Cannes Lions 2014: behind-the-scenes with Megan Clark

I love my job. And not just because I’m lucky enough to be hanging out in one of the most beautiful places in the world with a bunch of incredibly talented people experiencing the epic thing that is Cannes Lions. But because of the industry sector I have found my place in: activation.

Here in Cannes, the Promo & Activation industries are perceived as being the place where really interesting work is being done and that real life experiences that move people’s hearts and minds is where things are getting exciting. And it’s a huge growth area, so take note, New Zealand.

There is reverence for that beautiful sweet spot where the convergence of live emotional human truth and brand relevancy explodes. So all that brand-driven emotion has got to mean a bit of drama, right? You bet. 

First of all, an enormous congratulations from me personally to the New Zealand agencies and clients who were shortlisted in Promo & Activation. This is one of the fastest growing and hotly contested categories and there were a massive 3,200 entries.   The competition was very high and I can tell you it was tough in that judging room. 

It’s important to know that it is very, very hard to get a prize in this show. To make it to the short list puts you in to the top ten percent, and to be one of the 94 entries awarded puts you in the global upper echelon, the top three percent on the planet. 

So what happened in that dark, cold jury room over six days while outside the sun beat down and the rest of the world was swimming, swanning and drinking rosé?

Let’s start at the end. After a brutal 17 hours of deliberation and debate for final awards (off the back of a 13 hour day the day before) at 2.30am on Monday morning Harvey Nichols ‘I’m Sorry I Spent it on Myself’ was awarded our Grand Prix. It had stormed in with three golds for a start. However it wasn’t without with some raised voices that it was taken across the line. In the end this work was to be awarded for being a clever, beautifully crafted campaign in the most traditional promo & activation sense. It was loved throughout the judging for its audacity in the idea yet its thoughtfulness in the details. It was confident and brave. The awarding of Grand Prix was a resounding standing ovation for creative bravery and a signal to the industry to remember to celebrate brilliant traditional work.

However, let’s not forget the incredible power of innovation and technology in this category. To that end the gold winners Honda’s ‘Sound of Ayrton Senna 1989’ and Terre Des Hommes ‘Sweetie’ were both marvels of the use of technology and I believe both will become iconic pieces of work. Sweetie has used our communications industry to change lives in the most incredible way—through not only addressing the issue of online child sex industry but catching offenders, rescuing children and changing behaviour. Incredible.

In true dramatic and controversial fashion, two beautiful and societally important pieces of work were brought back to life from oblivion and into contention through the jury privilege vote, whereby at shortlist confirmation stage you can put forward a piece of work that is missed. One of those originally missed off the shortlist went on to win gold: #weareallmonkeys, a controversial campaign inside and outside the jury room, led by one sportsman against racism in sport.

And what of the New Zealand entries? 

There were interesting discussions around cultural context around some of the entries. Tui’s ‘Beer Plumber’ won bronze but the majority of the jury struggled to connect to some of our New Zealand humour around alcohol. I’ve learned that it is not only countries like Korea and Russia that have trouble converting great local work into a global context in that room.  

Despite not moving into bronze from the shortlist, the wonderful Paw Justice campaign resonated very strongly with the jury. It was very close to reaching bronze so possibly a reflection of the number of entries in the category. And although in the end as we all know, The Results Don’t Lie. As much as the jury really, really loved this entry it seemed that they weren’t brave enough to put it up in lights in the Palais. 

So what will I bring back to New Zealand from the experience? A tonne: that sought-after inside look at what makes exceptional work and what is it that 27 jurors all agree makes it dance? I hope to bring a lot of inspiration and some interesting considerations for building New Zealand activations industry. I look forward to sharing these and working towards helping to make New Zealand break out and boogey. But for now it’s time to amour everything that is Cannes: the talent, the seminars and the wild and wonderful work, all whilst dodging the dog poo in my party heels.

  • Megan Clark is managing director and founder of Copper Brand Experiences

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