Inside the Jury Room: Social, PR, Direct and Media

Anthony Chelvanathan, Jordan Doucette, Krista Webster, Caroline Moul and Laura Kim share insights from the jury room on Day 2.
Grand Prix Trophy
For this year’s Cannes Lions, strategy asked the Canadian jurors to take our readers behind the curtain of the jury rooms, where deliberations took place across continents and timezones. Here, each of the experts in their fields will dissect the category they judged and also reveal the campaign that inspired them most this year. 

Social & Influencer

By Jordan Doucette, partner & president, No Fixed Address

Thank you creativity.

You made a hard year easier, funnier, more inspiring and less boring. And I say that as both someone who was grateful to be able to use creativity to get through the year (I’d rather make ads than bread) and as someone who had the privilege of getting to view all of the work in the Cannes Social & Influencer categories. 

Jordan DoucetteOkay, so truth be told, I’d say we got better in the back-half of the year. It seemed that in the panic of the pandemic we made some pretty terrible ads reminding people that your car/telco/landscaping company were all in it with you.

And then we broke free and got really real.

When we knew people were at home truly evaluating life, trying to see the silver linings, missing their friends, family and fave bar stool, we (the advertising industry) realized we better not ask for their time without thinking about what we might give them back in return. Would we give them that deeply needed laugh, a piece of utility or impact culture to make a difference or make a moment better?

The “Bread Exam” for Spinneys and the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation was one of those stand-out pieces of creativity for me. Taking into account cultural taboos and finding a solution that educated women about self-examinations all while being disguised as a cooking show – brilliant. 

Or “Live from the Library” for the Chicago Library, which didn’t let closed library doors keep kids from books, and even took it one step further with celebs doing story time. It’s the perfect example of the industry acknowledging how COVID accelerated and amplified so many issues, and using the power of creativity to find a solution. 

And from Canada (go Canada!) Parkscapes found a totally unexpected, breakthrough way of fundraising for Toronto’s Regent Park School of Music. I love how they set out such an ambitious goal – let’s not just raise funds for the school, let’s totally reinvent the idea of fundraising. 

Good luck to all the shortlists. The work was inspiring and I loved having the chance to view it.

Juror Pick:

Spinneys Supermarket / Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation
“The Bread Exam” by McCann Clichy
Country: Lebanon


By Anthony Chelvanathan, EVP, ECD, Edelman

It has been a year and a half unlike any other. So it felt very natural, as a jury, to focus on awarding work that created meaningful connections and brought us together despite the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in. We also focused on the ideas that added value to an organization or to society.

Screen Shot 2021-06-21 at 12.15.07 PMAnd, as always, we kept an eye out for simple, sticky and attractive ideas that worked across all platforms to make people look at things in a new way and act as a catalyst for change. Overall, there were a couple of noticeable trends in the PR category this year. The first was a focus on societal good while the second was the use of technology to create a bigger impact, both of which led to a great range of work.

For me, Cannes Lions at the core has always been a creative show. So while the results in a case study are a key part of the story, it was more important to me that the idea shone through. When I think back to all the awesome Canadian work that was submitted, the two that stood out to me were the Heinz “Ketchup Puzzle” and the Molson’s “Make It Canadian” beer case. These executions really exemplified the PR category and checked all the important boxes.

If there’s one tip I can give those entering the PR category, it’s to pay attention to every detail of the submissions, especially the writeups, which can give the jury a closer look at the thinking behind your entry. Also, spend time on the case study and create cuts specific to the category you’re submitting to. Seeing what it takes to be shortlisted at Cannes, I’ve realized how hard it really is and I have an even greater appreciation for the level of work it takes to make it here.

Juror Pick:

House of Lapland “Salla 2032″ by Africa
Country: Finland


By Krista Webster, CEO and president, Veritas

I was honoured to be asked to judge the Cannes PR Lions this year which, given COVID-19, reflected two years of incredible work, two years of activism, two years for brands to make a real difference.

Krista WebsterJudging this breadth of work was no small feat and I quite honestly underestimated the time commitment, toggling back and forth between current client work and team demands, and replacing “after hours” Netflix, weekends and even meals to review the work. But here’s the wonderful thing: I became quite addicted to the cathartic process of watching and reading submissions that unearthed a bevy of emotions from sheer delight, to tears of sorrow. Quite honestly, Cannes became my COVID crush. A partner that was always there for me to teach me something, and open my eyes to what truly good versus superb looks like.

A decade ago my team and I won the inaugural Cannes PR Lions for a female empowerment program by P&G called “Protecting Futures.” Fast forward to today, and the good and bad news is that femicide and female inequality still reign as Cannes-worthy work submissions. From sports/salary inequities to how banks reach (or don’t reach) female audiences to the lack of women-specific testing for automotive safety, the Cannes PR Lions continue to be a critical pedestal to spotlight women’s issues.

