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Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions 2017 Jury President: Andy Hood, Mobile

AKQA, 1 week, 2 days ago

Head of Emerging Technologies, AKQA, on the surprising complexity of mobile and being blinded by brilliance

Cannes Lions 2017 Jury President: Andy Hood, Mobile

AKQA’s Andy Hood, for those who haven’t met him, is a rigorous thinker and inscrutable poker player. So, unsurprisingly, he’s going to be approaching his role as Jury President of the Mobile Lions with careful consideration. The thing is, ‘mobile’ is a category that has evolved beyond the smartphone and encompasses all sorts of portable platforms and devices – and it can be tricky to tease impressive tech from creativity. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Andy to find out how judging has been going so far and what advice he has for first time jurors… 


LBB>  Mobile is an interesting category, and one that, despite sounding fairly straightforward, could be interpreted in different ways (e.g., the year Google Cardboard was competing against content made for Google Cardboard). How do you define the category in your mind?

AH> You said it – on the surface, it's fairly simple, but once you get into the entries and justifications for those entries, it is anything but. I was actually on the mobile jury the year when Google Cardboard competed with content created for Google Cardboard, and we had that very conversation. It was tough for the judges, who were mostly career creatives now judging technology platforms that have no inherent creative quality in themselves but enable creativity to emerge. A few years ago, this probably never happened, and mobile was a straightforward category, but times change, and capabilities change with them, and before you know it, your straightforward category can become something of a monster. 

Credit to Cannes, they have worked since that year to rationalise the category and provide clarity, but it's an ongoing and evolving conversation. For me, ‘mobile’ has clearly become ‘mobility’, encompassing wearables, hardware platforms and product design. It's therefore important for our jury to have a full understanding of every category and the variables that need to be considered in each case.


LBB> What are the key things that you'll be asking the jury to keep in mind while judging?

AH> The key thing to have at the front of your mind is what the actual criteria for a specific category are. It is possible to have a brilliant piece of creativity but the criteria in the category it has been entered into are actually quite weak in that piece of work. In those cases, it is easy to be slightly blinded by the brilliance of the project overall, and then find oneself judging that work differently to the other entries in the category. In my first experience of being on a Cannes jury two years ago, we caught ourselves doing this many times and had to backtrack.


LBB> What are you hoping to see among the entries?

AH> A brilliant development over the past few years has seen a huge rise in the number of people and clients who, together, are using their marketing platforms as a way to improve the lives of disadvantaged people, solve genuinely important problems, bring awareness to amazing causes and really, even in a small way, change the world for the better. I had no idea when I entered this industry that it would end up being a catalyst for brilliant, creative people to help those with Alzheimer’s disease, assist victims of domestic abuse, raise awareness of LGBT issues, and so on – the list is endless. 

When watching many hundreds of award entry videos, all of which are for excellent pieces of work, it is energising to see this value being brought. Even if these things do not end up winning trophies, those who created them can feel very proud of their efforts.


LBB> I know you won't be able to say anything specific, but if you have, what's the general feeling of the overall quality of entries you're seeing so far in pre-judging?

AH> We have pretty much finished pre-judging, and it was really a tough job. And the reason it was so tough is that the bar is so high, I found myself constantly second guessing the marks I had awarded and had to really concentrate to find reasons to differentiate. 

There is amazing creative talent across the board, and I also think that there is such a clear understanding of how to present work for awards that pre-judging 500 or so entries is the equivalent of a full-time job.


LBB> Cannes jury rooms are intimidating, sunless places... what advice do you have for Cannes jury virgins?

AH> Yep, you nailed it. The good thing is that obviously our jury is made up of experienced professionals who know their skills and their industry, and are leaders within it. The thing that makes any environment into a positive environment is a good group of happy, collaborative, inspired people. Everyone will bring strong opinions to the table. At least, I sincerely hope they do. However, trading these different views can either be a tedious, argumentative experience, or a positive, collaborative exchange of ideas. In the latter case, much can be learned and many valuable new relationships built. 

Paul Saffo, who teaches forecasting at Stanford University, advised people that in the face of an uncertain future they should “have strong opinions, which are weakly held”. With this in mind, the experience of five days in a sunless room can be a fantastic and even enjoyable one. With free pizza.