We’re being set up to fail by Cannes Lions judging process, claim media agency bosses

Media Judging

Members of this year's Media Lions jury deliberate

Two of Australia’s most influential media agency bosses have called for a shakeup of the judging process at the Cannes Lions, claiming it leaves them “set up to fail”.

Starcom Mediavest CEO John Sintras and Mediabrands chairman Henry Tajer made the comments in a video interview with Mumbrella following yesterday’s claim by Mindshare CEO James Greet that Australian agencies had underperformed in the Media Lions category.  

The comments from the pair carry particular weight because Tajer – whose media agencies include Initiative and UM – also chairs the Media Federation in Australia, while Sintras is also chairman of Starcom’s global product committee.

Both have been jurors on the Media Lions themselves, so have seen the judging process at first hand.

It followed yesterday’s  comments from Greet – Australia’s representative on the Media Lions jury – who said: “The work that we’ve seen doesn’t show Australia in a great light. It’s well underperforming.”

Tajer told Mumbrella: “It really points to the process that the jury has to go through. It’s in many ways set up to fail. To have a jury of 24 people go through over 2000 entries over the course of four days to then come up with shortlists and a grand prix is pretty much impossible.”

This year saw 127 entries for the Media Lions category from Australia. This translated into just 11 shortlistings and four winners – three silvers and a bronze. The number of Australian Media Lions entries was down slightly on last year’s 149.

Globally there were 2,895 entries this year which were judged from June 16 to 20. The jury was initially split into six teams to create a shortlist – leaving them with about 500 entries each to work through. After the shortlisting, the jury comes back as a single team to vote on the shortlist and deliberate on bronze, silver and gold and the grand prix.

Sintras added: “You’ve got three minutes to understand what are some very complex campaigns. The subtlety of the thinking and the brilliance of the thinking sometimes does not come through. I do think its time for Cannes to look at changing the way this category is judged.”

Most Cannes Lions categories effectively focus on creative execution, meaning jurors in the advertising categories often have an ad or campaign to examine directly. Tajer and Sintras argue that media needs to be judged in a different way to other categories because the heart of the Media Lions is strategy rather than execution.

Sintras pointed to a strategy created by his agency which won at the Festival of Media three weeks ago and failed to even be shortlisted in Cannes. He said: “There’s got to be something about either this jury or the nature of the process – and I think it’s the process that’s the issue and I do think it needs to be revisited.”

Mumbrella has invited the Cannes Lions organisers to comment.


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