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Creative Cannes Lions Agency

Live judging is tough but vital to understanding cultural creative nuances

By Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar | Chief creative officer

June 28, 2018 | 4 min read

Cannes Lions’ ‘live judging’ brings a whole new layer of sweat into the mix, by asking the agencies and marketers responsible for shortlisted campaigns to present their work directly to a panel of judges, watched by a live audience.


The time-honoured process for awards entries begins with agencies sweating over every detail of each precious case study, and then waiting, waiting for the industry’s great and good to pronounce judgment on the work.

But for Cannes’ Titanium, Glass and Innovations categories, the jury room has become an interactive forum, and – after my experience of presenting to the Glass Lions and the Innovation juries – I am sure that this judging process is here to stay.

Although Cannes Lions is an international event, coming from Asia sometimes brings a concern that judges from other cultures might not understand our work quite as fully as someone closer to home. There are simplest of nuances that can get lost in translation, if left unexplained on an awards entry.

This was true for our Glass Lion entry, which showed the real-life struggles of Seema Nagar, a female student of Samsung Technical School, Jaipur.

Now in India, parents go to any length to have a son and not a daughter. Those who don’t go that far find other ways to cope. Many refuse to call their daughters, daughters. Instead they call their daughters, “son”.

live judging

Through the live judging, we were able to explain that Indians often refer to their daughters as “beta,” a Hindi word for son. It’s not something that was made up just for our film, and it’s a nuance that might have got lost in a written submission.

For the Innovation Lions, live judging gave us the chance to explain and give a live-demo of the Good Vibes app and to demonstrate the challenges of working with the deaf-blind. It’s more effective in person to show how we impacted peoples’ lives by replicating touch and feel through smartphone vibrations, enabling users to translate Morse Code into the alphabet.

Live judging is scary and high pressure. You know by that point you are shortlisted, so the stakes are high. But at the same time, it opens up possibilities for connecting with the judges in a way that doesn’t happen with normal entry procedures.

You get the chance to understand exactly what judges are looking for, because the process encourages them to be expressive and to share their views openly. The pressure isn’t all on the presenters, either, because jury members are expected to engage and ask questions that demonstrate their understanding and interest in each individual case.

It’s not like a pitch where you are desperately trying to read the reactions in the room; there are no blank faces trying not to give their feelings away.

And opening up the judging to a live audience means onlookers play a committed, interactive part in the process by virtue of the fact that they are there to get some understanding from the presentations, which encourages everyone else to be open and honest.

Of course, it helps that we won a Silver Lion for Samsung and a Bronze for Good Vibes, so the process clearly worked for us. But we are hopeful that the judges and the audience were touched by each case study far more than mere entries.

Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar is chief creative officer at Cheil Worldwide India

Creative Cannes Lions Agency

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