The bullet had a heft to it that left no doubt to its authenticity. The note that accompanied it, from our jury president, Alexander Schill, reminded me why I was spending two weeks in the south of France: to sift through nearly two thousand global entries in the Direct category and find those precious few that were original, innovative, daring, and that struck me in the heart. Instantly, I got chills.
For the next five days, I would remain holed up in a large room of the Palais du Festival, with 24 fellow jury members from around the globe. Few of us knew each other when we began, but by the end of the week, we had formed a lasting bond.
The Cannes definition of direct marketing is “work that is designed with the intention of entering a dialogue with a customer and to generate a response while building and prolonging a relationship.” Seemed simple enough. But it wasn’t. Before us lay more than 1,800 entries (the most ever in the Direct category) in media channels like flat mail, ecommerce, mobile marketing, and integrated campaigns as well as industry categories like financial services and fast moving consumer goods. And what quickly became apparent to me is how the lines are blurring between the various marketing channels. What is clearly direct can often simultaneously be PR or Promotion or Integrated. And that observation proved itself out as the days went on. More on that later.
To get through those entries, we were split into groups of 5, which rotated daily and tackled different categories, with the goal of culling the list down to roughly 200 contenders (10%). We were voting on a scale of 1-9 across creativity, strategy, execution and results. Here you’re voting by gut. What grabbed you quickly? Was the idea evident and original? Was the strategy interesting and appropriate for the challenge? Was the execution well crafted? Were the results meaningful? Every entry had a submission board and write-up, and most had a 3-minute case study video. Talking in our sub-groups but voting as individuals, it didn’t take long to find your favorites. By the end of day 3, 205 pieces made our preliminary short list. Then the fun really began.
On day 4, we removed our judges’ hats and put on our creative directors’ hats. Imagine, 25 very senior, very opinionated creative leaders arguing for what they think was worthy versus ordinary. We sparred and defended, questioned and challenged. And though we didn’t finish until 11PM, you couldn’t help leaving the room that night feeling completely jazzed.
Day 5 brought the final day for our jury; medal day. We voted category-by-category, by a show of hands, for what we believed should receive Gold, Silver or Bronze. You needed 16 or more votes to receive a medal, and not every category saw one. In all, only 3% of entries received medals. They say that to make the short list at Cannes is a tremendous accomplishment. I can tell you from not only winning one, but now from judging, that they are absolutely right.
As I said earlier, the marketing lines are blurring. On the same night our Direct Jury bestowed a Grand Prix on an amazing campaign from Romania, the Promo and Activation Jury awarded the very same campaign their Grand Prix. Two best in shows from two wildly different juries judging two very different categories clearly shows things are changing.
All in all, judging Cannes was a career-affirming, mind shifting experience. I left feeling completely invigorated and hopeful about the future and how Rosetta will help influence it. It was, in the end, like a bullet to the heart.
The full list of the winners and short list is up at canneslions.com and below is the Grand Prix winner campaign entry.