Inside the Innovation Jury: What Cannes Judges Liked and Tips for Next Year's Entrants

McCann Global Chief Digital Officer Mike Parker Takes Us Inside the Voting Room in the FIrst Year of Award

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At Cannes, everyone's focused on what won -- which campaign, which agency, what the tallies are for the various holding companies and countries.

But before there's a winner, there's a jury. Ad Age is taking you inside the voting room through exit interviews with various jurors. Here, Mike Parker, global chief digital officer at Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann, explains what it was like being a judge for Cannes' newest award -- the innovation Lions.

Mike Parker
Mike Parker Credit: To decompress after judging, Mike Parker went for a long bike ride.

Since it was the first year for this jury, was it difficult setting ground rules for how to choose award winners?

That was the big task for us this year. As a new jury, we knew a lot would be on our shoulders to help define this category and, in particular, help define how it is different than other categories -- especially titanium. Innovation is such a part of everything we do in our business today and so much of it involves technology, so we knew that there was potential for the lines to be blurry.Titanium in our minds is really about groundbreaking innovation in campaigns done for brands. Our thought as a group was to focus the innovation Lions on ideas that have ongoing or lasting value. So, not something where the shelf life is for a campaign, then it’s gone—never to be seen again; but instead, something like a technology, a product or an app that has ongoing use. It may or may not be for a brand. As a jury, we talked a lot about things that change consumer behavior or provide a new tool that others can use, or an idea that people can build on. Another really important difference is that it is the only category at Cannes where there doesn’t need to be a client or a brief. As the Grand Prix winner, "Cinder" made so much sense because the software is basically the backbone for so much amazing creative work and it was developed as open source by an agency team, and so the whole industry benefits from it as a result.

Were there any tense moments debating the work?

Surprisingly, not at all. The organizers put a lot of thought into how this group was constructed and it really paid off. We had an amazing diversity of backgrounds. There were those with more technology and programming backgrounds; Genevieve Bell from Intel, who is a cultural anthropologist and really thinks about how people behave and use things; David Droga, our jury leader, who obviously brought the creative perspective. But when it came down to choosing the winners, we were amazingly aligned. We were actually very close to unanimous in our voting for all of the winners.

Who was the most outspoken juror?

Well, interestingly, even though they live in different countries now, we ended up with a number of Australians on the jury, and you know what it's like when you get a bunch of Aussies in a room!

What was the most surprising entry?

It wasn't one, it was the range of entries. From software programs to devices to apps, it made the process very interesting. Another thing that jumped out at me was the split between entries from companies submitting their product vs. the entries that were from agencies who had responded to a client brief with a product or service instead of an ad. From the idea of building a camera into a football to help fans feel closer to the game to creating a virtual make-up testing booth out of a bathroom mirror to the team in Ecuador who came up with technology to allow ambulances to project a signal that interrupts peoples’ car radios to warn them to pull over as the ambulance approaches, all the work was an example of agencies essentially inventing products and building prototypes of their ideas. The whole idea of agencies becoming “makers of things” for clients was really on display. Interestingly, in pretty much every case where the jury asked about ownership of the IP, the client owned the concept. So you have these agencies inventing these amazing, groundbreaking things and not having any stake in the value, which seems like it will be an increasingly important debate in the industry.

What is your advice for next year's jurors? 

One of the unique things about how this award is set up is the idea that the short-listed entrants all have the opportunity to come to Cannes and present their ideas to the jury live. Hearing firsthand from the teams and being able to ask questions added a ton to the process, because you can get so much more from that experience than from watching a short case study video. I think the audience really enjoyed watching the “pitches” as well and I bet that this becomes a hot ticket for the festival in coming years.

Any funny stories about your time sequestered in the jury room?

It was great to have the talented Mori Harano from Japan as part of the jury, because Japan has been so far ahead of most of the rest of the world in terms of technology innovation, and for a bunch of the entries we all said, “Wow, that’s really amazing”, and Mori would say, “Guys, we had this in Japan five years ago!”


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