Speaking of which, mother earth is also suffering in a way that not even I truly understood the gravity of until I reviewed some of the submissions from Japan and Europe. It created such a discomfort in me that I now feel ethically and morally responsible for championing the oceans, the sea life, the wildlife.

The diversity and inclusion work from places that might be perceived as less progressive was what truly stood out. The “Black Santa” program for Coke in Brazil was hopeful and profound from a country that bodes a higher black population than white, but rarely is this diversity reflected in pop culture; the celebration of transgender people in Mexico by a leading beer brand was creatively clever and wildly imaginative.

From a Canadian perspective, there was some representation as part of the U.S./global submissions I judged, but nothing that I saw as Canadian first. Which only motivates me to rally our country’s finest to try and fill the (red and white) space for next year.

Regardless of intention, the best Cannes PR work wasn’t just a media or influencer augmentation of a great brand idea. In most cases it was the idea born from advertising and PR blending together to “make people care.” As lines continue to blur between disciplines, perhaps the need for a PR category at Cannes may one day become antiquated altogether.

Juror Pick

Volvo “The E.V.A Initiative” by Forsman & Bodenfors
Country: Sweden


By Laura Kim, creative director (formerly at Forsman & Bodenfors)

When I started my first job as a junior art director at Taxi in the early 2000s, direct marketing was considered to be the less “cool” counterpart in advertising. Things have changed. Gone are the days of printing pamphlets and brochures mailed out to a random list of addresses.

Today, things are done differently. The reach is hyper-targeted, immediate, clickable and increasingly “hashtagable.” Creative finally has a chance to breakthrough in the world of direct.

Screen Shot 2021-06-21 at 1.22.52 PMWhat I’ve seen in this year’s Cannes Lions entries in the Direct category is that there is no shortage of creative brilliance in these unprecedented times. Be it how to stay fit, work smarter, be entertained, and simply stay sane. Rethink’s “Heinz Ketchup Puzzle” hit the zeitgeist right on the nose and proved how even a condiment brand can remain part of the cultural conversation.

We’ve seen many corporations stepping up and supporting small/local businesses. COVID-19 also sped up businesses going digital, and some brands helped make that transition possible. There is a true sense of solidarity felt in both tone and purpose that impressed me and it was reassuring to see that happening in all parts of the world.

Brands are increasingly putting a focus on sustainability now more than ever. Not only are customers seeking services and products that have a sustainable story to tell, brands themselves are finally realizing their crucial role in the future of our planet.

Inclusivity is also an important aspect in many of this year’s entries. FCB’s “Project Understood” is a brilliant example of how to amplify a community that is so often overlooked.

There’s no denying the impact the pandemic has had on almost every aspect of our industry, but breakthrough creative thinking in direct leaves me surprisingly optimistic.

Juror Pick:

Oreo “Doomsday Vault” by The Community New York
Country: USA


By Caroline Moul, president, PHD Media

It was an honour to be selected to help judge the Media Lions. And despite being a major time commitment on top of an already busy schedule I jumped at the opportunity. Spending time with some of the best work from around the world was truly inspirational.

Caroline MOulThis year’s Cannes Lions spanned a two-year period of work, pre-COVID, response to COVID, and the new normal. The quality of the cases varied greatly; the weakest area within judging tended to be in the results, most relying on media metrics and not tying to business results or impact on brand. It’s a shame, because while it’s a major task to successfully bring together creative and analytical mindsets, I truly believe this represents a key opportunity for advertisers.

The category that stood out the most for me was Audio. The creativity and uniqueness in how a brand can leverage audio to create an experience came through in such an impactful way. Some of my favourites were “Hum to Search” from the U.S., “Slow Down Songs” from Australia and “Silence” from Brazil.

The Culture category also left me awestruck. Whether in an effort to end violence against women or challenging cultural norms and even language itself, brands stepped up to take on societal challenges on a global level. The work was impressive and delivered marked results.

When it came to the quality of the cases, in comparison to other years, and the spectrum of cases I reviewed, there wasn’t much invention of a new media space. Although a few countries consistency delivered creativity in media such as New Zealand, Australia, and the Middle East.

For those thinking about the next big campaign to enter with, put attention into how the campaign succeeded in achieving not only the marketing objective but the business objective at hand. To understand the benchmark of Lions worthy, I strongly recommend you find the time to watch some of the winning campaigns.

Congratulations to all the great Canadian work that shortlisted and won.

Juror Pick:

Tena “Despair No More” by Impact BBDO Dubai & Zenith Dubai
Country: Dubai