Paul Catmur: How to win an award at Cannes

Paul Catmur.jpgPaul Catmur, creative managing partner at Barnes Catmur & Friends in New Zealand, gives some valuable advice on what seems to be the formula for winning at the Cannes Lions.

Advertising awards are very important. We know this because there are a lot of them and agencies spend a fortune entering them. Almost all of this money is wasted so here are some are some insider tips for those wishing to improve their odds.

Start your PR early
Even if you didn't notice that June was creeping up on you, you can tell by the number of campaigns that mysteriously appear on your newsfeed in the months leading up to Cannes. The reason for all this spruiking is that bolters rarely win at Cannes. Grand Prix are often decided in juries' minds by Easter. No jury wants to look stupid, and awarding an already high profile campaign is the easiest way to avoid it.

Gold attracts gold
Jurors also like voting for work that has already won at other award shows as it means someone else has done the thinking for them. I've seen work voted out only for a voice to pipe up "but it won gold at the Big Cock Awards in Kazakhstan!'" and suddenly the jury changes its mind. If the judging is to be decided by what another jury thought, what is the point of having more than one show? This view is not shared by many, particularly those whose main source of income is running award shows.
Invent a phrase. Use it a lot
People will be too embarrassed to admit they don't know what it means and will support it to the hilt for fear of showing their ignorance. Previous winners include  'immersive design',  'newsjacking', 'omnichannel retailing', 'brand storytelling', ' and 'bum flap cat toss'. I may have made that last one up but I have high hopes for it next year.

Speak English
If people can't understand you, they will reject your ad and possibly even invade your country. It's the basis of world history. Trust me.

Be on the jury
The correlation between being on the jury and winning awards is very high. You'll also in a better position to counter (or support) block voting from certain areas of the world as well as certain networks of the world. You can take advantage of foreign jurors who suggest that you vote for each other's work and you can argue in favour of your work during debates. The latter is strictly forbidden but nobody complains other than me, and I won't be there, so go for it.

Do a good hype tape
As much as jurors are reminded that they should vote for the work, not the hype tape, the truth is that they rarely listen. A big track (Coldplay, Daft Punk, Beck) slick editing, selectively edited results and off you go.

Enter everything, everywhere
I didn't say it was going to be cheap. Jurors have to sit through thousands of hours of work and the initial screening is done by just five people. This means your genius may be overlooked if a juror doesn't speak good English, is breaking up with his girlfriend by text, or has perhaps decided that if they aren't hooked by the first five seconds they can't be arsed to watch the rest. It's a lottery. Buy lots of tickets.

Don't bother with print categories
The winners in international print awards are generally scams. Yes, yes, they may have run somewhere but they have no commercial intent and weren't designed to do anything other than win awards. They are the product of unlimited retouching and photography budgets and carefully sidestep pesky client interference. As their scams are generally better than your real ads, print is best left alone while you seek out more welcoming categories. Radio's quite handy as nice English-speaking ads generally win out over the dodgy foreign ones.

Get all your friends to watch it
The YouTube jury is difficult to argue with so get clicking. 'Dumb Ways to Die' is the most watched ad in history with 103 million YouTube views and in 2013 it won more Cannes awards than any other campaign ever. This is not coincidence. Next year I'm sticking a logo on 'Charlie Bit My Finger'.

Do a charity scam
I hate these, personally, but as some idiots continue to vote for them they're unlikely to go away. If all the brains, talent and effort that went into scamming charity awards were transferred into actually trying to solve the ills of the world the fucktards would have considerably fewer awards to brag about, but the rest of us would live in a much better place.

Do something really, really good
Amidst the scams there is some wonderful work done for real clients which makes everyone on the jury wish they'd done it. This is the really hard bit, but every year some buggers succeed. Maybe this year it will be you?

This column first appeared on StopPressNZ.

7 Comments

Real CD said:

Great article…we need more of this guy.

Gold said:

This is so fucking true!

Bin Loaden said:

Brilliant article. You are the like kid in Emperor's New Clothes who screamed out that the Empreror is naked. Albeit in Cannes

Greidy said:

Trinkets for the natives, I believe Martin Sorrell once said.

However I also believe that Paul's last paragraph makes them worth having.

Thanks for the fun read.

Inside Voice said:

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

A fun read if it wasn't so bloody true.

What a shame the awards industry has become a game to play, rather than acknowledgement for genuinely great work on real briefs.

Douglas said:

Very clever, Paul..I like it!

100% said:

More categories for "Big Brands" and "Proof of $ Investment Categories" would help clean it up.

But there is almost more revenue in Award Shows than most big agencies nowadays...

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