Sequestered from the rosé and the walks up and down the Croisette, Pete Favat, North American chief creative officer of Deutsch, found that he wasn’t necessarily getting a "vibe" of the Cannes Lions — except for the work as president of the Film jury.
That said, the creative lens that emerged for Favat and his jury seemed to veer more into brands and advertising being more champions of causes and ideas and less, like last year, about “sadvertising”.
“I saw that 60% of Grand Prix [winners] had some kind of social cause tied to it,” Favat noted. “It’s a good thing. A positive thing.”
Indeed, in the film category, “We’re the Superhumans” by Channel 4 and Blink Productions in the UK that provided insight into 140 people — with a huge range of disabilities and overcoming them — was an inspirational, well-deserved Grand Prix winner.
This is the third time that Favat has been involved in a Cannes Lions jury (his first as jury president) and he and his team culled down a list of 2,700 entries to a shortlist of 220.
Somewhat jet lagged and tired (LA has a 9-hour time difference from France and, trust me, it’s not an easy one to manage), Favat shared his experiences last week and weighed in on a number of other topics related to creativity and the industry at large.
The Drum: What can you tell us about your jury?
Favat: I'll say, this is the most gender-equal jury I've ever had. Cannes picked a good jury for me. Some of them were really green, never done Cannes before, never really done big award shows before. I would say, they scaled the overall jury back. And 7 out of the 14 were female, which is really good.
The curation of what we picked as film was heavily influenced by different points of view, which I really appreciated. The room was awesome.
The Drum: What did you like about the jury experience this year?
Favat: I don't pick them but I really loved my jury.
I thought this was interesting, they weren't the typical, high-level CCOs that you see in a room normally. We had executive creative directors, creative directors, executive producers and group heads.
I only knew two out of all of them, and usually in a jury I'll know about 70% of the jurors — I didn't know any of these people coming in. That made it really interesting for me, and I'll say a lot of them told me that they had never really done this before.
I can’t vote — but I took on the responsibility of helping guide them. You walk in, there's 12 people I didn't know, and they didn't know each other, and at the end of it, we were like best friends. I mean, we went out the last night and it was fantastic.
Because of that, I created a statement, a filter for us, which was simple, that we're looking for provocative, brave, amazing stories, and we're going to be rewarding clients and agencies for creating films that can push our industry, culture, and humanity forward.
The Drum: There’s been a positive push in terms of equality and representation in the work. Did you see anything that made you pause, either negatively or positively?
Favat: I threw a piece out that was just in my eyes, completely insensitive to women. I just made the call and threw it out. I don't want to get into what piece it was or who did it or what the story was.
The other example I would say is, Da Da Ding, the Nike spot for India, which won a gold. For Nike to run a female empowerment spot in a market like India, actually was pretty risky. It's not a risky ad at all for the United States or probably for Europe, but in India — you’ve seen the stats [around abuse of women], they're abysmal. For Nike to risk males buying Nike products in favor of putting on a 3-minute, awesome piece of film depicting the female empowerment and sport in India was pretty brave, and on top of it, it was cool as shit to watch, so we gave that a gold.
The Drum: What surprised you most in the judging this time around?
Favat: Some work from Thailand. Thai creatives are fucking awesome, man. They approach problems with these wild solutions. They take real chances, but kind of like where no one else is, with humor, with provocative statements and things like that. They approach things in a completely different way.
There was one ad in particular for this pharmaceutical called Sure, and what it does is it blocks oils and fats from getting into your digestion system. The way they went at it was just insane. It was so good. Thailand is creating some really cool work as far as film goes and the way they approach it.
The Drum: Film can be long-form, but we’re in a short-form world. How is that reconciled in the brand world?
Favat: There was a bit of a conversation around it with my jury. Feature film Hollywood has become short form, and, as you and I have discussed before, stitched together. Netflix, for example — one show is a 13-hour movie. I still sense a bit of when it comes to branded content, there's a barrier of how much time people are willing to invest in watching it.
There was some really great pieces. One piece from Santander Bank over in Spain was really great, but, to invest the amount of time in watching it, I think is still the issue. When you say Netflix and you say Kevin Spacey, you're like “okay, yeah I'll give it a try,” but when you say “oh, there's this great piece from Santander Bank,” I think people don't get as excited.
I think we still have to figure out how we get people to invest that time. There was some great long form stuff that won, but as they say, it takes a big investment of your time to watch it.
The Drum: What can and should brands learn from this year’s winners?
Favat: If you want to win at Cannes, if that's what you want to do, you really do have to take a chance. You do have to stick your neck out. There's a legacy of Cannes and [the work] has to match up with the legacy of what a Lion really is. It's got to live up to that standard.
For clients looking to do longer form stuff, you really do have to think about making a provocative film that engages people all the way through. As I've told my clients, nobody's out there waiting for what you [as a brand] have to say. People don't give a fuck, and you need to do something that's brave and bold to get people's attention and to get on your side.