How to win a direct lion

‘Direct’… it’s a category in Cannes that’s become a bit of a dumping ground for entries. A place to have a punt on a piece of work that doesn’t fit the more traditional categories. And an excellent way to fritter away entry fees.

I had the privilege of serving on the Direct jury at Cannes this year and learned a lot about what made the winners worthy of hauling extra luggage home this year. So I thought I’d share what I learned with anyone who would quite like a return on that not insignificant investment.

The first question has to be, what actually IS direct? It used to be easy: things that got sent through the mail, or things with a coupon. But the world has changed, and since the advent of the URL, every ad is direct, right?

Kind of.

Our president this year Nicky Bullard set out some very clear criteria at the start of prejudging to hold the work up to:

  1. Does it know me?
  2. Does it move me?
  3. Does it make me want to do something?
  4. Can you prove I did it?

If you think about it, this is really what all advertising should do, so the scope of direct is legitimately broad. Whether that framework is carried through to next years’ jury or not, if the work meets this criteria, it’s in the right category.

But the trick is that everything you submit has to back this up. The case study must show how you targeted a specific audience, moved them into some kind of action, and where the call to action was. So much work we loved tragically missed an upgrade because we couldn’t find the proof of a call to action (eg download this, do that, go there), or results we listed in terms of passive metrics like impressions or media value. Direct juries only care about what you told people to do, and whether they actually did it.

And what surprised me most was the importance of the written submissions. They were largely ignored through most of the shortlisting, but the write-up truly did become the clincher when it came to deciding the colour of metal. That’s where we all turned to look for evidence of real results and a clear CTA, and if we didn’t find it, the work stayed put.

Also, it’s easy to think that worthy causes will win the affections of jurors. But we were reminded that Cannes Lions are for celebrating the creative teams behind the ideas, regardless of how jurors personally feel about the brand. A fast food outlet is just as worthy as an accessibility project for people with disabilities in this context.

The Grand Prix we chose this year convinced us all unquestionably that it was the shining-est example of direct. ‘Whopper Detour’ set out to boost Burger King’s sluggish app downloads, by creating a call to arms for people who love the repartee of the Burger Wars and inviting them to be foot soldiers in the battle – sending them to McDonald’s to unlock a Whopper for 1c. They did it, they loved it, they shared it. And they smashed Burger King’s app download and burger sales targets.

And the agency enjoyed a big fat shiny return on their Direct entry fee.

  • Kristal Knight is a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi NZ

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