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Cannes Lions

Mark Tutssel: Powerful Ideas Can Change the World

The Sustainable Development Goals Lions celebrate creativity that makes a real impact on society - and it could solve Cannes’ pro bono problem

Mark Tutssel: Powerful Ideas Can Change the World

Two years ago, the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon challenged the creative industry to come up with ideas that would put humanity and the planet on a positive path and would support the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development. Thus a new cub was born – the Sustainable Development Goals Lion.

The SDG Lion also addresses one of the concerns that juries and industry leaders have had about the work that wins at Cannes. It creates a space where charity and pro bono work can be judged separately from brand work – allowing each the space to be assessed fairly. 

Mark Tutssel, Executive Chairman and Global Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett, will be heading up the new Lion. It’s his fifth time as a jury president at Cannes and he’s looking forward to the unique challenge and privilege of helping to shape a category with such positive potential. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Mark ahead of judging.

LBB> What were your initial thoughts when you heard about and were invited the Lion for Sustainable Development Goals?
MT> I consider it an incredible honour and privilege to be charged with leading the jury for this inaugural category. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to preside over a jury at Cannes four times previously, but nothing compares to the responsibility of helping set the standard for a new category, particularly one designed to create such a consequential impact for good.

LBB> This is an interesting category because, to an extent, the planet is 'the client' for all of the pieces of work you'll be judging - does that change how you approach the judging process as a jury?
MT> The world faces enormous challenges that creativity can help solve. In 2016, Ban Ki-moon stood on stage at the Palais des Festivals and charged our industry to create “the biggest-ever campaign for humanity” by supporting the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development. This category is a partnership with the United Nations, which means the work we evaluate will address one of the 17 global goals. 

The SDGs serve as a framework for us to use to focus and organize our work, but it does not impact the lens with which we evaluate the work’s creative merit. The jury is looking to discover work that is brilliant in its thinking and innovative in its expression, regardless of category or client. We are taking the roadmap we have adopted for the people and its planet and applying it to the work we do within our industry.  

LBB> What word of advice will you be giving the jury?
MT> Judging a show like Cannes is a gruelling process – we have over 900 entries to absorb, evaluate, and award in just four days.  It is vital that everyone stays sharp and keeps their internal calibre consistent as they judge throughout the week. 

This is a remarkable opportunity to reward truly sustainable ideas that can create cultural impact at scale. We will be looking to seek and identify transformative ideas that can contribute towards a better, fairer, more sustainable future for all.
We have an added responsibility this year as we are curating the first batch of Lions ever to be awarded in the category – the work will set the bar for our industry over the next 365 days. 

LBB> Has going through this work in the context of the new Lion given you a new perspective on the role that creativity can play in solving some of the bigger problems humanity faces?
MT> If anything, this category has reinforced my belief that creativity has the power to transform human behaviour. Powerful ideas can change the world, and we as an industry are in a unique position to partner with our clients and focus our “for good” work to align with the Sustainable Development Goals. There has been a lot of debate the last several years about charity work and its place in creative awards shows. The SDG category now gives us a clear focus on where to put forth that effort, helping ensure that all the work we are doing in the pro bono space is truly adding value and addressing these vital issues that we, as a planet, have ratified and declared the most crucial to solve by 2030. 

Moreover, it is not being done to generate more money for the festival. All funds for entries are being donated to projects that advance these goals, so this is a category that is truly giving back to the planet in every way.
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