Confessions of a Cannes Mobile Lions jury member – essential reading for all prospective awards entrants

2012 was the first year that the international advertising awards Cannes Lions had a mobile category. You can see all the award-winners with case studies here. The mobile entries were judged by 12 jurors – one of those, Leo Xavier, CEO of Brazilian mobile agency Grupo.Mobi (read the agency profile) shares the experience with mobiThinking.

In this article, Xavier discusses the judging process, his tips for any potential entrant next year and the mobile marketing trends he observed. He’d like to thank his fellow juror Ana Paola Teixeira, of Chilean mobile agency AndinaTech, for helping polish his Portuguese-to-English translation.

The anatomy of a Cannes Jury

The 2012 Mobile category had 12 jurors, including the jury president. Most jurors came from an agency background. Six jurors hail from companies specializing in mobile, both agencies and production companies; three work in advertising agencies (with a heritage in traditional media advertising); two from digital agencies; and the final juror came from a mobile network operator. There were people from USA, Korea, Japan, UK, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and Brazil.
It would have been difficult to come up with a better mix. The group was composed of professionals with different backgrounds and different visions of the world, but all sharing extensive experience in mobile, with an average nine years of work dedicated to the sector.
The level of discussions was high, respectful and rich. More importantly, the focus shifted from technical evaluation and technology towards understanding the idea, the project and especially the importance of mobility in the world of advertising, marketing and business.
Our challenge was clear: at the end of the week, what message would the jury be making to the market and what standards would be set by the first Mobile jury at the world’s premier advertising festival?

The judging process

I have to be honest, as I left Brazil, I was unsure what to expect about how the judging process would work in practice. A series of misleading stories had left me believing that there could be antagonism between the Latin Americans and the Europeans. Even more so, I felt a pressure to show my patriotism and stand and fight for Brazil, expecting other jurors to be partisan towards their own countries. I had painted this picture in my mind of a jury room filled with heated discussions and banging of tables. Gladly, none of that happened. The jurors got along very well, respecting each other and seeking out one another’s company, even when outside the dark, hot Jury room in the Palais, as we relaxed in the rooftop garden of the historic Radisson Blu hotel.
The Cannes Lions evaluation process, from beginning to end, has been built to eliminate subjectivity and avoid manipulation. There are five phases (please don’t hold your breath, this will take a while).

1. Pre-judging:
One month before the Festival, all the jurors were given a link with login and password with instructions to judge around one third of the 965 Mobile Lions entries. There was one page per entry with a video, a URL for access via a mobile device and explanatory text materials.
After watching the video and reviewing the materials, each juror should grade the entry on a scale of 1 to 9. Entries were scored: 1-3 to recommend disqualifying the entry from shortlist; 4-6 to indicate a potential candidate for the shortlist; and 7-9 for an entry that should definitely be shortlisted and which could, potentially, be a Lion Award winner.
At the end of this stage, 455 entries had been eliminated.

2. First phase of judging in Cannes:
So, by the time we touched down on the French Rivera, we were down to 510 entries.
Approximately 250 campaigns were judged each day, on the first two days of judging. The process was pretty straightforward. The video case study of each entry was broadcasted in turn, and with each juror grading it on a scale of 1 to 9. Very little discussion took place. The jury president encouraged the group to judge at a rapid pace, leaving the discussions to those pieces that qualified for the shortlist.
It’s worth noting that the Cannes Lions computerized voting system automatically dismisses the “patriotic vote”, avoiding the temptation for any judge to give higher marks for entries of one’s own country. Indeed, if anyone is tempted to try an alert is sent to the jury president.

