Being on Cannes jury is no mean task

15 Jun,2012

 

By Tuhina Anand

 

Being on the jury of Cannes Lions means serious business – being shut in a room for endless hours and going through thousands of entries to make a case for the piece you like. Undeniably, despite the work involved, the experience of being a jury at Cannes is a learning experience in many ways.

 

Ryan Menezes

As Ryan Menezes who was invited to be on the Cyber Lions jury in 2011 puts: “I thought, cool, after winning India’s first ever gold lion in 1996, I now get to judge the most cutting edge category of all. I was looking forward to a week of sun, sand and schmoozing. Yeah, right! It was cyber boot camp from start to finish.”

 

Giving a peek into the work, Mr Menezes explained that first there’s a preliminary voting to determine the shortlist, which takes place online. This is even before you set foot in Cannes. He added: “Once you’re there, barely recovered from the seven course welcome dinner, you plunge into this seemingly bottomless pit of entries where you see some of the world’s best work, and some of the world’s best case studies for mediocre work. You quickly learn to check out the work first and skim through the somewhat exaggerated case studies, but with around 500 entries to be judged over 6 days, you’re looking at around 9 hours a day of sitting in front of a computer, with headphones. By the end of the day, you’re too drained to do anything more than crawl back to your fantastic Hollywood themed suite at the Palais Stephanie and pass out.”

 

But wait, there are good parts too: “You get to hobnob with some of the best minds in the world, you get a peek into what’s going to happen in the future in the digital category in India, as we are light years behind. You learn stuff that can help you win pitches when you return (I have used this to great effect in two successful pitches this year) and you learn that craft is not dead, it has been resurrected and is alive and kicking serious butt in cyberspace. You get VIP entrances to the gala functions, reserved seats at the award ceremony, invites to the hottest parties, but you’re too dead so you take off to Paris or Amsterdam or Monte Carlo for some peace and quiet. And to sum up, what made the experience really worthwhile was the flawless orchestration of everything by the organizers from start to finish. And, of course, the jury members were fair – there was no lobbying, no camps and no crab mentality. Just a desire to give great work it’s due. And that’s what makes Cannes, well, Cannes.”

 

Amer Jaleel

Amer Jaleel, NCD, LoweLintas who was invited to judge the Press Lions in 2011 agreed with Mr Menezes. It was his first experience of judging at any festival and after his experience he feels that coming out with great creative work is difficult but judging so many good works is even more difficult: “While people come and congratulate you on being on the jury and then take off to enjoy the French Riviera, you have to get back to some serious work looking at endless entries. However, besides seeing the best works, what I enjoyed was interacting with the mindset behind those works.”

 

“The debating that goes behind each piece of work and when you knock your head against somebody else’s work is the enjoyable part of being on the jury. The questioning, the conviction behind the works helps in validating your beliefs, assurance and creative thinking. It also gives you a peek into human behaviour as you see few pushing for some works with vested interest,” Mr Jaleel added.

 

Shashi Sinha

Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar UM, who judged media Lions in 2008 feels that the experience at Cannes was of superior quality: “The screening process is intense and it’s time consuming. What I remember is that one got to see an amalgamation of digital and activation at Cannes which one is now beginning to see in India. This was four years back!”

 

Being actively involved in the organizing of advertising industry awards in India, Mr Sinha pointed that a large jury at Cannes for each category works in favour of minimizing the biases. He also points that the entire process being digitized adds to making it a tighter procedure of judging.

 

Priti Nair

For the experience of being on the jury, Priti Nair of Curry-Nation who had judged the print category said: “It was a fascinating experience. First and foremost you feel enormously good and they make you feel enormously important as a judge! I was judging print and there were some 7000 entries. You get to meet and interact and have lunch with people whose names you have only read and whose work you have truly admired. What strikes is the smoothness with which the whole thing moves. It is thought through to the last detail in terms of how do you divide, how you score and how you make sure it does not feel unfair. Apart from this, you actually get to see work that you would never ever see anywhere. It is work sent from all over the world.”

 

These could be lessons that Indian awards committee could also emulate here.

 

While everyone praises the well-oiled jury process, the chance to see works from across the world and even interact with great minds in advertising, some are also of the view that being on such a platform makes you realize the drawbacks in Indian advertising and people practicing advertising itself.

 

KV Sridhar

KV Sridhar aka Pops, who was on 2010 Press Lions jury, pointed that the Cannes jury is different from any other international fest as there is representation from different countries. If there are 22 jury members they will be from 22 different countries. He said:, “There would be silent Japanese who will make an apt observation and there will be vocal Indians or South American jury. However, the Indian jury becomes a lone member as representation from South Asia is not so strong. So they fail to gang up and explain the nuances of advertising coming from their part of the world as compared to those from Latin American countries who do make a case of work coming from their part of the world.”

 

He added: “I have seen is that jury members from other countries are well versed with works not just coming from their agency but also from their country. So they really put a strong case for their works. It’s like putting their country first and then the network. One is not saying that be blindly patriotic but one must stand and fight for a good piece of work from their country and explain the various cultural nuances which will help the jury in better understanding of the work. Also, the jury should share their inputs with the industry so that for the next time one is prepared well when sending entries for festivals like Cannes. There should be a platform created to share their learnings.”

 

Pops categorically said that one should be familiar with the works coming from their own country: “Fight for the creative you like, it doesn’t matter which country it belongs to. Double tick if you like a work, as in Cannes if you blink you will miss the entries!  Ensure that the works you like makes to the next level and that will only happen if you fight for that work and lastly be honest to yourself.”

 

Ravi Kiran

Ravi Kiran, who judged the media Lions in 2010, makes a valid point when he says that while Cannes is for celebrating work, there should be focus on learning too. While few make it to Cannes, there should be means to make the entries available to people who work behind these entries, but are not at Cannes. He also noted that when it came to countries, jury came with a certain mindset, like in the case of India one would always look at scale, given its vast population. So anything on a small scale in certain categories where it applies would not impress juries for Indian works: “While we have heard that how you package the work matters at Cannes, I did feel that many entries coming from our country lacked substance. Packaging is important, but you can’t bluff the jury with poor substance in the garb of good packaging. Also there were many videos that went with the entries and I particularly felt that one should ensure that these videos are not too long, as no jury has the patience when going through 70-80 entries. In fact, the videos should be similar to 30 second ads that we make.”

 

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