What It’s Like to Be a Cannes Lions Juror

I’ve judged plenty of advertising awards shows. But this year, I had the honor of being on the Outdoor Jury at the mother of all award shows: the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. What was it like?

1. Long days … and nights. We started judging a few days before the festival began. And while our schedule said we’d be judging 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., our days began as early as 7:45 a.m. and went well into the night. Our final day ended at 2:30 a.m. The Outdoor award ceremony began at 7 p.m. the same day. There’s nothing like a deadline.

2. It was odd being the only American. (I admit it. I was the loud American.) We had jurors from the Philippines, Thailand, France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, England, China, Australia and more. Juries are carefully selected, with only one person from each country, equal amounts of people from each holding company and from independent agencies, and a balance of men and women (40% women for this year’s festival — the highest ever).

3. You’re being watched by an algorithm. The Festival does its best to remove all politics and bias. The scores each juror gives are sent through an algorithm that looks for bias by holding company and by country. If bias is detected, you’re spoken to privately. (I wasn’t!) And if you’re voting on work that your office worked on, your score is thrown out. If there’s discussion about that work, you’re asked to leave the room. (I was — Leo Burnett’s super-awarded “Van Gogh BnB” for the Art Institute of Chicago won Gold in the Outdoor category. I personally had nothing to do with it, but I’m very proud of the guys who did.)

4. The work itself is crazy good. There’s so much volume (we had 5,300 entries in the Outdoor category) that by day three, you’re in a bit of despair that nothing is really that good. But once you winnow down to a shortlist of 800 … and then cut another 300 pieces from that after a loooong day of discussion, you start realizing that there’s a lot of great. And that’s when the arguing about what really merits a Gold, Silver, Bronze (or simply stays on the shortlist — an honor in itself).

5. The infusion of women into the jury room matters. Our jury of 18 had 7 women — one the mom of a 3-month-old boy who came to some of the judging sessions with her. After years of being the “token woman,” we felt like we’d achieved critical mass. At lunch one day, we were sitting together, discussing shoes or waxing or some such, and when the lone guy at the table excused himself to go get more dessert, one of my fellow jurors said, “Ladies, we need to make our conversation more inclusive!” Our presence also resonated with the work: Some of the “brah work” that in past years would have been awarded simply didn’t resonate with a group that was almost half female.

6. Yes, it got contentious at times. We had a congenial group of people — no assholes. But we definitely had strong points of view on what was good and what wasn’t. Was the ING event “The Next Rembrandt” a marvelous use of technology to create art? Or a Frankenstein out to replace humans? Was it OK to give a Gold to an IKEA ad in which we found a typo that was likely the fault of the translator, not the copywriter? (The jury’s still out on the Rembrandt.)

7. The chow is AMAZING. Can you say éclair? Camarones? Terrine? All the jurors from all the juries — Media, Film, Direct, etc. — eat together on the terrace of the Palais. It’s another chance to mix and mingle with some of the best and brightest in advertising, media and all of marketing. And yes, there’s rosé. After all, this is France.

Jeanie Caggiano is EVP, Executive Creative Director at Leo Burnett.

(This article was originally published on LinkedIn.)

Like what you read? Give Leo Burnett a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.