Jury president Jean-Marie Dru takes center stage.
In the hot seat this week, Jean-Marie Dru, president and CEO international of TBWA Worldwide, calls the 45th Cannes International Festival “the ultimate benchmark” of worldwide advertising. Though Dru believes the role of jury president is to facilitate the judging process, previous festivals have proved that no matter how diplomatic the voting, the jury president sets the agenda. In a perilous position where his personality and personal preferences can determine the outcome of the judging, Dru could take a few cues from the United Nations. Forty-four world-renowned creative leaders will come together to judge 4,926 TV spots and 7,097 print and 394 interactive entries. With tempers flaring, it’ll be Dru’s job to settle the squabbles, break the nationalistic ties and make sure the best ads win.
Founder of the BDDP Group in Paris, Dru started his career as an account director at Dupuy Compton (now Saatchi & Saatchi) and went on to become executive creative director of the agency. In 1977, he joined Young & Rubicam, Paris, as managing director and, within two years, was named chief executive. In 1994, he founded the BDDP Group, which is currently being merged with Omnicom Group’s TBWA. Dru has discussed his philosophies on advertising in two books, Disruption and The Creative Leap.

Adweek: How will you approach your role as president?
Dru: I’m going to follow the rules, run this thing the way the festival wants it to be run–with maximum integrity. The way the system is, it’s impossible to discuss each film
properly. In the last 10 or 20 years, they have been trying to limit discussions. As president, I would like to welcome debate. I have to find a good balance between not being overwhelmed by too many discussions and still trying to be fair. Adweek: Is there a method to judging creativity? Dru: I have my own, but it doesn’t work for Cannes. Mine is simple. When I look at an ad, it’s a two-step process. First, I want to be sure that there’s an idea in the brief and, second, that the creative goes much further than the brief. In Cannes, since I don’t know the brief and I don’t know the strategy, it’s a different thing. In Cannes, there are two things–the idea and the execution–and both are important. In business life, a great idea with a bad execution is not a big problem. In Cannes, we have to be sure all the ideas are well-executed and not reward an execution without an idea.
We’ve got 44 jurors. All are well-known in their countries, so I think it would be very arrogant for the president to say, “Here are the criteria.” We are all looking for great ideas and great executions. That’s it. The role of the president is to listen, not to impose anything.
Adweek: You’ve only missed one Cannes festival since 1973. Why is Cannes so important to you?
Dru: Cannes is the only worldwide advertising festival. It’s the only place where you have a panorama of everything, where you can feel the trends, see what’s going on everywhere. That’s why so many Americans are coming now. Twenty years ago, there were no Americans in Cannes. I was talking to [TBWA, The Americas’ president and chief executive officer] Bob Kuperman the other day, and he told me that 10-15 years ago, he was winning Lions at Cannes and didn’t even know what they were After 25 years, you say, “OK, I am going to go, but it’s going to be the same.
I’m going to get disappointed.” But you go there for a week and the Monday after, when you’re back at work, your standards are raised.
Adweek: How do you sustain that feeling beyond the time it takes to get over the jet lag?
Dru: Everybody is slightly disappointed every year. At the end of the day, it’s not what you see but the fact that you are thinking about creativity all week. Usually things come back to usual, but it’s a nice catalyst.
Adweek: Do you feel the winners represent the best the industry has to offer?
Dru: Yes. The only thing not represented at Cannes is the local campaign, in terms of the writing. I remember [Leo Burnett vice chairman/chief creative officer and 1996 Cannes jury president] Michael Conrad being sad because “Got milk?” never won a Lion at Cannes. It did last year, by the way. There’s always some French campaign or English campaign that isn’t awarded in Cannes because it is extremely local. That’s the only limit of this festival. Apart from that, everything good is awarded, or is at least on the short list.
Adweek: You’ve mentioned that a Lion is an incredible marketing tool. How so?
Dru: I don’t know of any agency that doesn’t mention awards when presenting its credentials. Some clients will say they don’t like them; others will say they won’t pursue Lions. But they all come to us because of the Lions. One of my clients from a long time ago said to me: “I come to your agency because you are the most awarded in France, but I don’t want any Lions on my account.” Companies say they don’t like them, but at the end of the day they are very proud.
Adweek: Critics say the festival is too biased toward English-speaking countries. Is that true?
Dru: There are always complaints in France that this festival is dominated by the so-called Anglo-Saxon culture, and the French are always saying there’s too much bias. Yes, it’s true, but that’s life. That’s the world the way it is. Some people want a French president to fight against [the bias], and I said I won’t fight. There is no need. It’s the jury, and they vote. If Americans get medals, it’s because America has been very creative. The U.S. is, by far, the most creative country in the world at the moment. You couldn’t say that seven years ago.
Adweek: Some critics say humor is an easy win at award shows like Cannes. Do you agree?
Dru: No. David Ogilvy used to say something that is still true 30 years later. He said humor is a great selling tool, but it’s difficult to do well. In Cannes, you don’t see all those commercials shot during the year that are supposed to be funny–but are not. Humor is one of the most difficult things to master. It’s not an easy win. It’s very difficult to crack.
Adweek: What work is most popular in Cannes?
Dru: Work that offers a surprise; work that is highly unexpected. You watch eight or nine hours of commercials a day, so it has to stand out.
Adweek: Do you expect this to be a stingy or generous jury this year?
Dru: Some people say that a few categories are so weak they shouldn’t have Lions. I will try to avoid that. I would like all of them to have a Lion because maybe if the category has no obvious Lions, it’s just more difficult to be creative in that category. More importantly, we must have a Grand Prix, and we will have a Grand Prix. I will not go out of the room without one. My dream is that the Grand Prix will be a campaign that is truly innovative, not only creative. Something that introduces a new way of thinking, a new way of talking. You can’t have that every day or every year. You think of [Japan’s] Nissin noodles or Diesel. This year, I hope the Grand Prix will be a campaign or commercial with innovation in the language. n