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From judged to jury: a creative’s perspective on what wins at Cannes

Interbrand London’s Creative Director Sue Daun is a dynamic design force who’s fascinated by the impact that creativity (of all kinds) can have on peoples’ lives.

She started her career studying interior architecture at Nottingham Trent University before working as Design Director at Fitch and heading up Brand Union’s Brand Experience team. She’s been Executive Creative Director for Interbrand London for the past three years. This year, Sue was selected to judge the Cannes Design Lions—one of the most coveted awards in the creative and business spheres.

Though this is her first year on the Cannes jury, Sue’s no stranger to awards shows. She’s judged some of the most prestigious awards in the industry and holds 3no. DBA awards of her own. While objectivity is important for a judge, Sue’s penchant for people is what has informed her definition of good work.  “I love creating solutions that have meaning for the end user, that make a difference,” she says. “And I guess the only way you can do this is by being interested in people and what makes them tick.”

For Sue, it’s design that changes behaviors and sparks conversations that stand out. She talks about how this comes through in awards entries, what award-winning work she’s loved recently, how to create winning submission, and what she expects to learn and see at Cannes 2016.

It also has to be compelling enough to stop you in your tracks. Work that has impact far beyond its initial intention or that creates a category shift is work that stands out. It’s often not the big brands, but the truly smart, innovative, and conscious work that scores highest with the judges.

Is this your first year on the Cannes Jury? Have you been a judge in other competitions?

Judging is an important part of my role at Interbrand. It allows me to benchmark our work within the industry, and serves as a great source of inspiration. I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to judge awards including Dubai Lynx, D&AD, Drum awards, and D&AD Young Bloods. But this is my first year judging the Cannes Lions, so it’s a great honor to take part in such a special event.

What’s the key to standing out at Cannes versus other awards?

It’s different every year, and the themes or trends that appear in the work can often determine what you need to stand out. Cannes’ judging criteria is 30 percent strategy, 30 percent application, 20 percent innovation, 20 percent impact and results. However, the work needs to be appropriate to the category (too often you see work entered into multiple categories that is simply not appropriate to the entry). It also has to be compelling enough to stop you in your tracks. Work that has impact far beyond its initial intention or that creates a category shift is work that stands out. It’s often not the big brands, but the truly smart, innovative, and conscious work that scores highest with the judges.

What makes winning a Cannes award so significant?

The accolade associated with winning at Cannes is perhaps a creative’s greatest milestone. The sheer number of entries and the global nature of the awards defines winning work as world class. A Cannes win doesn’t just up your credibility within the creative community, but within the business community as well. It’s THE award that clients are chasing, and have begun actively pursuing by partnering with agencies that they know can produce award-winning work.

Is it difficult to remain objective when qualifying creativity? What do you think are the core criteria of good design work?

I believe great work should be rewarded no matter where it is from or who enters it, so remaining objective is essential. Understanding the work’s intent, the context of its launch, and the resulting impact is critical and helps to ensure you judge each piece on its own merits. It is very easy to spot fake work (work created specifically to enter an award)—the work has to deliver on a specific purpose and benefit someone or something.

As a designer, I believe the best work is brilliantly simple, original, compelling for the category it is in, impacts a wider audience than intended, and inspires others to achieve more. But as a judge, it’s the work that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up—and perhaps inspires a little creative envy—that really stands out.

What award-winning work has stood out to you recently?

Having judged Dubai Lynx recently, my perspective on culturally relevant, global work is fresh. The winner of the design category was created by Cheil MENA Dubai for Samsung: Kalimalock was a beautifully simple solution to a global problem of local languages losing their prominence among younger generations.

Samsung Kalimalock 2

Image courtesy of Cheil MENA Dubai

The Good Note by J. Walter Thompson Beirut addressed a growing issue in Lebanon (and likely the rest of the world) of refugee children begging on the streets, and the inevitable exploitation of these children whose money is being used to buy illicit items.


Image courtesy of JWT, Beirut and Bou Khalil Supermarkets

The interesting discussion in the jury room was that the design (not especially beautiful or overtly crafted) was so effective because it was familiar and fit for purpose—it was a take on the local Lebanese currency. Had the currency been too “designed”, it would not have resonated the way it did.



