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Yes, You Cannes! Insights from This Year’s Media Jury President, PHD’s Mike Cooper

Cannes Lions is arguably the industry’s leading global award show, showcasing the crème de la crème of the world’s best advertising. At PHD we’re very proud of the number of Lions we have won over the recent years, punching well above our network weight.

So, I’m honoured to have been asked to act as President of the Media Jury at this year’s Cannes Lions Awards.

I’ve judged a lot of media and creative awards over the years, including presiding over the jury at Spikes Asia and Dubai Lynx (UAE), and generally I have found the best work naturally rises to the top. The best work instantly stands out as the most distinctive and creative, generating high engagement. It is always supported by data, results and effectiveness and, importantly, for work to achieve cut through in this highly cluttered market, it needs to be delivering outstanding results.

Let’s talk numbers. In 2016 there were 2,963 entries into the Media Lions. Of those, 267 were shortlisted, and of those, 96 Lions were awarded – 50 Bronze, 34 Silver and 12 Golds. One entry was selected from the Golds to be the Grand Prix. To put it another way, 9.0% of entries are shortlisted, 3.2% get metal and 0.03% represents the entry that made it to the Grand Prix… It is a coveted and elusive award indeed.

So how can we break down The Cannes Lions winning formula?:

The Idea, The Idea, The Idea
It may sound obvious but not everyone submits an idea to Cannes.  There are some really smart strategies and concepts but these genuinely don’t count for much if they don’t translate into an idea. Even then an idea alone isn’t enough. The idea needs to be big, bold and different enough to stand out, but also simple to convey in a few seconds.

If you can’t tell someone about your idea in a sentence, and ideally in less than that, then ask yourself … is it sharp and condensed enough? The best ideas can be encapsulated in a single word or phrase – just have a glance through the winners of any festival … punchy, self-explanatory names of ideas really do count.

Tectonic Riffs
In addition, media ideas also need to reflect the spirit of the times they’re in. In essence, great metal-winning ideas say something about where the industry currently finds itself, and demonstrate where thinking is currently at or about to go.

Go All-In
If something is worth doing … it’s worth going all in and doing properly. Don’t hold back. Don’t compromise or trim a corner or an edge. Throw the whole weight of an organisation behind an idea and follow its lead; an organisation working for an idea, not an idea working for an organisation.

The Sell
What Theodore Levitt said in 1960 is as true now as it was then – that to sell you need to act in the interests of the buyer not the seller. Clearly communicate the idea (not the strategy). Signpost where the jury can give marks for each criteria. Play to the strengths of the sub-category you’re entering. If it’s about integration dial this up and show the integration, if it’s a stunt bring the stunt to life and show the jurors what happened.

Crucially use each asset to its strengths – don’t duplicate the content in the video, one-pager and written entry. They’re doing very different things.

So yes, you Cannes
Winning a Cannes Lion is not easy – it shouldn’t be. But nor should it be daunting. Great ideas are great ideas!

So surround yourself with ideas, understand from them and learn from them. They are your compass. They will inspire you when you’re stuck, and fire you up when you think there’s no way through. Ideas will make you laugh. They will surprise and delight you. They will challenge how you see our planet and show you things you’d never imagined. Ideas will rock your world.

Come the 18th of June, myself and my fellow jurors will be reviewing several thousand media entries from around the world.  The entries are always made up of outstanding pieces of work from a very diverse range of environments. It is both a privilege and very exciting to be analysing the best work in the world and selecting winners. This is possibly the most exciting job in media, in the world, this year!

Good luck.