3. Shortlist day
97 of the mobile entries – about 10 percent of the total entries – made it to the initial shortlist.
Upon arrival in the jury room on shortlist day, each one of us received a printed list with the 97 selected pieces. That was when the process got really cool. We kicked the day off with a review of each entry, category by category, to make sure that the best in the world was represented in the shortlist. Video case studies could be watched once again upon request.
Then, going through each subcategory, we reevaluated all the shortlisted campaigns with the lowest scores. In most cases there was a brief discussion and then it was put up to a vote: the jury president asked the judges to raise their hands if they thought the entry should be removed from the shortlist. If two-thirds of the jurors showed hands, then bye-bye to the campaign.
Next there was an opportunity for each juror to recommend an entry to return to the shortlist. Selecting a campaign from one’s own agency was not allowed, and I felt it would not be polite to select one from one’s own country. Each juror explained why he or she chose that campaign. The entry was then put to vote, and a new show of hands took place. If two-thirds of the jurors agreed, welcome back to the select club of top campaigns.

4. Awarding Lions
With a revised shortlist of 98, and after a night to think about each entry, we jurors came back to the Palais for the most eagerly awaited part of the week: to work out who would win the Bronze, Silver and Gold Lions.
Once again, the voting process was straightforward and democratic. For each contender, there would be a brief discussion, and the jury president would ask if the piece deserved gold. Those who agreed raised their hands. If two-thirds agreed, then, bingo: Gold Lion. If not, the president asks “Silver?” Another show of hand and, if it did not reach two-thirds of the jury, he would move forward to “Bronze?” If the entry did not reach the minimum requirement of two-thirds of the votes in the final vote, the piece remained on the shortlist. The process was very dynamic, clear and direct, starting with the most relevant categories and voting the entries from the highest to the lowest grades.
The biggest distraction for me was when TV Globo won a Bronze Lion – this was a project developed by Grupo.Mobi. Well, it’s hard to suppress a smile when your company wins its first Lion. It was all the more gratifying as it picked up an award in the Apps category, which was one of the most competitive and one where the judges scrutinized the entries particularly intensely. In the circumstances it’s difficult to remain focused on voting process – but it had to be done.
The next step was to reconsider all the Silver Lions to see if there were grounds to upgrade to Gold. The same happened to the Bronze Lions. As per Festival’s regulation, no downgrades were allowed. Nor could any of the shortlists be upgraded. At the end of the process, we had awarded 54 Lions – 12 Gold, 14 Silver and 28 Bronze – and established an excellent showcase of the best mobile campaigns in the world. Applause, joy, relief, a sense of accomplishment and a great deal of excitement!

5. The Grand Prix
By the rules of the Festival, the all gold campaigns are eligible for the Grand Prix, with the exception of the Charity and Not for Profit categories. So there were seven campaigns competing for the grand prize. At this point the voting process changes from a show of hands to anonymous balloting.
Each juror writes down on a piece of paper his or her three favorite campaigns, and signs. The campaign with the highest number of votes wins the Grand Prix – the highest accolade.
Except in this case, two campaigns tied with the same number of votes. Usually when this happens, the jury president has the casting vote. However, much to his credit the jury president, Tom Eslinger, instead ordered a revote between the two contenders saying: “You have been here working hard for days. It is not fair that I decide the Grand Prix if there is a tie.” As there were 11 judges, there was no chance of a tie.
Each juror wrote their vote on a piece of paper and gave to the Cannes staff observer (who had been watching over the entire judging process). She decided to innovate, adding to the drama, by reading the votes one by one. Amazingly the votes were tied right up to the final deciding vote. So the first ever Mobile Lion Grand Prix winner won by just one vote.

