Cannes Lions 2020-2021 Jury Report

29 September 2021

Cannes Lions 2020-2021 Jury Report

In June 2021, the event that draws the attention of everyone in the creative industry around the world took place – it was the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (hereafter referred to as Cannes Lions), the world’s largest advertising award festival in terms of the number of entries and participants. As Cannes Lions was canceled last year due to the spread of COVID-19, this year had entries for both 2020 and 2021. The total number of entries submitted reached 29,074 from about 90 countries.

For this special and first-ever online Cannes Lions, TBWA\HAKUHODO’s executive creative director Satoshi Chikayama and Motoko Nakao, Director of Media Solutions Divisions, participated as jury members, in Director and Media categories respectively. In today’s STORIES we talked to them about their experience of judging the extraordinary Cannes Lions, which took place in the midst of the worldwide spread of the COVID-19, and about creative trends in the world that they saw from the jury experience.

Cannes Lions 2020-2021 Jury Report

Satoshi Chikayama, Executive Creative Director, TBWA\HAKUHODO

Satoshi Chikayama joined Hakuhodo in 2003. After his days at TBWA\CHIAT\DAY in 2010 where he gained international business experience, he has been in his current position at TBWA\HAKUHODO since 2011. His accolades include Gold at Cannes Lions, Grand Prix at ADFEST, Grand Prix at ACC Tokyo Creativity Awards and many more. He was a JAAA Creator of the Year Medalist in 2015.

Motoko Nakao, General Manager, Media Solutions Division, TBWA\HAKUHODO

Motoko Nakao started her professional career at Hakuhodo in 1999 as a media planner, specializing in TV and Radio, and joined TBWA\HAKUHODO in 2006. Since 2017, she has been head of the Media Solutions Division, where she leads the broad media of various global and Japanese clients.

Q. Please tell us about the “Direct” and “Media” categories that you participated in respectively as judges this year.

Nakao: The Media category can be summarized as a category that “celebrates the context of creativity” – but actually, the Media category is very quite broad and comprises many detailed genres. For example, it has categories divided by the type of media used (such as social media, digital media, audio media, print media, etc,) or divided by the content (such as branded content, use of real-time data, social responsibility, etc.) Among those sub-categories, I found the “Breakthrough on budget” category quite interesting.

Chikayama: Simply put, the Direct category evaluates creativity in direct marketing. I have been participating in Cannes Lions every year for the past few years, and I personally have the impression that the Direct category is becoming more and more difficult to define in a few words.
When I joined as a jury this year, I was excited to see what the evaluation criteria would be. The email from the head of the jury mentioned three major criteria. The first was that it should be clearly targeted.
The second was that it should be “Response Driven”, that is, it should generate a response and reactions. The final criterion was to be aligned with the category. Since there were juries judging from so many different countries, it was important to follow these evaluation criteria.

The Key is the Creativity in “Targeting” Itself
Q. Did you have your own evaluation standards you had in mind while going through two years’ entries?

Chikayama: What impressed me were the three points shared by the head of the jury about the “jury’s attitudes”. The first was to choose “tough and charismatic works”. The second was to choose fairly. And my favorite point was the last one, which is to “take time to understand the differences in the world.” There were entries from so many different regions and countries, and to be honest, there were some issues that I had a hard time fully understand or resonate with, being in Japan. However, the head of the jury encouraged the juries to try to research and understand what was going on in the background proactively, rather than just saying, “I don’t understand.”
As for my own evaluation standard – the scalability is of course important, but I came to realize that the essence of work can be seen more purely if the idea itself is not influenced by scale alone. What I thought was important was “accuracy” – the idea and creativity behind the targeting itself, and the “magnitude” of the influence that the creative had. If the work penetrates deeply to the target audience, even the smallest vibration (influence) will automatically spread – that’s how I looked at the work.

Nakao: As this was my first time judging at Cannes Lions, I was worried about how I should approach the works and evaluate them. But the head of the jury advised the juries to “be honest with what you feel.” I took his message that I should open my mind to various cultures or religious backgrounds, and situations in the world and evaluate them with my raw feelings.
As mentioned earlier, the media category is very broad and divided into many different categories, so it was difficult to evaluate every work based on the same evaluation criteria. But as I was judging in the category of “Media”, I tried to focus on the “outstanding and creative use of media to deliver the message.” There were quite a few entries that simply used the media as a mere placement for a great idea, and I was careful to separate the message or idea itself from the usage of media in order not to be misled.

Q. What was the most challenging part as a jury of Cannes Lions?

Nakao: I have to say, the “quantity” of the entries was the most challenging part of this journey…It’s been days of looking through all the entries and evaluating them every day but it seemed like the progress bar on the evaluation page was barely moving forward. There was no other way than just “keep calm and keep on judging”.

Chikayama: I can totally relate to that. Actually, you have no idea how many entries would come in total. Just when I thought I had finally reached the final entry, more would be added each week. I have to say it was physically challenging.

The Sustainability of Results
Q. I think this year’s Cannes Lions was special in many different ways. Please tell us about the special features or trends of the event that you personally felt.

Chikayama: There were quite a few things that I felt were special, but I would like to highlight two points. One is that before the judgment process, personally and also as a juror I was intrigued to see how much of an impact COVID-19 would have on the entries. I imagined that the works created in 2020, in particular, would have been influenced by COVID-19 quite a lot, but actually, at least in the Direct category, I had the impression that was not the case. Of course there were some good works related to COVID-19 issues, but I got the impression that everyone was trying to deal with their clients, the products, and their business challenges and put out good works. It was quite surprising that Cannes Lions was not all about the pandemic.

