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Cannes Lions film winners: the view from inside the jury room

21 jurors, 2,800 films, seven straight days of focused discussion and probably two dozen too many cups of coffee than was good for us. The job of judging the film category at Cannes was something of a mini-epic in itself.

Ultimately, the two Grand Prix winners – ‘The epic split’ for Volvo Trucks and ‘Sorry I spent it on myself’ for Harvey Nichols – were awarded for their bravery, insight, strength of idea, and flawless execution.

What’s more, both were relevant, and yet unexpected, in their respective sectors.

Truck advertising using serenity, grace and an almost spiritual sense of harmony achieved through movement and music; it’s a construct that’s not just pretty original but very hard-working. It communicates a clear point, it stays in the mind, and the feeling remains after the film has played out. It is ingenious on many levels; the moving parts work effortlessly together, and what is essentially a product demonstration becomes a film with a soul. It works beautifully, it connects, it looks magnificent.

And, while altogether a ‘smaller’ film, ‘Sorry I spent it on myself’ was just as brave. Recognising a trait among its target audience for self-indulgence at Christmas time, coupled with creating the means to let people act on that impulse, was a powerful anchor for this film. Wonderfully cast and scripted, the timing of the uncomfortable silences, mixed with the product shots and brand name dropped subtly within the dialogue, never failed to raise a laugh among the jury, even after many times of watching it. If anything, it seems to improve with each viewing. The situation is just so well set up, the characters so believable.

Nike’s ‘Possibilities’ was a brilliant film which capitalised on a strong insight of betterment through spontaneous motivation. This was definitely a contender for the Grand Prix. Every aspect of it is awesome: the story, the editing, the soundtrack, the scale – and the voiceover, with its everyman conversational musings, works superbly. The point was brought up that it is exactly what you would expect from Nike – and that, for me, is why it works so well. It is what you would expect from Nike to capture the essence of ‘Just do it’, because we have such high expectations due to 25 years of setting the bar extremely high.

Old Spice’s ‘Mom Song’ was also in the running. Led by a strong – and very unexpected – insight, the spot is by turns bizarre, entertaining and extremely funny. It is brave work, and also for a brand that has set its standards extremely high. In the end, though, Harvey Nichols was deemed a more rounded piece of work, just having that bit more depth in all areas from insight and idea to craft and execution.

One of my favourite gold winners was ‘Shampoo’ by Southern Comfort. There was a general feeling among many jury members that ‘Karate’ was stronger but, for me, this film works even harder, builds the anticipation more smoothly, is more subtle in the three-part set-piece at the end of glasses/ the drink / leg crossing to culminate in the endline. Again, the entire piece builds towards a feeling, marries it perfectly with the product, knots it together tightly with the brand, and leaves it at that. The ‘Karate’ spot is excellent but, for me, this one is simpler and has the edge and captures that sense of inner confidence more succinctly than the extrovert nature of the karate execution.

'Mistakes' for the New Zealand Transport Agency was a very powerful piece of film, meticulously crafted. It was interesting to see a road safety film which didn't use analogy to make its point and, as a result, it grabs the viewer's attention and doesn't let go. Nicely scripted and acted too.

There were some unexpected winners among the golds, such as the Du Tuesday / two for one cinema tickets from Leo Burnett Dubai. These two films, ‘Too complicated’ and ‘Too depressing’, stood out immediately and did remarkably well, standing up against work from huge brands with much higher budgets. They’re very ambitious in their own way, and all of the winners go to show what is possible with a bit of bravery. Jeremy Garner was on the film jury at Cannes Lions 2014. He is the former executive creative director at Weapon7 and is now a creative consultant at Orange Digital

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