The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has announced the names of the Jury Presidents, with a surprise for the MENA region. Ali Rez, Chief Creative Officer for Impact BBDO, MENAP will be taking lead as the president for the Print & Publishing category.
“Something happens when you’re at the Lions, it’s almost like your brain gets rewired, and I have to be there every year,” said a rather enchanted Ali Rez, Chief Creative Officer at Impact BBDO Dubai.
The Middle East left its mark at the Cannes Lions last year, bagging more than 20 awards in total including two Grand Prix for the UAE. One of these creatively nurtured and executed by Rez himself – An Nahar’s ‘The Elections Edition.’ Rez has been representing the region at the largest creativity festival, as a jury member for the last 3 years. This year, he has been elected to serve as the Print and Publishing category’s Jury President for the awards’ 70th edition.
In image: Ali Rez, Chief Creative Officer, Impact BBDO MENAP
Since his appointment in this role is a first for the region, distinguishing another milestone in MENA's journey to global excellence, Communicate decided to sit down with Rez for a chat and uncover his take on this moment.
You’ve been representing your agency, as a jury member for the last three years at the Lions. How’s that been like and what are you expecting this year as a Jury President?
I still remember the first time I went to Cannes; I was quite nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I was overwhelmed by the kind of talent that was there in the judging rooms. But, I’ve come to the understanding now that a Jury President’s job is actually easier than anticipated. In every jury that I’ve been a part of, the presidents have always played the role of a mediator. They allow their jury to speak up and put their points forth while ensuring that they keep things moving and balanced. So, I am really excited and not at all nervous about it. Thrilled to see what happens this year.
Do you have a strategy set in place for carrying out the responsibilities in this role?
Yes, I do. The beauty of the Cannes Lions juries is that there is always a balance because it is very diverse. Every jury I’ve been a part of is not only diverse in the sense of geographical backgrounds but also gender. Moreover, everyone speaks up, everyone has an intelligent point of view. With that being said, the balance already exists. The place I think, I’ll need to step in as a Jury President is when things get subjective. You might have a case where there is a subjective perspective – where one member might like something, and another might not. That’s where I know I’ll need to step in and try to keep things more objective to help surface the best work.
What are you expecting from the cut of entries this year?
The bar at Cannes Lions has always been the highest for me. Personally, I look for a few elements in work worthy of the award – first, it must be based on completely new thinking, something that has never been done before. This is a basic requirement for the work to be better than the rest. Second, it must be strategically intelligent, crafted really well, and have an impact on the society they target. Most creative work does that automatically, if you create something really good, it automatically transforms into something impactful.
Are there any trends that you’re expecting to see a lot this year?
Yes, the ongoing trend of focusing more on social causes is only going to grow this year. So, there'll be a lot of that. AI is also going to be quite big this year, and the latest conversation around how much that's going to impact the industry. There was a lot of talk about NFT and blockchain, last year. But I think this year, it'll grow into this arena of technology and people are going to be looking for the more unexpected things.
What are the challenges a jury member or a president can expect to face in the Cannes Lions judging room?
The challenge lies in a situation where you feel really strongly about a piece, and somebody else on the jury doesn't feel as strongly about it. Often, you'll see a very healthy, passionate discussion about it. Sometimes I've seen, members get emotional about a piece that they might get attached to. In such scenarios, I think one must take that mature level of understanding that you're all here to award the best work possible. The jury president is also a key component in making sure that everybody understands that the discussion has to be respectful and argumentative at the same time.
I think a good argument will only make for better work to rise. The objective of a subject and a good balance is what I think a jury president will help bring, it is the spirit of debate. No jury is complete without it. The fun lies in that debate, a jury that agrees on everything will probably be the most boring group ever. I've learned so much during these debates about just the way I used to understand a piece of work versus somebody else's point of view. It could be cultural nuances, for instance, that somebody brings up that I never thought of, or it could be the way something is crafted and someone in the room makes you realize that there is a certain appreciation. But those are the discussions that I think presidents need to step into and make sure that they take place in a very balanced way.
How do you think this opportunity is going to influence your future endeavors at Impact BBDO?
As a member of any jury, the best thing you can do is learn a lot from it. Learn, not just from the work you see, but the discussions around the work. You learn about cultures and the way people think. That's vital for everything we do. It’s like that little bit of boost you need. When you see that, you also want to get your work up to that level.
To keep that spirit, for instance, we have weekly sessions, where we choose a video showcasing our people's work that is out there that we think is the best. We want to instill that healthy pressure on people that says - I want to be that person that creates work like that, that I'm proud of. So, I think that's the most valuable thing to take away from this experience.