Cannes film lions: why the winners won

Cannes filmEvery jury panel at Cannes is said to be a completely different experience. It all depends on the mix of judges and, most of all, the organisation and communication skills of the jury president.

I’m happy to say that on the film jury – made up of 21 creative directors from different countries around the globe, and headed up by a fantastic jury president (Amir Kassei, CCO of DDB Worldwide) – the culture was one of total openness and respect. It was also great fun.

This meant the discussions could be very robust whilst giving everyone the space to properly interrogate the work – and each other’s opinion – to be able to arrive at a consensus.

We were adamant that we wanted to award two Grand Prix awards. And, whilst ‘The epic split’ for Volvo is an unsurprising choice, that’s not to say it didn’t come under plenty of scrutiny from every angle.

At concept stage, all of the different elements could have looked somewhat disparate (It’s got Jean-Claude Van Damme, yeah, set to Enya). But when they were all brought together they worked brilliantly. The two gold trucks, the knowing use of JCVD’s meditative gaze, the sunrise, the titles, even the fact the trucks are moving backwards. And, of course, the music. It has to be a textbook example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, and when you think how a beautiful, goosebump-inducing film can be made for such an unlikely sector, I think it goes to show what a benchmark piece of work it is.

The other Grand Prix was, for the jury, a clear choice but it did seem to be somewhat controversial amongst some journalists at the press conference. ‘Sorry I spent it on myself’ may not be the archetypal Grand Prix in terms of epic spectacle, but in terms of insight, idea, execution and how every tiny detail was captured perfectly to build towards the overall message to solve a business problem in a relevant, original and entertaining way, we thought it was absolutely a benchmark piece.

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It’s definitely worth re-watching it a few times to examine how subtly the brand name and product shots are laced into the story to help bring the characters to life and push the idea forward. The nervous shifting around of the (designer shoe-clad) feet as the premise unfolds, the panicky glances of the gift-givers as the paper clips and elastic bands are handed out and they look for support from partners and siblings, justifying their actions with the exclusivity of the brand. It felt effortlessly succinct and, most of all, took a brave idea and executed it brilliantly enough to let it succeed on multiple levels.

Perhaps, most notably, in an age when so much advertising is dressed up to try and masquerade as something else and disguise its commercial agenda, this film is unapologetically ‘an ad’. As such, there’s something very traditional about the construct of this film, but an unmistakeable sense of knowingness and complicity with the viewer makes it throughly contemporary.

Other candidates in the frame included the ‘Possibilities’ spot for Nike; an epic piece of film which ignited the ‘Just do it’ brand message from a fresh angle. It clearly captured the spontaneity behind the motivation of everyday sports people to better themselves, in a way that felt powerful and relevant. The flow of the narrative, plus the soundtrack, script and voiceover, captured a sense of inspiration that took it to a gold lion and nearly beyond.

Old Spice’s ‘Momsong’, too, had a brilliant insight at the centre of it, which it used to great effect. Its irreverence and unwavering originality really drove home the point, and amongst many hundreds of films viewed in the jury room, it never failed to stand out.

Jeremy Garner is a creative consultant at Orange Digital and was a member of the film jury at Cannes 2014