Through the eyes of a juror: Lulu Raghavan reflects on Cannes 2018

I’ve just returned from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which brings together the best creative minds from over 100 countries for a week of inspiration and celebration against the backdrop of the gorgeous French Riviera. This year I didn’t just attend the festival as a delegate—I had the distinct pleasure of being a juror on the Cannes Lions Design Jury and the Young Lions Design Jury.

For delegates, Cannes is a highly enriching experience. You meet diverse people, gain exposure to the best work from around the world, find inspiration in great speakers, and create incredible memories with your colleagues all week long.

As a juror, Cannes is truly transformational.

Design Jury Cannes 2018

You spend five full days (and sometimes nights) with the best minds in your field, debating, discussing, and dissecting every piece of work (and there were more than 1,200 Design entries this year) to determine which get shortlisted and which win awards. We had a truly eclectic Design Jury of fifteen jurors from fifteen countries—a mini United Nations, if you will. There was amazing chemistry established from the get-go, with fantastic camaraderie and deep respect for each other’s perspectives—even if some pieces of work were polarizing. Individually and collectively, we took our responsibilities as jurors extremely seriously, using careful and purposeful thought about the messages we were sending with each piece of work we awarded. It was such a gift to get to know this special group of jurors, who are as passionate and obsessed with their craft as I am.

Seeing the future at Cannes

This year marked one of the most exciting and important Cannes editions yet. With entire industries being transformed at the speed of light, it’s easy to hold a pessimistic view of the future of branding, innovation, marketing, or advertising. So it was heartening to see the triumph of the human spirit in its constant pursuit for ingenuity. Personally, I walked away super-charged about the power of creativity and its ability to create commercial value and social impact. Brands have an opportunity now—more than ever before—to make a meaningful difference.

Top trends and themes from Cannes

It was wonderful to see design being called upon to create social impact and spark important conversations. As jurors, we saw a range of work addressing many pressing global issues, from gender inequality to environmental concerns, such as the vast quantities of plastic damaging our earth. There were also plenty of brilliantly simple ideas: Changing a logo to signify a Lioness, the McDonald’s logo flip, or the Lacoste work, to name a few. Each piece forced reconsideration of the issues they addressed.

I was thrilled to see technology used in the service of brand and design, rather than just for its own sake. Consider the Intel Drones, which lit up the Winter Olympics and created magic for viewers on-screen while representing the Olympics in a highly innovative way. Brands also uniquely engaged with their superfans to strengthen their brand communities. For example, Xbox Design Labs’ Fanchise Model allowed fans to exercise their creativity while earning money. We also saw how political parties have begun to effectively use the power of design to create emotional connections with their audiences. The Dark Diaries by the Free Democratic Party in Germany is an excellent example of this trend. 

‘XBOX Design Lab Originals: The Fanchise Model’ by McCann London for Microsoft

Grand Prix in Design

This year’s Grand Prix in Design went to the Trash Isles by LADBible. What an outstandingly innovative way to make an important issue visible. Plastic pollution in the oceans has accumulated and is now larger than many countries. So creating an official country registered with the UN was a big act to show the absolute seriousness of the impending environmental disaster. The beauty of the work is not only in the big idea, but also in the details. From the design of the passports and stamps to the flag and currency notes (appropriately named debris), the execution was impressive. Our jury wanted to send a strong signal about the use of design to spark meaningful conversations and drive social change. We believe that this piece of work has tremendous potential to change attitudes around the world and we can’t wait to see how it evolves.

Trash Isles - PLASTIC OCEAN - Cannes Lions 2018

My top two from Design

Two pieces of work that personally spoke to me were Playdoh’s Gallery of Emerging Species and Nike’s The Lioness Crest.

DDB Paris PLAY DOH Gallery of Emerging Species

I absolutely loved the Playdoh work—it’s such a great fit with what the brand stands for (a canvas for your imagination), and it has a fun and quirky idea at its heart. It was exquisitely executed as an online gallery using a very clean and simple interface that gives space for the different species to shine. The Woodywood Beaver, the Sunflower Lion—the names and descriptions of each species are a true delight and fire up your imagination about all the potential species you could create yourself. Playdoh’s Facebook page allows consumers to actually do so, turning the Gallery of Emerging Species into a highly interactive idea that is joyous and fun for kids and adults alike.

ADCN Awards 2018 - Nomination - The Lioness Crest

The Lioness Crest is also a very strong piece of work. The act of changing the logo from a lion to a roaring lioness may be a simple one, but it signifies much more than a logo change. It is a strong signal to young women (and men) around the world about the drive for greater equality in sport. The identity system has been beautifully executed and is a great reflection of the strength, elegance, and power of the Dutch Women’s football team. I hope this will be a true catalyst for change.

Parting thoughts

Leaving Cannes, I felt fully charged to share my experiences with colleagues and clients back home. Not only was the work impressive, the applications of technology, the care for our world, and the creative activations of the ideas left a tangible impact, making me excited about what’s to come in our industry. I walked away from Cannes with fantastic memories, fantastic learnings, and a direct-dial to a new group of incredible friends—an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.

For a visual journey of my Cannes experience, check out my Instagram, @Lulu.Raghavan.


This piece was originally published in Exchange4Media (26 June 2018). Republished with permission.