Luke Chess' Cannes Diary

2012 Outdoor Jury.jpgLuke Chess, creative director at Clemenger BBDO, Sydney is sitting on the Cannes Outdoor Lions jury. Here Chess (in the green t-shirt), gives a rundown on his experiences so far in Cannes.

Day 1
I Should Get Outdoors More.
I already feel like a winner. I'm in the airline lounge, having negotiated the usual phalanx of stony-faced officials and heartless bureaucrats to get here.
Take the agency finance department, for one. If you're a suit heading off to a six-day strategy workshop in Chicago, expenses are okayed no problems. But I'm a creative - admit that you're eagerly anticipating a week of judging on the Riviera and the result is your claim becomes a case study in forensic accountancy.

Once that hurdle's cleared, it's on to management. Because no matter how many times you remind them of your flight details, it's only when you're standing at the elevator, passport in hand, that the realisation sinks in. Suddenly, you - the guy who sleeps under his desk on Friday afternoons - are more crucial to operations than clean hands and a scalpel.
Talk your way past them and it's traffic's turn. Till now, I thought a 'hand over' was a technique variation on the 'reach around'. Turns out instead that it involves sitting through a two hour meeting where you find out who's going to do the work you've always pretended to do, while you're away.
And then there's the 50-odd new Facebook friends I have to accept or decline every day. Each, coincidentally, with a campaign or two entered into Cannes this year.
Well, buenos dias Miguel, bonjour Phillippe, hello there Quentin and kia ora Jim. I'll see you all, and your work, on the Côte d'Azur.
And, with the finance department now negotiated, I must say I'm quite looking forward to it.

Day 2
I Should Get Outdoors More.

It's a little known fact that I was born in England. Sevenoaks, Kent, to be precise.

However, I was only three months old when we upped and moved to Oz, and half the O positive running around inside me is actually Russian anyway (thanks Dad). This is, I hope, enough to exclude me from the blanket generalisation I'm about to type next.

English people and great travel experiences go together like custard and gravy.

Now don't get me wrong. Some of my best friends are English. But something goes wrong when you put them in or near aircraft.

The basis on which I make this observation is twofold. Firstly, following the excellent service and attention I received from my good friends (and, coincidentally, clients) aboard a swish Virgin airliner, I was compelled to change at Heathrow for a connection to Nice. And secondly, flying amidst a bunch of predominantly English passengers is all that I've done for the last 30 hours.

With respect to that first point--a poster in Arrivals informed me that Heathrow Terminal 5 has been voted the best airport terminal IN THE WORLD.

I say, who else entered? Given that all T5 provided me was an hour's wait before they'd accept my baggage, a ham and cheese croissant toasted so flat it looked like roadkill, and a 'cappuccino' that tasted like a scalding blend of brackish water and pencil shavings, I assume the group voting it up weren't passengers. Maybe they were pencil-shaving suppliers?

With respect to the second point--I'd like to give a special shout out to the plummy-accepted chap who asked if I'd swap my window-seat for a cramped middle-seat further back so that he could sit next to his wife. That didn't seem such a good deal to me, 25 hours into a long-haul flight, so I politely declined. His response--'oh, you like looking out of the window do you, like a child?'--drew audible gasps from passengers around him. My retort--'I'm so sorry you can't sit next to Mummy on the plane'--would have been way cooler had I thought of it then instead of just now. Perhaps I'll see him around over the next week.

Upon arriving at Nice though, I saw about a dozen exceptionally glamorous continental women, and a super-cool sunglasses-brandishing Latino chappie dressed all in black.

The ladies, alas, were off to a convention in Monaco. The Latino guy turned out to be a fellow judge though, and I'm now heading off to dinner with him and the rest of the jury.

Which means I should have something much more interesting, and far less discriminatory, to write about tomorrow.

Day 3
I Should Get Outdoors More.

I used to mock those who complained that judging at Cannes is a brutal and unrelenting task. Now I'm one of them.

It all started innocently enough. The judges' welcome dinner last night served only to convince me of two things:

1.    My first impression of my fellow jurors was right--they are without exception some of the nicest yet most scarily talented folk you'd ever want to meet; and
2.    Terry Savage (Australia's Cannes Lions Executive Chairman) doesn't eat, but rather draws all of his nutrients from cigarettes and red wine. Impressive.

A merry totter back to the hotel and straight to sleep.

Then awake at 4.30am (lunchtime back in Sydney). Not bad for a first night.

A few work emails till 7ish, then down to the restaurant for a AU$42 breakfast. Ate four courses to be sure of getting my money's worth.

Screen shot 2012-06-16 at 1.27.42 PM.jpgBy the time we got to the Palais des Festivals, I was thoroughly enjoying the false sense of security into which I'd been either lured or lulled. It didn't last long.

The first hint of things to come was in the briefings from Terry S and jury president Lo Sheung (Mayan) Yan. Among the somewhat expected cautions around scam and overt national prejudices, there was a pervading sense that this is some serious shit we've all gotten ourselves into, and we'd better treat it as such.

The incredibly sophisticated judging technology further added to that impression. These Lions are a big deal, competed for fairly but firmly by some 100-odd countries. We'd better get them more than approximately close to right.

Some facts at this point. There are just on 4800 Outdoor entries this year. Too many for the entire jury to consider as one, so we split into three 'shortlisting juries', called A, B and C. (Hardly creative naming, but I told you it was a serious business.)

My sub-jury (B) began with category C02--Ambient, Small Scale Special Solutions. There were about 50 entries from memory, most with a case study video. By the time we were done, it was lunch time.

Lunch consisted of looking out upon the eponymous azure coastline, and pondering the fact that instead of swimming for the afternoon we had about 320 more entries to get through.

It was at this point that we each mentally did the maths and realised we needed to cut our present 3½ minutes per entry significantly if we wanted to finish judging before, say, the presentations themselves were scheduled.

The afternoon and alas evening was a blur of: more videos (some helpful, many unnecessary); a lot of work involving stencils, urinals, projections and facebook interfaces; and very brief periods of smug 'I could do better' self-satisfaction regularly punctured by work that you'd give your frontal lobe simply to have thought of, let alone gotten to run.

Fifteen hours after we'd arrived, we left. Though there's at least another 350 entries awaiting us for shortlisting tomorrow.

It's a brutal and unrelenting task. Feel free to mock away.

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