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Cannes Lions

Cannes Hear the Noise, 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Jo McCrostie, Radio & Audio Lions Jury President on ‘ear-blindness’ and pushing the boundaries at the Edinburgh Fringe

 Cannes Hear the Noise

Audio, if you’ll pardon the pun, is an oft-overlooked medium in advertising. Without the budgetary constraints that come with visual media, you really can tell any story you want to. But the podcast boom and the rise of AI voice assistants mean that brands and creatives can no longer turn a deaf ear to the potential that audio offers – meaning that this year’s Radio & Audio Lions are worth listening out for. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with audio jury president Jo McCrostie.

LBB> This year at Cannes, what will you be listening out for among the entries?
JM> Curiosity and courage.  Audio is the place to innovate, to experiment and to exercise curiosity so I’m looking for playful, powerful, brave work.

LBB> What words of guidance will you be sharing with the jury to get them in the right headspace?
JM> Look out for those ideas that exploit the unique strength of the medium.  Hunt out the gems that could only work with audio.  Is the idea original?  Is it inspiring?  Is it borne out of a genuine need for a product?  Is it really relevant?

LBB> I always imagine that audio/radio categories require a lot of concentration to judge – and Cannes judging tends to be a fairly long process. What’s the key to staying focused in the jury room?
JM> There is always a lot of material to judge.  To prevent ‘ear-blindness’ (which really is a thing) I switch between categories.  If I become over-stimulated in the innovation category for instance, I’ll switch to the travel sector.

LBB> In your president’s message you used the brilliant phrase ‘the mind is the medium’ – what’s the key to creating a piece of work that really triggers the imagination?
JM> Be brave and go anywhere, be creatively curious.  The artist, Paul Klee talked about taking a ‘line for a walk’.  With audio, you really can take that line anywhere, even (and especially) to places that don’t exist.

LBB> The brilliant thing with radio and audio is that you’re not limited in the stories you can tell in the same way, say, film is. Are creatives really making the most of the creative freedom that audio advertising can allow for?
JM> No. With audio you can push boundaries, be brave and playful.  That’s exactly why my team at Global set up studios at the Edinburgh Fringe.  We go to exercise creativity, to experiment and toy with new ideas.  In Edinburgh, we tap in to new and emerging talent pools of writers, performers and comedians at the world’s biggest arts festival.

LBB> What’s your favourite audio ad of all time?
JM>Can you have a favourite child?  Different ads stand out for different reasons. Some ads are just so incredibly clever in their use of music.  Bud Light famously ran 200 ads for the ‘Real American Heroes’ and ‘Real Men of Genius’ campaigns which stand to date as the most awarded campaigns in the history of radio advertising.

Ads I love for the characters they create and the scenes they set are ‘Hamlet Cigars’ and ‘Dos Equis’.  You should also listen to Nikon’s ‘Family Portrait’.

Blooms Pharmacy is a prime example of taking that ‘line for a walk’.  It takes the listener on a journey.  And then turns left. 

And comedy, of course, is always good. 

Great casting and performance can elevate an idea and expose a raw, human truth to which we can all relate, as shown in KFC ‘Man’. 

Then there’s what I call ‘considered thought’.  It’s the stuff that gets right between your ears, stops you in your tracks and gets you to think about something.  Dove’s ‘Tongue’ does this.

You can’t not listen to ‘This is a distress signal’ from Amnesty International.  The audio raised awareness of the plight of 34-year-old Teodora del Carmen Vasquez.  She was serving a 30-year prison sentence after having a stillbirth in El Salvador where abortion is a crime under any circumstance.  Amnesty International hijacked an FM frequency to broadcast a distress signal.  It was the voice of Teodora’s sister asking the world to listen.  The audio demonstrates the medium’s power and ability to create a movement.

My favourite ad, if I really had to pick one, is an old one from Tooheys, an export lager brewed in Sydney since 1869. It has good use of music, good characterisation, it’s well written, relatable, fun, memorable and drove sales of exported lager. When prompted, it’s still kicking around somewhere between my ears all these years later.

LBB> How has the rise of the podcast changed things for the audio advertising industry?
JM> Thirty-nine million hours of podcast content is streamed in the UK every week (MIDAS Spring 2018 Survey).  We’re seeing advertisers take note of this growth.  At Global, we conducted the first significant study into digital audio advertising in March this year and found that 66 per cent of advertisers say that they will advertise in podcasts in 2018.

LBB> I’m really curious about how voice activated devices and smart speakers – Siri, Alexa and the gang – are opening up new opportunities for specialists in audio and radio advertising. Is that something you’ve seen at Global or something you think might open up in coming months and years?
JM> The rise in popularity of voice-activated devices is driving change among advertisers and creating new opportunities for brands. Traditionally, brands have spent a lot of time perfecting their visual branding and less time perfecting their brand voice. As screenless browsing and voice activated devices become more popular, this is set to change. 

As the technology improves, the most successful brands will be the ones that have an instantly recognisable and memorable voice and sonic identity.  At Global, we have an award-winning team of 65 creatives and audio specialists working with hundreds of brands to help them find and evolve their sonic identity.

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