After Last Year's Media-Judging Scandal, Cannes Dumps Old Jury System

And If You're a Creative Shop, Don't Even Think About Being Media Agency of the Year

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After widespread accusations of cheating last year, the Cannes Lions festival is overhauling how judging is handled for one of the biggest categories--the Media Lions.

Festival officials and the media world's top agency executives have met several times since last year's event to discuss how to fix the judging this year, and the changes were announced today. Instead of one huge gaggle of judges, the media judging will be done in two stages, with a big group picking the shortlist, followed by a smaller, more senior panel that will choose all the winners.

Lengthy submissions make the media entries much more time consuming to judge than a print ad or a TV spot. Last year, 31 media judges—the largest jury at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity —plowed through more than 3,000 entries over six days, including one marathon 17-and-a-half-hour session. With six judges each from Omnicom Group and WPP Group agencies, accusations flew that jury members were conspiring to support their own holding companies and vote down others. The festival promised to investigate, but only after the event ended.

"The media industry came to us after what happened last year and said we would like to get together and propose a solution because we believe in the Media Lions and we want [them] to stand for the right kind of things," said festival CEO Philip Thomas, in an interview with Ad Age last month. "So at a very senior level they went away and had a think about the best way forward and there were a number of issues to do with...the size of the jury and the time they had to look at work."

The senior media executives who met several times with festival officials to grapple with how to fix the media judging included retiring Vivaki Chairman Jack Klues, who will chair the Media Lions this year, Group M President Dominic Proctor, Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond, ZenithOptimedia CEO Steve King, and Nigel Morris, CEO of Aegis Americas and EMEA.

"If you look at the actual statistics of what happened last year it was all a big storm in a teacup, with people accusing people of things that actually didn't happen," Mr. Thomas said. "Broadly speaking what we're doing is splitting the judging into two, so there's going to be quite a large number of people come to Cannes to do the preliminary work to create the shortlist, and then a smaller group of extremely senior global leaders from that big group will get in a room and award the lions from the shortlist."

The first jury will consist of 40 media execs, who will spend three days working in eight teams of five people each to come up with a shortlist, which at Cannes is typically about 10% of the total entries in a category.

The second jury, made up of Mr. Klues and eight senior media execs, will award all the Lions. In contrast to last year, the jury members and Mr. Klues are each from a different holding company, making it difficult to form alliances or swap votes.

Mr. Klues' Vivaki is part of Publicis Groupe . The judges include Cheuk Chiang, CEO Asia Pacific of Omnicom Group's OMG; Doug Ray, global president of Carat, part of Aegis Media and now owned by Dentsu; Jim Elms, CEO of Interpublic's Initiative Worldwide; Dominique Delport, chairman and CEO of Havas Media; Melanie Varley, global chief strategy officer of WPP's MEC Global, and Masaki Mikami, corporate officer at Hakuhodo-DY Media Partners. The other judges are from a smaller network, Naked Communications Global CEO Richard Dunmall, and an independent agency, RJ Palmer's President Jim Vail.

"This represents great progress and underscores the value of the Lions," Group M's Mr. Proctor said of the new judging process.

In another change this year, the festival said that only a media agency can win the category's Media Agency of the Year award, reflecting the resentment by many media agencies that so many of the best entries are submitted by creative agencies.

Contributing: Emma Hall

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