Judging the PR Lions at Cannes: Day 4

Today we finally got down to the best part of the competition. We combined with all judges and Jury President Lord Tim Bell, to view the better entries from our previous voting. In all, we had 49 to discuss and debate. And debate we did! No shouting nor object throwing -- but certainly lots of laughs.

By now, we knew the basic positions of each jury member. To name a few: Jimmy Tay (CEO of Southeast Asia, H&K, Singapore) talks softly, but with deep insights; Penny Furniss (Founder and Creative Director of Sputnik, London) is snappy, funny and very direct; Bjorn Mellstrand (Managing Director from JMW Kommunikation, Sweden) sharp, in your face, vacillating from “boring” to “brilliant” as he swiftly assessed campaigns; and myself (always looking for the authentic insight related to a social issue). Then of course, there was “The Lord,” “Oh Lord,” “Praise the Lord” or “M’Lord,” as we kidded, Jury President Lord Tim Bell.

Debate. Debate. Debate. Often we had to ask for clarification regarding special cultural nuances for campaigns. The Japanese entries were especially different – I liked them a lot – but they have a very different flavor, some parts very campy, others poignant. At times we were extremely split as to their merit.

Today, as a group, we were exposed to many hometown phrases: “Looks bonkers to me,” “They managed to market themselves without looking like a tosspot,” “The link is so f…ing obvious. It’s solid,” and “Goes beyond the superficial to my heart.”

We had a few ad campaigns that sought PR, meaning publicity, for the efforts. One effort must have been created by “a group of advertising lads sitting around a table.” It was criticized strongly as Fake. Fake. Fake.

At the end of a very long day, we agreed on the shortlist. Each campaign will win either a PR Lion or a certificate. We will make those decisions tomorrow.

Frankly, I was quite pleased that so many of my favorites made the finals. Prior to the judging, I wondered how my U.S. lens would play out on the world stage of Cannes. What did excellence in strategy, creative and execution look like around the world? Did we as professionals have vastly different criteria for excellence? What did great work really look and feel like? Was publicity the goal or were there other measures? Thankfully publicity was not the goal and all of us agreed that measure for results was not THE factor in great campaigns. Great campaigns had genuine engagement. They inspired. They were real. They went beyond the superficial, often to the heart. And some were even funny.

So today was highly rewarding, as we jelled as a team to pick the very best work for tomorrow’s final award placings.

After the late finish, off to freshen up, tweet a few thoughts. Then I joined my two U.S. colleagues, Mary Lee Sachs, US Chairman and Worldwide Director Marketing Communications for H & K and Nancy Seliger, President Eastern Region, Senior Partner Fleishman-Hillard and the folks from USA Today for dinner at Café Felix. There we joined judges from the Promotion jury. Poor souls. They had more than 1100 entries to review. Yikes.

Promotion Jury President Bill Rosen, (President, Chief Creative Officer of Arc Worldwide), joined us. Amazing that he still looked fresh despite working more than 10–12 hour days. We talked about ideas and their role in our respective businesses. “The best work in the world blurs the lines…People don’t live in a channel. We all need ideas that activate people.”

I heartily agree.

Off to bed now. Need to rest up for the final judging tomorrow…and some brushing up for my speech on Monday.


- Carol Cone