How Many Cannes Lions Categories Is Too Many?
Another year, another new Cannes Lions category.
The world’s most important advertising festival began more than 60 years ago with the lone TV Commercial category. Of course, it was a simpler time then, and marketing has since gotten a whole lot more complicated. So too have the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity categories, which some say are too numerous and too difficult to define.
This year, there are 24 Lions categories, after Cannes reworked some of them to better reflect the reality of media and the industry, the organization said when it announced the Digital Craft Lions. This new category was born out of the Mobile and Cyber Lions. And last October, Cannes said it was replacing its Branded Content and Entertainment Lions with an expanded Entertainment Lions program, as well as adding a separate Music category.
At first glance, another category in the digital realm seems unnecessary. Skeptics say that it’s just another way for Cannes to make money, as the festival charges per entry. Some observers, though, said the addition of Digital Craft was actually a good thing. With Digital Craft, Cannes intends to honor user experience and actual execution versus the idea itself. Judges with expertise in user experience and other more technical aspects of digital marketing will be enlisted.
“Once you’re judging, you realize how much the different categories can actually help,” said P.J. Pereira, chief creative officer and co-founder at Pereira & O’Dell. He said that especially for digital categories, you need jurors who are experts in creative ideas and ones who know the more technical side of the work. “What happens is that these two groups usually fight” when they’re on the same jury for, say, Cyber. “A lot of times, they end up selecting work that doesn’t offend the other side too much.”
The addition of Digital Craft allows tech people to review those entries and more ideas-driven people to review Cyber, according to Mr. Pereira. “Ultimately it’s a good move because it allows greatness to be recognized on both sides and avoids a fighting jury that can’t make up its own mind.”
But while the idea started simply—to break out technical versus creative aspects—there are still complexities, with five subcategories in Digital Craft alone.
Categories like Cyber and even Integrated have long been the most questioned. Cyber will now, with the breakout of Digital Craft, award digital creative ideas. But even that brings up questions. After all, in today’s landscape, isn’t digital in everything?
“I don’t think there’s a movement against it, but I do feel like people are starting to say, ‘[Cyber is] in everything, so it’s weird to call it out on its own,'” said Matt Eastwood, worldwide chief creative officer at J. Walter Thompson. “But I get it, there are agencies that need to prove themselves in that space.”
And when it comes to the Integrated category, observers have said that nearly all campaigns should be integrated anyway.
As for removing Lions, Philip Thomas, CEO of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, said there are no plans to remove any Lions “because all remain strong, and the industry continues to support them.
“But we wouldn’t rule it out if there was a sharp, ongoing decline in entries and feedback about diminished relevance,” Mr. Thomas said. “What’s more likely is that categories within Lions will be removed or revitalized to keep them current.”
New categories down the road are still likely.”The industry is changing rapidly, and the Lions we introduce are always in response to industry demand,” Mr. Thomas added. “The industry wants to celebrate and honor the very best work, and we need categories that reflect the diversity of what the industry is doing for its clients.”
First appeared on Adage