What’s it like being on the jury for a category as enigmatic as Promo?

The managing CD of one of Canada's most innovative agencies answers the question.

‘Definition, please.’ Being part of only the second Promo Lions jury at Cannes was an exciting experience for this Canadian judge for a couple of important reasons. First off, the work being showcased proved that Canada’s thinking and calibre of work is in line with a lot of other global trends in communication. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, because what we saw proved that the category, like the work itself, is constantly evolving.

Unlike other entries in Outdoor or Radio, which are clearly defined by the media they utilize, the Promo category lives in the world of Brand Activation (the definition du jour used by many countries besides Canada), and often utilizes multiple media and ridiculous extremes of budgets to find relevant and creative ways to connect the consumer and the brand.

So how does one define this type of category? That question sparked much debate within the jury itself, and no doubt some anxiety with the festival organizers when it threatened to throw the agenda off-schedule late Saturday night.

The answer lies in the work that eventually won Lions, and the common denominators they all seemed to have. The most successful work came from brands that established the consumer connection from the bottom up – not the other way around.

Globally, consumers want to take more control and have more input with the brands they choose, and the campaigns that were the strongest were the following: a new beer brand in the Dominican Republic that gave itself over to its consumer to define and launch; a promotion for Court TV that started with one ‘soon-to-be-ex-wife’ smear campaign at street level in New York; and a global initiative to save the planet that inspired thousands of people to switch off their lights in Sydney.

And perhaps the most extreme one – ‘Bonded by Blood,’ by Auckland, NZ’s TBWA/WHYBIN for NZRU/Adidas – won the Grand Prix because its emotional connection with the consumer was literally rooted in the brand’s DNA.

My experience at Cannes – like my career in this impossible-to-define category – has been many things, but most importantly, like the work I strive to create every day, it was never boring. And that’s the most exciting thing of all.

Jane Canapini is managing CD of Toronto-based Capital C.