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Insider guide to Media Lions

Cannes Lions Awards Director Simon Cook answers all the questions you've always wanted to ask

What Simon and his team don’t know about the Lions isn’t worth knowing. We decided it was time their knowledge was shared with the world.

created on Friday 27 Jan 2017

(The 2016 Media Lion jury photo. Jury President Nick Waters, CEO Asia Pacific Dentsu Aegis Network is top row centre)

Each year the Media Lions attract around 3,000 entries, making it one of the larger Lions at the Festival. Introduced to the festival nearly 20 years ago, Media is a Lion where many countries earned their first Grand Prix: Israel collected one for P&G in 2005, Korea took home their first in 2011 for Tesco in 2014 Peru claimed theirs for Coca-Cola.  

Following on from last week's Cyber guide, Awards Director Simon Cook shares his thoughts and insider tips...

The hunt for greatness: reflections on the Media Lion, by Simon Cook

The Cannes Lions Jury Lunch, an event so important it warrants capitalisation, is a sight to behold. It’s an eco-system in its own right. It's a menagerie of exotic industry species, united in search of nourishment to sustain them through the long-stretches of case-film-heavy afternoons. The stripes, plumes and colourful hides allow the casual observer to differentiate between species.

First to saunter in is the Product Design jury. These naturally quiet types are all functional utilitarianism and statement spectacles. The calm is soon disrupted by the approaching chatter of the PR jury, who join the watering hole and demonstrate their unique ability to talk and listen simultaneously.

Part of my job in Cannes is to check in with the juries at this gathering. Immersing myself in the crowd, I find an empty seat. My companions are dressed in business casual, which indicates I've stumbled onto Media Lions terrain. 
This is perfect. You can rely on the Media lot to always have something interesting to say: “…it’s a misconception. Winning a Lion should not be seen as the end of the journey, but the beginning,” someone observed. 
“Agree. Media is the one thing that gives momentum to an idea. That's something we've seen in all the work we've awarded so far... last year we saw lots of brands trying to do new things in new channels for the sake of it. This year we're witnessing those new platforms and opportunities being utilised in a truly authentic way that complements real brand purpose, and it's powerful stuff. I’m loving it.”
At this point I ask the question I always ask: And what would you advise next year’s entrants based on your experience of the work so far?”
“Easy… don’t be lazy! Push yourself. Push your colleagues. Push your creative partners. Push your strategy partners. Push everybody. Because the work that we've awarded today isn't lazy. If you want to win, if you want to get up on that stage someday you’re not going to do it by staying in your lane. You’ve gotta subvert stuff, you’ve gotta fuck shit up quite honestly. That's what Cannes is all about. That's what the Lion stands for. Be brave people!” he roared.
Cue lots of enthusiastic nodding round the table. Jury lunches – the watering hole – it really is the best spot for this particular brand of chat. “Well, I'll be sure to pass on the message,” I smiled.
Various packs started to splinter off and I help some frazzled Jury Presidents herd stray jurors back to their natural judging habitats. “Right! Back to it - let's find that great work,” my vocal Media juror proclaimed, jumping to his feet. He really must be quite sweltering in Riviera weather in that suit.
“Yes,” I encouraged, shaking his hand. “Happy hunting.”

The Media Lion: essential information

Cannes Lions: Let’s start with the official definition of the Media Lion: 
Simon Cook: These just roll off the tongue, don’t they?….The Media Lions celebrate the context of creativity. Entries will need to demonstrate an inspiring and innovative implementation of ideas. That is, work which is enhanced and amplified by a game-changing channel strategy

CL: And what does that mean in reality? 
SC: Nick Waters (Media Lions president 2016) put it really well last year. He said that we do the industry a disservice when we try to over define or create an overly narrow definition.. but quite simply, it’s the context of creativity. So, ideas that really play to the individual power of the channel to tell a brand story. 

How come creative agencies can win a Media Lion? Isn’t that unfair for media agencies? 
SC: The great thing about all the Lions is that anyone can enter. Silos are important and help us structure our view of the world, but increasingly people are crossing lanes – and that’s fine. Media agencies are no exception. They also enter Design, PR, Creative Data…etc. Each piece of work is unique and deserves a chance to be assessed on its own unique merits. That said, we have more media agencies entering the Media Lions than ever before so I’m excited to see the great media solutions that rise to the top in 2017.

CL: Is the Media Lion connected to Media Network of the Year?
SC: It certainly is. We award the Media Network of the Year gong to the media network that has accumulated the most points in the Media Lions award. Here’s how it works – when you enter you are given the chance to credit a media agency. Quite often the entrant IS the media agency, so they just credit themselves. Still with me? It’s all based on a points system. If you’re shortlisted, you get 1 point. If you win a Lion you get more. When the Media Lions judging has concluded, we calculate the winner and present the award to the lucky recipient at the Media Lions Award show during the festival. For media people – it’s very much the one to win.

CL: Are there any changes people should look out for? 
SC: For 2017 you’ll notice that we’ve evolved the Lion again to include categories around data and technology. For a few years now, the industry has been wrestling with the explosion of data. There’s a greater clarity now and the distilled thinking around data means there is a newfound confidence around the intersection of data, tech and creativity and we’ve tried to reflect that in the categories this year.

In 2016 there was a lot of debate around medium creativity versus media craft. So we now have an ‘Excellence in Media’ section, which aims to recognise the plight of the media agencies and the media craft behind the very best work.

CL: What sort of work can win in Media? 
SC: All the great winners have shown a seamless integration between the idea and the media. So it could be literally anything where media play an intrinsic role in the work. It could be chocolate bar packaging with a message that hinges on a cultural nuance like the 2009 GP – “Kit Kat Mail”… OR, some highly targeted, branded content messaging using media that’s only accessible to a limited demographic – like the campaign for women ‘Between Us’ for Vodafone.

CL: What key piece of advice would you give to anyone entering the Media Lion? 
SC: Collaborate. Pool your resource and work hand in hand with your media or creative agency partners. Also.. a great case film is all well and good, but in Media Lions 30% of the mark is given to results so be sure to provide them. Other than that – be clear on the strategy and results and make sure you do the work for the jury by clearly linking the two! 

2016 Media Lions Grand Prix. See the full credits on the Cannes Lions Archive

If you think your work has what it takes to win a Media Lion this year, or if you're interested in finding out more information visit the Awards section. You can browse the sections and categories, and download our super-helpful entry kit. 

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