Fred Koblinger

Lions Direct jury president

CEO, BBDO Holding Austria Managing director, Palla Koblinger Proximity

Thursday, June 16: Suite 531 of the Carlton. View over the entire Croisette. Presidents have their privileges. That’s OK. Luxurious yachts the size of medium hotels out in the dust. Everything is relative—I am just the president of a “jury.” But anyway. A toast to all agencies that entered campaigns.

Friday, June 17: Good start to the day. No clouds—Côte d’Azur at its best. I ignore the beach and head straight into the ugliest building in Cannes. Twenty curious Lion hunters from 18 countries are waiting to start the hunt. How will I ever keep their names straight? … Mitch, Ramesh, Shuji, Giordano, Saharath. They all are experts in their business—but none of them have ever been out hunting Lions. Skeptically, they follow my instructions.

My job: make sure no one gets lost. Bring them close to the Lions. It should take us until 7 p.m. to see the sun again. At Carlton Beach, the deck chairs are already put together. At 30 euros a day, you are better off buying one. Anyway—the sun is not too healthy either.

Saturday, June 18: Another bright day—25 degrees Celsius at 8 a.m. But it’s freezing in the Palais des Festivals—bunker outside, cooling house inside. The biggest pain: the view over Vieux Cannes, the yachts in the harbor. No ease even for the president. At least the campaigns are getting better. The quality of the work increases in inverse proportion to the physical condition of the judges. The Rosé de Provence in the evening helps, but only temporarily.

Sunday, June 19: They said it was another beautiful day —did not see much of it. A wonderful day to die—450 campaigns will not survive this day, including six of ours. (It is a pity—but fully justified. The difference in quality is obvious.) The judges are doing pretty well. The process is perfectly structured, the support of the hostesses fabulous. Nevertheless, we are all exhausted in the evening. Rosé does not help—we need some whiskey today.

Monday, June 20: Lion hunters and jury members—a crazy species of mankind—always talking just about one thing. High tension already at breakfast. A perfect day to get eye-to-eye with the beasts. Lots of footprints around. Heavy discussions on which tracks to follow. You can virtually touch the nervousness. Nobody wants to spill his ammunition too early. We could still meet bigger lions. Ten hours later—only six golden beasts in the cage!

Can the opinions of 20 experts really differ so much? Emotions run high. Tender ladies fight for a pornographic but fantastic campaign for construction work clothes. Tough guys enjoy a campaign for a girl magazine, calling on readers to out New Zealand’s worst boyfriend. Europeans think that Alaska Airlines’ homepage for a virtual airline is fantastic, while American judges favor a highly emotional birthday announcement from Sweden.

Most times, one or two votes against is too many to make a campaign gold. Collecting 14 out of 20 votes for a Lion is tough work. To lead and motivate the crowd without influencing and manipulating—running an agency is a kid’s game compared to that. Seems that I manage it quite well—I even know their names by now. They listen to me but make their own decisions. I refuse to use my casting vote—they should decide.

The yawning increases. Arguments begin getting weaker. I’m losing my voice. But we still have to find more Lions. We have to review about 25 campaigns. Another two hours later, at about 8 p.m., we start counting the prey: 48 Lions, nine golds. All judges support this result. We feel tired but proud—we have done it. The choices were excellent. A record 17 countries winning Lions shows that breakthrough ideas come from virtually everywhere on the globe.

Champagne in the background. The end? No, we still have to go for the Grand Prix. In open discussions and voting, we brutally sort out one gold winner after another. At 9 p.m., white smoke from the Palais des Festivals—habemus Grand Prix!

The winner: an interactive TV spot by Nordpol Hamburg Agentur Fur Kommunikation, asking viewers to hop between two channels. They see the same person twice—happy on one channel, depressed on the other. The product, the Renault Modus, is seen at the very end. Viewers get increasingly curious and are finally invited to the Web to discover the car. A justified Grand Prix, getting high awareness, involving viewers emotionally, activating people, influencing behavior in a new way.

Tuesday, June 21: Press conference. With the routine of experienced Lion hunters, the jury presents the prey. Each jury member presents one gold Lion and justifies why they have chosen it. Twenty former egos show collective format. Then: endless interviews. Trade magazines, but also TV stations from Portugal to Russia, from the U.K. to Brazil.

In between, rehearsals for the evening award ceremony. Shouldn’t I think of a speech? Result: again, no beach. But another two interviews. Five minutes for a shower. Dark suit, champagne in the VIP box. It is hot behind the scene. Two beautiful assistants make me forget I am nervous. … President of Lions Direct—my code. And finally, also, for me, Warhol’s quote comes true: Today everyone can be famous for 15 minutes. I enjoy every moment on this huge stage, 2,000 people in the audience. I feel great with the winners jumping on the stage, taking their Lions. Having won Lions already—it is still better to win than to hand over. My 15 minutes are up. The beginning of the rest of the night: a fantastic winners’ party at Carlton Beach. The end is not documented.

Wednesday, June 22: One last time, the jury has to act. Winners’ presentation—Auditorium A. The public claims its right to know why these campaigns have won. With our last forces, we come after this duty. At the way back to the hotel, a beautiful lady comes up to me. … But that is another story.