Gary Koepke, Co-Founder, Modernista!,Outdoor and Press Juror

Beauty. That’s the first thing Gary Koepke, the U.S. judge on the print jury, says he’ll be looking for in the 8,669 entries he and his fellow jurors will be evaluating at Cannes this week. Beauty is important in all advertising, says the chief creative officer and co-founder of Boston boutique Modernista!, but “especially in press and outdoor because it’s so in everyone’s face,” he says.

But visual aesthetics aren’t everything, of course, even to an art director like Koepke, 44. “I’ll be looking for a combination of beauty and intelligence in messages,” says Koepke, adding, “That doesn’t mean that they can’t be beautiful and funny. Humor can also be a very beautiful thing.”

He’s particularly interested in seeing what’s going on in the automotive category, since General Motor’s Hummer is one of the agency’s largest clients. The agency’s work for the sports-utility vehicle, music-driven commercials and uncluttered print featuring the bright yellow vehicle cutting through scenic landscapes is entered in the festivals film and press competition this year. “It’s interesting to see how other people solve similar problems,” says Koepke, who was a creative director at Wieden + Kennedy’s Portland and New York offices working on Nike, Coca-Cola and ESPN and freelanced before forming Modernista! with former Arnold Volkswagen copywriter Lance Jensen three years ago. He accepted the invitation to join the press jury this year, because “Dan Wieden asked me to,” says Koepke. “I respect the work that his agency does having worked there. And I look forward to the judging and being around really great talented people.”

Opening their agency, Koepke and Jensen, who had freelanced together off and on for more than a decade before officially joining forces, quickly picked up high-profile assignments for the Gap and MTV. For the Gap, the agency created pop-driven celebrity spots and for MTV it compared the network to a social disease and provoked Boston to pull the ads. A low-key attitude pervades their agency building approach: they hired a fung shui master to oversee their move into a loft in Boston’s Chinatown and before pitching MTV, Jensen and Koepke showed their creative ideas to Koepke’s school-aged children (who okayed the idea).

Music has been a current theme in Koepke’s career. He was the founding creative director for Vibe Magazine, has also served as a design consultant for record label Rykodisc, and made his directorial debut through Modernista! last year, when he created and directed David Bowie for a commercial promoting the 28th record “Heathen.” While he’s never won an award at the festival, Koepke says he’s looking forward to judging at Cannes. “It’s sort of like school again,” he says. “I can do a little schooling and people can school me on new things.”

Like other delegates, he’s anticipating spending a lot of time studying the work at the show. “I’m always looking for something that’s new and fresh, and just when you think it can’t be done anymore, you find it,” he says. “It’ll be an exciting part of the process.”