What’s it really like to be a Cannes Media Lions judge?

Lindsay Pattison, WW CEO Maxus on being in the judging room.

Being asked to judge the Cannes Media Lions is an honour but also a high-pressured and labour intensive prospect. Judging involves long hours, fierce debate, intense scrutiny of work and difficult choices – all set in a windowless basement.

So that’s my ‘poor me’ explanation for being in Cannes – did it work?! It is of course also great fun, and I was delighted to be involved as a jury member in 2015, five years on from the last time I swore never to do it again! But 2015 is the year that Cannes put diversity firmly on the agenda; far more female panels list and jury members and the first Glass Lions – introduced to champion great work that challenges gender inequality.

Shattering my first judging preconception, this year we were judging from a room with an actual sea view. So we can at least see the sunny Cote D’Azur while reviewing Cannes entries! We were grouped in different judging teams each day – so a great opportunity to meet diverse minds from other OPCos and markets – and presided over by Nick Emery, a chair full of wit, integrity and intense time discipline…(€10 please Nick).So, on to the work. This year we saw 3,100 media entries, 80% of which were from creative agencies, so not a flying start for media agency representation. We are improving at crafting films that explain and celebrate our work but you can spot ‘ours’ vs ‘theirs’. Plus, the creative submissions are easy to spot as they include very little on media itself.

My greatest bug bear was the use of grandiose over claims. We saw an overwhelming amount of ‘first’s’ and ‘most ever’s’ (and my pet hate, exaggerated used of underlined ‘the’) and far too little in the way of actual results. During the first two long days of judging I saw just one ROI. There is so much that we can – and should – now measure in media that there is no excuse to omit this.

The biggest debate was always along the lines of: “Is it media, is it creative, was it the client, is it just a product innovation?” But the blurring will only get more intense, so we just have to make the entries more bespoke to the category and clearly define what constitutes a worthy media winner.

Challenges with category definition and the bleeding of creative, media and PR highlighted how our industry is transforming; I think Cannes will need to rethink its categories moving forward or be more precise in judging criteria.

I leave Cannes inspired and exhausted by the sheer volume of work I’ve absorbed and the duty of doing due diligence to each piece. Each judging decision requires a considered balance of heart vs head and you definitely feel the weight of responsibility. Nick implored us to judge winners that we can all feel proud of.

As the results are now revealed everyone reading this will have their own view, but I hope we all enjoy reviewing the winning work and remember, next year it could be any one of us.

This was first featured on the Campaign Cannes blog >

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