Jen Smith in the judging room

This was my first time as a judge at Cannes, and the first-time visiting Cannes at all.

It was a lesson in utter endurance, so stimulating, interesting, thought-provoking and exhausting!

While I have never been to Cannes before I have followed the work closely, and I would argue that this year’s entries into the Media Lions category would not be seen as a ‘bumper crop’, but rather a reflection of where we are as an industry right now and where our energy has been focused.

There were over 4,000 entries into the media category alone – across 37 different sub-categories. On the same day the Media Lions were awarded we also saw Design & Product Design Lions awarded; and I think it is telling that the Grand Prix of both those categories were also entries into the Media category.

It meant we spent a long time as a jury team debating what is media? And what were the criteria that we as a collective team would judge against? Because if a product design can also be an entry into the media category how were we to compare such a diverse range of entries?

Collectively we agreed that we were looking for work that fulfilled one of three things:

  1. Work that demonstrated an understanding of the craft of media planning – would this work be possible without having a person with knowledge of media, feed into the execution?
  2. Work that demonstrated a media insight: understanding how the media channel works in relationship with an audience, and the brand’s values – and it could be clearly seen in the execution delivered.
  3. Media as the idea not just the distribution mechanism.

Around this we were looking for a demonstration of the use of data, technology, scale, tangible results and a creative angle that made us all drown in jealously that we had not been part of the campaign.

As of themes from 2017, it seems that our best creative work is demonstrated when there is a big juicy problem to solve and we were inundated with entries from NGOs, charity and CSR campaigns. While this is worthy and a great demonstration of what can be achieved, I was disappointed not to see a similar level of work from the biggest investors into our industry.

The telcos did well in creativity that really showcased their product offering, and some consistent great work came from Heineken, Netflix and Burger King.

Finally, the big learning from this year’s Cannes is that it is the year of a statue: from Fearless girl, to Graham or breast feeding mannequins – it seems if you want to make an impact you must make a ‘thing’.