One more thing is, to simply put, that the meaning and impact of “results” were changing drastically. Of course, the result with numbers that always appear at the end of the case video is absolutely necessary, but I felt that simply boasting the numbers is becoming not enough recently – The result is becoming sustainable, not just for a single year. The trend is to show what will happen next year, or even in 10 years from now, not just the result of the year that the campaign happened. In short, I felt that the way of showing results is shifting “from numbers to changes”.

Various approaches against social issues
Q. What were the most impressive works for you personally?

Chikayama: There were quite a few so it is difficult to choose but in terms of the “sustainability of results” perspective, I thought these two cases were very impressive.

Cannes Lions 2020-2021 Jury Report

The first one is the “I am” campaign by Starbucks in Brazil, which won the Grand Prix in the “Lion for Change” category that celebrates the creativity that breaks down gender discrimination and prejudice. Starbucks, in cooperation with NGOs, opened up its stores for transgender people in Brazil who wanted to change their names but were struggling with political and social issues that made it difficult to do so, to provide a safe place to change their names. One of the points that deeply touched me was that Starbucks committed to continuing this campaign not only once, but more years to come, because Starbucks is a “company that values the names of people” – just like its tradition of writing the names of customers on the cups. I thought it was a very emotional work with a clear purpose.

Cannes Lions 2020-2021 Jury Report

The other one is called the “Donation Dollar” campaign in Australia. What they did was actually engrave “give to help others” on a $1 coin. The coin is used as a regular currency, and of course you can use it for shopping or your personal purposes, but it just reminds people that you can also use the coin to donate or get a gift for others. What’s really interesting about this is that it is based on the “one coin for all” concept, and the Royal Australian Mint pressed 25 million of the charitable coins – so it’s an idea that they are looking at in the long run to see how much these coins will be used in the market.

Nakao: I want to introduce a South African campaign called “Cold Tracker”, which won Gold in the category of “Use of real-time data” in the Media category.

Cannes Lions 2020-2021 Jury Report

Apparently, in South Africa, the cost of electricity has been rising so high that restaurants were even turning off their refrigerators to reduce their power bills. In response to this social issue, the beer company took a measure called the “Cold Tracker”, a beacon that tracks the temperature of the refrigerator that chills the beer. When the beacon is attached to the restaurant, the beer temperature is checked in real-time, and then the company would advertise the restaurants in local newspapers, social networking sites, and outdoor advertising (OOH) – thereby giving back to the store as well. I thought the use of OOH that reflects real-time data was excellent, as well as the way the digital ads are applied, such as the geo-targeting that tells you that the beer is cold at this store near you. It was also impressive that it tried to answer the social issue and the simple human desire for a cold beer.

Cannes Lions 2020-2021 Jury Report

Another interesting work was by a pasta brand called Barilla, which was shortlisted. It created a playlist on Spotify for the right boiling time for different kinds of pasta, and when you read the QR code from the bag of pasta, you can jump to that playlist and listen to it. This is a campaign that utilized the fact that people have been spending more time cooking at home and listening to music during the pandemic. It’s a simple concept, but I thought it was a creative idea that captures the mindset and habits of people during the pandemic fully utilizing the strength of Spotify platform.

The transition toward “For Good”
Q. Please tell us your What were your thoughts on participating in the Cannes Lions as jury, and the trends in global creative & media you noticed from this experience.

Chikayama: Since I touched upon trends earlier, let me share two pieces of advice for future challenges to Cannes Lions as a creative professional. The first one is that the work that has already garnered attention from the impressive result and been already talked about before submitting an entry would be properly recognized in the Cannes Lions as well.
The second is more specific advice: when you submit an entry for Cannes Lions, there is a question, “Why this category?” It is actually the first question the jury looks at when they are struggling to evaluate. In fact, the answer to this question is posted in the most visible position on the online judging page as well. It is important to think about the question, the reason why you are entering to that specific category and write in a way that conveys your purpose to people from all around the world – it is our duty as creators to convey our message to the people of the world, even those who are not interested

Nakao: I think the trends I felt in the media category were “Technology for Good” and “Gaming Industry”. About “For Good,” there are a lot of awards for social themes at Cannes Lions, so you may think that it is difficult to think of how to connect our daily work to social contribution. But for example, Cold Tracker, which I mentioned earlier, has created a win-win system for both the store and the beer company to address social and business challenges. In the case of Heineken’s “Shutter Ads” campaign, which won the Grand Prix in the outdoor category this year, the company, which would usually buy a lot of billboards to advertise, helped restaurants by buying the shutters of bars that were closed due to COVID-19 as advertising space. This kind of thinking, to build a win-win system that achieves the results of the client’s business plan, but also adds a “for good” point of view, purpose, or scale, is something we can continue to challenge in the future.

In terms of “Gaming Industry”, there were a lot of entries that used gaming platforms, but I had the impression that many of them were simply carrying out campaigns on platforms like Twitch or in collaboration with games like Fort Knight. So I think that from next year, more emphasis will be placed on how to think of creative approaches to achieve impressive results using the gaming industry.

It was a month of opening my mind to the world looking at the works that came from all over the world, and many of which were greatly influenced by the history, culture, and social background of their respective countries. I really appreciate this precious opportunity!


Chikayama and Nakao shared that the creative trends seen from this year’s Cannes Lions were the importance of “sustainable results” and a shift in thinking of “For Good”, creating a win-win situation for everyone.

We will continue to introduce more TBWA\HAKUHODO members’ activities on STORIES so please stay tuned!

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