Fast Chat: Mainardo de Nardis

OMD global chief and head of Cannes Lions jury talks about media and creativity

Now that the Cannes Media Lions have just been awarded, Mainardo de Nardis, the president of that category’s jury, can turn his focus to the business and social whirlwind befitting the industry’s glitziest advertising party. It’s an annual event he hasn’t missed in 23 years—and this year is even more festive for the OMD Worldwide chief executive: His Manning Gottleib OMD London agency won a Grand Prix for its efforts on Google Voice Search. Before flying off to the South of France, he chatted with Adweek about this year’s Media Lions and why the category is increasingly becoming popular with agencies beyond just those handling media planning and buying.

Adweek: What were you looking for in winners this year?
De Nardis: We were looking for truly integrated holistic ideas covering multi-platform opportunities; really big media ideas that have a long-lasting effect with proven ROIs and real benefits to clients’ businesses. They needed to be ideas that are truly behavior-changing, especially ideas that are measured not just in terms of marketing [key performance indicators] but also in business KPIs. What I don’t like are campaigns and ideas where you can immediately see they were developed just to win awards. That’s not what are clients are expecting from us.

You were last on a Cannes Media Lions jury in 2009. How have changes in technology altered the judging criteria?
Even three years ago we could still pretend that certain disciplines could have been integrated from outside the agency. Today we know that we need a specific understanding of technology within the agency so that technology is as close as possible to the people who are creating ideas, running campaigns, developing new platforms. Media, ideas and technology are really something which is very hard to separate.

How is technology changing the way storytelling unfolds in media?
It is a positive change. The whole multi-screen approach is creating the opportunity for good, quality story telling. More and more we are seeing the world through the eyes of the consumer, not through the eyes of the brand or the advertiser, and consumers don’t really differentiate between platforms and communications opportunities. They look at the story of the brand and they want that story to be clear and consistent across all screens in which they participate. Without technology none of this would be possible. It is providing the data and analytics that allow us to create proper storytelling by joining all the dots and making sure we have a consistent story and making sure we can measure it and understand it.

Last year submissions to the Cannes Media Lions category jumped 34 percent. Is media being viewed as an area of increased creativity?
I look at it in the opposite way. There were not enough submissions before and we are finally getting to the right level now. All of a sudden we’re seeing more entries from more countries and more kinds of agencies. This is one of the very few categories where different agencies can submit. If you look at categories for creative awards or…for television, it’s only the advertising agencies who mainly submit to them. If you look at the media awards, I think 30-35 percent of submissions come from media agencies. Many others come from advertising agencies, from digital agencies, even the PR side. Many people have the connection point with media and media has a wide definition so it allows more than one kind of agency to participate. There should be many more entries.

Would that have previously been the case? Would the Media Lions have been sexy enough to attract the interest of ad agencies and PR companies?
I agree that’s part of it but it’s not just that. I also think it was because media agencies didn’t think Cannes was their home. Media agencies have taken their time to adapt to it. I know Cannes organizers are very happy about the increase in submissions and there’s been a further increase this year. It will be a significantly larger category in the future and it’s also becoming one of the sexy ones at Cannes, which it wasn’t in the beginning.

Are you seeing enough global representation in the submissions?
It’s not necessarily the good work developed in certain countries that makes it to Cannes and that’s one of the problems we have as an industry. If you look at where a lot of the high-quality work is coming from, it’s in Latin America, emerging markets in Asia, some of…Eastern Europe. It doesn’t always make it to the awards because there could be a language problem and you need to have a big budget. If you don’t have a good film it’s nearly impossible to win anything at the big awards now days. So if you’re talking about a multi-thousand dollar investment for each award [submission] and you’re in Guatemala or in a small market in Asia, it’s hard.

What are some of the most dynamic markets in terms of cutting-edge media creativity?
It depends which angle you look at it from. With technology and sophistication it is, of course, the U.S., Japan and Korea because of mobile technology. Those are the markets that are very advanced from a digital and technological point of view. If you look at it  purely in terms of ideas, including freshness and a nearly naïve approach, Latin America and the less-developed markets in Asia and Eastern Europe are absolutely great. If you look at it from the angle of measurement and return on investment it’s in the big markets like the U.K., Germany and U.S. For media innovation you have great markets like China and India. Because of their sheer size of populations, they are forced to constantly invent new media opportunities and new-media ideas so it’s more on the distribution side of ideas where innovation happens.