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Could splashing out on award entry fees be a thing of the past? IBM Watson successfully predicts Cannes Lions winners

Cannes Winners

In 2015 Cannes Lions raked in $59m in annual revenue – according to an IPO filing – with award entry fees contributing a hefty chunk of change to that figure, but are those days numbered?

Having reviewed thousands of previous Cannes Lions winners and losers it’s perhaps no surprise that IBM Watson correctly managed predict some of tonight’s winners in the outdoor category, with The Drum magazine editor, Thomas O’Neill, claiming prior to the results being announced that the experiment, if successful, “could massively disrupt the awards industry.”

Looking at various UK and US entries, Watson revealed ahead of time that TBWA\Chiat\Day New York would take home Gold for its Airbnb ‘Belong Anywhere’ animal ads; Energy BBDO Chicago would scoop Bronze for the ‘Life needs Ziploc’ campaign and McCann London’s ‘Time to Get Away’ creative for Ethos Travel would be awarded Bronze.

Near misses for the cognitive system came in the form of J. Walter Thompson London’s Listerine ‘How clean is your mouth?’ posters and MullenLowe’s ‘Free the Kids’ for Persil which it predicted would scoop Silver and Gold respectively but in the end both walked away with Bronze Lions.

With entry fees for the 2016 Lions ranging from $600 to $1,400 depending on the category, Watson’s success proves the potential for AI being able to identify award winners – and possibly save some agencies a bit of cash with it comes to entry fees.

Explaining how Watson managed to predict the winners, Oliver Cox, solutions architect at IBM Watson Ecosystem, said reviewing the previous winners and losers trained Watson to “create a classification model that could tell the difference between a winning poster campaign and a losing poster campaign.”

However, proving AI isn’t a failsafe method of predicting award winners, there were a few winners that surprised Watson.

McCann Birmingham’s Hardy’s Wine ‘Banner’ received a Bronze; TBWA\Media Arts Lab winning a Silver and Grey London’s ‘500 years of stories’ for the Tate scooped Silver despite Watson predicting ‘No Award’.

Energy BBDO Chicago’s ‘Death has never been more delicious’ also threw Watson off predicting a Silver, when, in fact, it took home no award.

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