Video case study: Hilltop re-imagined for Coca-Cola (Mobile Lions Grand Prix winner 2012)

Top tips to help you shine at Cannes 2013

Being a member of the jury gives you unique insight into the judging process – knowing what I now know, I recommend the following tips to wannabe contenders in next years Mobile Lions.
• Do not underestimate the impact of a well-crafted video case study. It really makes a big difference. We saw lots of examples of what sounded like excellent ideas ruined by horrifically bad videos, that were ill-thought through, poorly produced and poorly scripted.
• The perfect video case study is no more than 1:30 minutes long and is lightweight (the Internet connectivity at the Palais was terrible – so data-heavy videos played badly). It should be to the point – don’t go on and on detailing the Brief. It should be professionally produced and narrated. Put aside time, money and creativity to produce a killer video – it’s worth it.
• Pay lots of attention to the description of each category and subcategory. Juries are instructed to vote according to how well the campaign fits the criteria of each category. Knowing where to enter your campaign can determine whether the same entry could be a success or failure. Don’t automatically direct your app towards the crowded generic apps category – if it excels in user experience or is part of an integrated cross-media campaign enter it those categories. [There’s a breakdown of entries, awards and shortlists by categories here].

• If you intend to enter the same campaign in several categories – as many agencies do – consider making different versions of your video case studies, highlight those features that are specific for each subcategory. That is going to win much sympathy from jurors, who will have to sit through your video time-after-time.
• Do not forget the Craft category. If your campaign is beautiful, but not necessarily a great new idea, then focusing on Craft may improve your chances.
• Finally, I strongly recommend that you to watch all video cases of the winning campaigns. There is a lot of valuable information there. [All the winning video case studies are showcased here].

The winning formula is quite simple – in my opinion: the more mobile is used in integrated cross-media campaigns and the more it focuses on customer experience, the greater the chances of winning a Mobile Lion, but it must be based on a really great idea. Mobile marketing is MUCH more than just one standalone app.

The trends

1. TV plus Mobile
We saw incredible case studies integrating TV – open or not – with mobile devices. This is known as the second-screen experience. Chevy Game Time (Gold Lion) and Chok Chok Chok (Silver Lion) are fine examples of how to integrate creatively and appropriately the two main screens in the world of communication.
2. Magic needn’t be technology-oriented
Hilltop re-imagined for Coca-Cola (Grand Prix); ToyToyota Backseat Driver (2xGold Lion); and VIP Fridge Magnet (Gold Lion) show superbly creative use of not very new technologies. If you want to impress at Cannes, remember: it’s not about technology in itself, but the creative use of it.
3. SMS can surprise
Pennies for Life (Gold Lion), Be The Coach (Silver Lion) and SMS is King (Silver Lion) show that you can do amazingly creative campaigns with the simple and unglamorous SMS. Think about it.
4. Mobile solving real problems
Watch with care, the Pain Squad (2xGold Lion) case study video and notice how mobility can be an extremely powerful way to solve real problems. The fun Parking Douche (Gold Lion) is also great example of how cross-media integration can result in brilliant campaigns.

In conclusion, I state my conviction that mobility can and will transform advertising as we know it. The proof is already clear when you look at the role that mobile plays in winning campaigns in other Lions, like Direct, Media, Promo and PR. I leave you with a quote from my fellow juror Per Holmkvist of award-winning Swedish mobile agency Mobiento:
“We are seeing a major mindset shift in mobile marketing, going from ‘This can be done with mobile’ to ‘This can’t be done WITHOUT mobile’.”

Video case study: Pain Squad (Double Gold Mobile Lions winner 2012)

Further reading:
• Cannes Mobile Lions winners 2012 – winners with videos and case studies
• Cannes Mobile Lions 2012 – scrutinizing the numbers of entries and winners
• Mission possible: how mobile helps companies deliver strategic objectives
• Role of mobile in publishing – friend or foe? Interview with Judith Curr, Atria Books
• Safaricom M-PESA – building a mobile business centered on essential services
• China: 1 billion mobile subscribers; 400 million mobile Web users; world’s top smartphone market
• What you can learn from the FT Web app: interview with Steve Pinches
• Guide to mobile ad networks 2012 • with 5 new ad networks •
• Most popular content on mobiThinking in 2011
• Mobile events 2012: best conferences, great discounts and free tickets
• The insiders’ guides to world’s greatest mobile markets
• Guide to mobile agencies
• Guide to mobile industry awards
• The big compendium of global mobile stats

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