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Guest Column: Inside the jury room and how to win at Cannes: Shailja Varghese, Brand New Media

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Guest Column: Inside the jury room and how to win at Cannes: Shailja Varghese, Brand New Media

In my previous article “How content can become culture” I had mentioned how judging Cannes Lions Entertainment category has been one of the most creatively invigorating experiences of my life and thanks to the best in creed jury members from across the world including diverse agencies and content production teams J. Walter Thompson, M&C Saatchi Sports & Entertainment, CAA Marketing, PepsiCo, FUSE, Octagon, BBDO, Havas Sports & Entertainment, BBH, GroupM, MSL Group, Ant Farm, twofifteenmccann, 72&Sunny, Ogilvy & Mather, Netflix, Brand New Media, Fremantle Media, WME / IMG.

I can’t thank this group of jury members and organisers enough for the learnings, laughter, tears, and smiles, memories that will last for a long time.

The decision to take up an additional responsibility of judging the Lions Entertainment category didn’t come instantly and it requires convincing and juggling your physical world; from the 2 months prep to one week at Cannes. However, pep talk with one of the judges from last year and chat with family and bosses at work, helped me in accepting the opportunity.

I must warn the future jury, the ones who survive the overload of pre-judging phase, will be the ones who have the passion, love and determination to be honest and just in evaluating thousands of entries in the judging week. Surprisingly, pre judging was easy for me, thanks to my past experience at Cannes, which is a familiar territory as I have been there several times on various occasions - content screening and acquisition, co-production at international film and television markets like MIPTV, MIPCOM and Cannes Film Festival but to be a judge at one of the prestigious Creativity forums is another thing altogether. It’s a matter of honour and pride, and one can only be in reverence of something of this stature. The most important element of preparation to Cannes judging is, to be abreast with market updates and content stories across formats and campaigns emerging from all corners of the world. Your prowess and your memory will be tested in the judging week.

It was like an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ moment for me, when I entered the jury room. But on the last day of judging and spending 60-80 hrs over 6 days in the jury room, I  walked out with friends, colleagues and mentors for life. In the jury room, every effort is made to ensure that all entries are screened and judged on all elements. It was really heartening to see a few jury members lose their sleep over their decisions, “I hope we have done justice to every piece”, “hope we haven't missed anything". Last two days of judging were an eye opener for anyone who loves content. The jury dissects the craft and science of shortlisted and winning entries. There are detailed discussions, exchange of ideas and thoughts on what works and what fits in the definition of “content becomes culture”. There are hour long meaningful conversations about the importance of brand purpose and intent. Here is a word of caution for people entering for these awards in the future – the jury gets to know whether a product has a real purpose at the core. So be real.

My key criteria for judging:

•  Brand Purpose

•  Consumer Needs

•  Contextual Storytelling

•  Entertaining and sustainable

•  Measurable results

•  Leading to some change in behavior

Sitting in the jury room also made me ponder on what’s next in the world of entertainment so here are my top 6 predictions:

1. Old templates will wither away: Dove Real Beauty Sketches 

After the success of Dove, a zillion similar videos mushroomed on web. Watch out; in future, audiences will become immune to such formats.

Another example is of Gun Shop’s entry at Cannes last year. 

During judging, we came across 3 entries with exactly the same treatment. Time to think original!

2. Do good brands: It is cool for a brand to bring positive social change but it should be honest and true to consumers. This year Burger King’s McWhopper (from the kiwis at Y&R) nails this with the right mix of confrontation and cause marketing.

3.  Technology: Going ahead, tech will be the backbone of many great things to come. Watch out for more cool campaigns like Lions Entertainment Grand Prix winner ‘Displaced' for The New York Times, this virtual reality experience, signalling VR's arrival into the mainstream.

4. Think animation: I can see more brands investing in fiction and animation like ShottaSoCo from Southern Comfort borrows from the art of Taiwanese animation to weave this phrase into the vernacular.

Another favorite was under the Cinema & Theatrical Fiction Film category called Candies by TARJETA NARANJA bank.

5. Contextual targeting: In media and social, the trend will be to remain aligned with market trends. Netflix House of Cards ‘FU2016’ via BBH New York is the best example of news event hijack.

6. Cross industry and category collaborations: Watch out for more opportunities like The Art Institute of Chicago and Airbnb found in Van Gogh painting!

(The author is Head-Content Solutions, Brand New Media, SE Asia and was a jury for Lions Entertainment at Cannes Lions 2016) 


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