Creating a winning Cannes entry

New Media categories are announced, and past judges Fred Forster and Lauren Richards share their top tips on how to nab a Lion.

It’s official: the countdown to Cannes is on.

With new Media categories just unveiled, agencies can start warming up their editing suites to prep their entries for the 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

To help you in your quest for Lions glory, MiC asked two past Canadian Media judges for their top three tips on how to create a winning entry. This year, with five new Media categories open – consumer engagement, use of screens, use of mobile devices, use of print and use of other digital media – there is even greater opportunity to capture that elusive Lion.

‘Winning in Cannes is a huge feat, especially for a media agency,’ says Lauren Richards, CEO, Media Experts, a two-time Cannes Media jury member and winner as well. ‘Over 60% of entries into the media category are typically from creative agencies, and 80% of the winners, so we have unbelievable competition in the creation of the support for the entries – given producing brand content is their prime business.’

Here are the top three tips for creating a winning Cannes entry, from Richards and PHD Canada CEO Fred Forster, who sat on the 2010 Cannes Lion Media jury.

Number one, says Forster, is having a professionally produced video: ‘Without a video don’t bother submitting a case and without a great video you will not get the judges to take notice.’

‘The video is the Holy Grail,’ agrees Richards. ‘Many judges won’t even read the case or look at the exhibit board, they will just watch the video. I know, it’s tricky for people who create media ideas for a living to create a production about the idea, but it’s necessary. Avoid tacky media special effects, and incorporate humour if you can. It goes a long way in the judge’s room – especially when judges are tired in the afternoon.’

Equally important as a snazzy-looking video is its content, both say.

‘Get right to the point and keep it short,’ says Forster. ‘What was the challenge and how was it solved by the insight and creativity or innovation of the campaign? This needs to be communicated in the first 30 to 45 seconds of the video. The video has to be maximum three minutes but even that is generally too long. Odds are the judges won’t watch the whole thing anyway.’

‘We all know how challenging it is for media people to distill, and edit, simply,’ says Richards. ‘We want everyone to know every detail of what we’ve done, so they can understand what a big deal it was. But that really doesn’t do us any good. We have to remove the unnecessary and simply tell the story in brilliant clarity to compete in Cannes. Especially important in Cannes given at least half the judges speak English as a second language. If your case is challenging to understand, it will be in the waste bin.’

And finally, read the instructions!

‘Pay attention to the judging criteria and be as clear as possible on how the entry addresses each scoring component,’ says Forster. ‘For us last year it was three things: insight, innovation and results. You had to score well against all three to get to the podium. Many videos get caught up in storytelling instead of making it easy for the judges.’

‘It’s crucially important to focus on the core innovation of the case,’ emphasizes Richards. ‘Don’t get lost in unnecessary detail. Bring the idea to life, not the pain it caused you. Make sure you substantiate the originality of the concept.’