreated the Bialowieza Forest, located in Poland and Belarus, in a Minecraft environment. Players explored the map, but on the day of the campaign launch, Greenpeace chopped down every tree bar one as a comment on, and stand against, deforestation. It is so utterly different from a video. There were so many different definitions of brilliance.

The key here was looking at engagement in these new environments, the outcome of the campaign, and the creative rigour involved. We were judging insight and creative brilliance. We kept having to remind ourselves of that.

The third example I’ll use is from South African agency King James, on behalf of a large financial services company, Sanlam. The agency created a drama show for WhatsApp to sell funeral insurance. Some 93% of viewers stayed engaged to the end of the story over seven days, and sales increased. It was genius, but the niche audience meant limited exposure.

You’ve got to recognise the brilliance relative to scale. Many submissions broke amazing new ground, but were only exposed to a few. If, like the soap opera, that was what was intended, then mission accomplished. 

We were lucky to have some of the world’s best creatives as part of the jury. Their discerning eye helped to cut through the noise. They asked: If this work was the best thing I ever produced in my life, would I consider my career successful?  That’s a really phenomenal, subjective way to view it. But when you’re looking for the best work in the world, these are the tough sorts of questions you have to ask.

Anthony Svirskis is the chief executive of Tribe and a member of the inaugural jury for Social & Influencer at Cannes  

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