It is several weeks before Bob Isherwood,

It is several weeks before Bob Isherwood, worldwide creative di rector of Saatchi & Saatchi, is scheduled to begin his duties as president of the Film and Press & Poster juries at the 48th International Ad vertising Festival in Cannes, and the international press has already de scended on him.

After doing an interview for Italian television with a translator, Ish er wood discusses the honor (and sometimes the horror) of taking on one of the most critical roles at the global awards show. Talking from a hotel room in Milan, he chuckles at the thought of first-time jurors thinking about fun in the sun.

“A lot of [them] will be surprised at just how hard and how late you work in those dark rooms,” he says. “It’s a different experience when you are on the inside.”

This week Isherwood, who served as a judge in 1991, will oversee 22 print jurists and 22 film jurists. They will judge a total of 16,899 ads: 10,782 Press & Poster and 6,117 Film entries.

The numbers are daunting, but the volume creates a realistic en vironment, Isherwood says. “What comes through is not that different from what happens in daily life,” he says. “The work that stands out is memorable and makes a connection.”

The Australian-born, New York-based Isherwood, whose agency ex perience spans three continents, says his background may help facilitate the often-contentious process. “Al though the judging will be done in English,” he promises, “everyone will be heard.”

Adweek: Why do you participate in judging at Cannes?

Isherwood: Being asked to be president of Cannes is a huge honor. It’s the world’s premier international ad vertising show. Cannes is also kind of unique. As a show, it’s the only one where everyone gets to see the work that’s entered and you can watch the judging process in action: what gets entered, the long list, the short list and eventually the Grand Prix.

Adweek: Would you say that Cannes is an accurate barometer of worldwide advertising creativity?

Isherwood: It has influence, and I think that increasingly shows. Cannes is a breeding ground for global ads. If you’re working in countries on the edge, you can see how your work stands up against the world’s best before the world comes to you, which is happening more and more often: winning ads that come to run around the world.

What Cannes does is drive a world standard, which is becoming more and more necessary to work to as global ads compete in local markets. For instance, the “Whassup?” Budweiser Grand Prix last year was running in parts of Eur ope within two weeks. I’m sure that was a result of the 22 different judges from around the world coming to an agreement, and the client then saying that it would probably work around the world.

Adweek: What are your criteria for evaluating an ad?

Isherwood: I look for originality. An original idea is more memorable, and it tends to cut through the wall paper that surrounds us. After that, the idea needs to be relevant, and then it needs to make an emotional connection with people. After all that, it needs to be produced with all the best professional craft skills.

Adweek: Why does craft come last?

Isherwood: One of the great temptations is to put craft first. There, you have the triumph of style over substance.

Adweek: Do you make different considerations when judging a print ad or poster vs. TV or film work?

Isherwood: The tools you have are different in each medium. There’s nothing more powerful for making emotional connections than television because it has more elements to play with—music, movement, words. The most disciplined medium is the poster. Whenever I would show my first creative director a TV script, he would always say, “Show me the poster.” That’s where the heart of the idea would be, with crystal clarity.

Adweek: Are some film categories more difficult to judge than others?

Isherwood: There are categories that are stronger than others. In automotive, for example, the stand ards are incredibly high. Then there are categories that are very weak. Of course, everyone looks at those and says, “We have to make an effort there,” and the next year that be comes a stronger category.

Adweek: Have you made any particular requests to your jury members?

Isherwood: I’ve written to all the judges. We’re looking for big ideas for real clients. We don’t think it serves the purpose of an awards show like Cannes to be rewarding work that is designed to make an emotional connection with a jury rather than a genuine emotional connection with a consumer. Re gions should not be the winners; agencies should not be the winners. At the end of the day, it is all about ideas.

Adweek: Will we be surprised by any quiet markets this year?

Isherwood: At the New York One Show this year, we won the first gold for a television commercial from China. I think that is definitely a market that will emerge. It is in line with what’s going on in the movie industry. You see a cinema in New York and it’s filled with an American audience waiting to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That kind of creativity is going to burst this year. We’re very focused on Shanghai right now.

Poland, which didn’t have advertising until recently, is another country that is emerging. Some of the work is pretty interesting.

There’s always a surprise at Cannes, something that makes you say, “Wow.”

Eleftheria Parpis and Ann M. Mack