News & Views

Opinion / Promo Lions Learnings

by Contagious Team


Nico Pimentel, founder of +Castro shares his takeaways from being a Promo Lion juror at Cannes

I've just arrived in Buenos Aires after going through one of the most intense, interesting and curious experiences I've ever had as an ad guy: I was a juror in Promo and Activation Lions at Cannes.

After watching more than 2200 entries, here are some things I took away from the experience...

A little bit of context first: A juror has to see, during three days, around 600 entries (as the Group is divided into four small groups, each group watches 25% of the total entries). Each entry has a two minute video and a board. So, per day, a juror spends 10 straight hours (lunch excluded!) watching case studies. With this overexposure of entries a lot of variables come into play.  

1) Create, touch, pray

Create (20%): The 'idea' is still the core issue at the festival and finally pushes an entry to win or lose. That said, that doesn't mean that even with a great idea you´ll be a lock for an award. To make it to the shortlist (the first big barrier that every case has to go through), I think the idea is perhaps 20% of equation.

Touch (30%): I consider the 'tone' of a case study to be more important each day. If the idea is emotional it's important that the case touches you or creates a feeling. If the idea is funny, it's important that the case study makes the audience laugh. A boring or neutral case study can ruin a good idea. Don't rely on the mood of your idea when it was produced. It's important that the case study reflects it in the same way. You have to see your case study as a TV spot in a commercial break of 2,500 spots.

Pray (50%): Luck has much more of a part to play than I originally thought. It's very different if your case study is watched in the morning than at 6 pm. In the afternoon, the jury's attention and patience is wearing thin and lots of details in case studies get lost. Another example is the soundtrack. In our judging sessions there were five cases with the same soundtrack (something unpredictable for the guys that edited them). When we watched the fifth case with the same soundtrack It felt so repetitive that that it held back its chances to make the cut.

2) Board paradox

This point is quite a paradox. To send an entry to the Promo Lions with a board only and not a video is almost suicide. But that doesn´t mean that the board is useless. Once the jury has seen all the cases, they are so tired of watching videos that in the following days, if they have to vote for a case, they will just look at the board. For instance, on Sunday (the most important day because it is the day when Lions are handed out) the board is what will represent your entry. So if it's boring, ugly or doesn't have the relevant information it can hold back the piece itself.

3) Technology vs idea
Some time ago (with the success of Nike Chalkbot), the technology could add a lot to an idea, even to the point of having a role as important as the idea itself. This year's Promo Lions made it clear that if technology is not helping an idea, it won´t have a shot. It doesn't matter if it's the first time technology is used or that the agency came up with it, if it doesn't have an idea behind it, it won't make it any further.

4) 'Ideas without borders'
This is how the president of our jury defined this category. I agree because every single entry of other non-traditional categories can fit into it. Today almost all the non-traditional campaigns are 'activations'. 

Adding the word 'activation' after the word promo means that the promotional side of a campaign is no longer the point of difference of this category. It's important to make this point clear: Don't see this category from the promo point of view. If your idea is good it will have chance. It doesn't matter if it has no promotional side.

Cliches 2011

This point has been mentioned by thousands of jurors this year, but I'll mention it again because of all the takeaways it's the most important: Cases that win are the ones that have a good idea, straight to the point and with relevant results. All the rest is blah, blah, blah. All the cases with 'the first ever in history', 'never before a brand...', 'zero budget', etc instead of selling the idea are holding it back and even causing rejection.

Bottom line: Before this experience I thought a case study was just a recap of a campaign. Now I know it's a 'campaign' of the recap.