The Speech JFK Never Gave, Now Digitally Assembled, Wins Creative Data Grand Prix at Cannes

U.K.'s The Times takes top honors for 'JFK Unsilenced'

John F. Kennedy was assassinated on the way to give a Dallas speech that has now been assembled from thousands of sound bites.
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CANNES, France—President John F. Kennedy never got a chance to deliver his 1963 speech at the Dallas Trade Mart, where he hoped to address America’s role in the world and the principles that must guide the nation.

Kennedy was assassinated en route to the venue, and those who arrived hoping to hear him speak instead were some of the first to learn of his death.

Earlier this year, U.K. news outlet The Times and Irish agency Rothco unveiled a digital recreation of the speech he had prepared, one that might be especially relevant in 2018, given comments such as, “America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason, or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

To build the speech, the production team began with recordings from 831 speeches and interviews, resulting in 116,000 sound units. The wide array of sound qualities and background noises made it an especially difficult challenge to create a seamless final product.

Cannes jurors said that while JFK Unsilenced set a new bar for audio restoration and engineering, it also posed plenty of ethical questions about how this technology might be used moving forward.

“Just because technology can do something, should it? That was something that was a debate at times,” said Creative Data jury president Marc Maleh, global director of Havas. “With this body of work and JFK being so loved by the world, we felt that creatively and strategically for the brand, it made sense. They were able to connect the dots from a data perspective and a technology perspective, and our hope is this will move on and start to help people.”

In the end, Maleh said, the jury was optimistic about the potential for this approach, which is already being used to improve the voice tools available to ALS sufferers unable to speak.

“When you look at work like this, you have to think about the fact the technique, and the audio files and all that work that had to go into it, all those different signals from the audio are points of data. Yes, they did this just for one person and one speech, but the technique is super interesting from a data science perspective because you can start to take those data points and now actually use those things to create other pieces of content.”



@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."