Cyber Lions jury president
Executive creative director, AKQA
Thursday, June 16, 11:32 p.m.: Today I made my official speech for the opening of the jury. It was about being proud of our winners list. Whatever happens, we are here to inspire the industry to move forward. Thanks to jet lag, I woke up at 4 a.m., enough time to write what I expected from the judging process. Six hours later, we started seeing the stuff. Lots of it, but not a Grand Prix yet. Maybe some golds.
Friday, June 17, 8 a.m.: When the alarm rang at 7:30, I wasn’t ready to wake up yet. I have to hurry. They are all waiting downstairs.
12:12 p.m.: The Lions Direct jury started today. Result: looooong lines at lunch. Everybody agrees: 1) The gazpacho is pretty good; and 2) The judging is going smoothly. They’re all ahead of schedule, and some swear they have already seen a Lion.
4:23 p.m.: Considering how often people leave the room with their Treos and Blackberries, I presume the judging is going smoothly. It means they have time to skip every URL that doesn’t work and come back once it is fixed. Quite a difference from my last time in Cannes, when every skipped work was automatically out.
Saturday, June 18, 10:09 a.m.: Had to take a break. What really pisses me off is not work that’s bad but work that’s pretentious and devoid of any idea. You can hear them saying, “Look how smart I am.” Or: “I know the technology. … Did you see it?” Tsk tsk tsk.
6:24 p.m.: We finished the first round almost a day early. It gives us time to talk about our favorite pieces. I’m confident we will have a very inspiring list of winners. Hope I’m right.
Sunday, June 19, 12:01 a.m.: A judge didn’t agree with the approach of one entry: It didn’t use the real potential of the Web. But he still liked it. “Award it!” I said out loud so everybody could hear. “Follow your feelings, not your books.” And now this: We are in a bar, 25 of us. It’s hot as hell, and somebody asks for wine. White. I raise my hand to protest: “I know white is more refreshing, but … we are having meat, guys.” They look at me, point at a drop of sweat falling on my forehead and throw back: “Follow your feelings, not your books, chairman.” And we drink. Twelve bottles of French white irony.
Monday, June 20, 7:40 a.m.: A quiet little French town has become a frantic piece of the world, packed with people of all nationalities, all ages, with all kinds of expectations. But what do I want? Between dinner with the American judges yesterday and hanging out with my Brazilian friends, I can’t think of anything else. Today I’ll have to brief the jury before voting. I have this fantasy that I have the power to inspire them in a good or bad direction—even though I know there is no such thing as good or bad, right or wrong, in award matters. But I still wish I were one of those enlightened men from the movies. Today, I wish I were an Al Pacino. But I’m not. So let’s hope it works.
6:10 p.m.: Parties everywhere. Pretty scary for someone who has to be ready early in the morning. We decided this afternoon that we shouldn’t start voting for the Lions on one day and finish on another. That let us warm up without pressure while discussing the last pieces that would be added to the short list. The discussions, though, took much longer than we expected, and what was supposed to take a couple of hours took the whole afternoon. I wonder what will happen tomorrow. How long will it take to go through all the categories? After the judging, there still will be a lot of work to do: shooting the golds, preparing the script for the ceremony. The perfect excuse to decline any party invitation. Great!
Wednesday, June 22, 4:23 a.m.: We broke all the records today. Twelve hours to award the first gold. Stayed in the Palais until 2 a.m., the latest judging session ever. Not that I’m proud of this, but anyone who has worked with me knows that as a typical Virgo, I don’t go home until I feel the work is perfect. I’m glad all the jurors had the same passion, the same energy. Because at 10 p.m. yesterday, when we started the discussions about the Grand Prix, we knew it could take minutes or hours, and nobody complained, nobody even thought of leaving. One of the judges had to go to the stage for another ceremony, but he didn’t. We had work to do. And now, at the end of the judging, nobody can sleep. I just met four of the judges walking around the street, super-excited, sleepless. The last words of one of them summarizes everything: “It’s probably the best winners list ever in Cyber Lions history.”
11:40 p.m.: Judging is over. Ceremony is over. And finally I can relax. The last days were some of the most exciting in my life, I have to say. And they were a big lesson, too. I learned a lot from each of the judges, from the discussions and even the entries. Managing more than 30,000 votes in five days is something that changes your perspective of the work.
But the big lesson was seeing DDB Brazil, an agency I worked at six years ago, become Cyber Agency of the Year. They were a great agency when I was there, when they were run by one of the most important creatives in the history of Brazilian advertising. But when he left, and an account guy became president, they started to have problems. Some months ago, they put a creative back in the main chair, and suddenly the books started to get greener, and now this. I don’t want to say that the only great creative agencies are ones run by creatives, but it made me think. At one moment I saw myself back in 1998, when I was showing a small Web site to the big boss, and I saw him calling the account people and saying, “I don’t know what you will do, but this will be approved by the client.” Three months later, this piece became my first Cannes gold Lion.
Now, after all those days of judging, I understand that any Lion, any year, from any agency, doesn’t belong to the creatives only. It belongs to the agency leadership that makes creativity a religion, not just part of the work, and the “non-creatives” who believe it, too. Doing great work should be the first thing on the list, the top priority of everyone.
I know it has been said already, but it’s different when you see it so clearly from the stage at the Palais des Festivals. Like it could knock you down. I’m a different man now.