Image courtesy of Bou Khalil Supermarkets. Instagram credit @duke_anthon

Controversially, QIB bank’s approach to tackling the local issue of individuals not wearing seat belts was a stunning display of craft—not just visually arresting, but extensive in its impact on a problem faced by thousands of people.

Fatal Pattern Qatar 2

Image courtesy of Memac Ogilvy, Qatar

Furthermore, work such as the I am a Witness digital marketing campaign by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco—winner of a D&AD Yellow Pencil—demonstrates the power of creativity to turn problems into solutions: The campaign empowered individuals to speak up against digital bullying by posting a bespoke emoji to the very platforms where bullying is perpetrated.


Image via Goodby Silverstein & Partners San Francisco

Closer to home, Elmwood’s identity for the Craft Agency—a specialist recruitment agency—reveals a trend towards more flexible, dynamic, and personalized identities. Reflecting the fact that no two candidates are ever the same, it envisions a possible 10 billion different logo combinations.

What trends have you noticed emerging or growing within branding and advertising?

  • Design for a higher purpose: The work that stands out is often work that uses design used to incite action, raise awareness, or promote a greater good.
  • Technology and data-fueled design: Design that takes the digital world as its subject. Stunning examples include the I Am Witness emoji campaign, referenced earlier, or IBM’s Art with Watson tumblr series.
  • Dynamic Identities: Flexible and customizable design identities, like Elmwood’s work for the Craft Agency.
  • Simplicity and clarity: The photography for The World Table Tennis Championships by Dentsu Inc. Tokyo, is a great example. It uses imagery to convey the tension of the moment and the stoic nature of the sport of table tennis. These principles are also exemplified by the evolution of Google’s visual identity.

What do you hate seeing repeated at awards shows? What NEW ideas do you hope to see?

I hate lazy entries. If you are entering more than one category, then the associated write-up and visual boards should be tailored to that category. During the recent pre-judging of Cannes Lions, there were entries that appeared four or five times across varying sections of the Design category, but were only really appropriate to one or two. Had the entries been visualized to suit the separate categories, and re-written to re-frame the information, they may have stood a better chance.

But, ultimately, I look for work that breaks the rules and does not conform to what we expect to see—work that transcends a category.

Write-ups that are too long and don’t get to the point are also an issue. If the text is overly long, the work loses impact.

Short films that tell the story of the work makes entries a lot easier to navigate (especially when we’re judging on smaller and smaller screens).

But, ultimately, I look for work that breaks the rules and does not conform to what we expect to see—work that transcends a category.

How has the creative industry evolved or changed since you’ve entered it?

The industry is always changing, but three overarching shifts I’ve seen are that:

1. Specialties in advertising and design have merged – We have moved from the Age of Identity to the Age of You: channels have combined, and so too have the solutions.

2. Creativity is no longer solely owned by agencies – Clients are embedding Chief Creative Officers in their businesses, so design has an equal voice at the boardroom table.

3. Social media engagement is often touted as impact, as opposed to real human impact – Growth of brands and businesses is about tangible impact, not simply the number of social media hits. We have moved from “return on investment” to “return on involvement”, and it is this that is growing brands and businesses.

What are your Top Five tips for submitting new awards?

1. Be clear and be simple. When trying to stand out from thousands of entries, the quicker the main idea can be communicated, the better.

2. Create a compelling image that captures the big idea.

3. Adjust the focus of the story to fit the particular category you are entering.

4. Create a film that narrates the idea. It does not need to be a blockbuster, it just needs to bring the story to life.

5. If you created it, don’t write it—you are too close to the work. Get a colleague or a copywriter to draft the story. This helps you avoid the danger of including the kitchen sink, making sure your entry focuses on the interesting bits.

What do you hope to gain from the experience, personally?

At Cannes, and any other awards, the exposure to the great as well as the not-so-good helps guide my own approach to entering awards. It’s also a great source of inspiration to take back to the team in London and share globally within the network.

Meeting new creative talent from around the world is always amazing and really interesting. It never ceases to amaze me how small our world actually is.

I know that I’ll be inspired this year, not just by the work I’ll see and the people I’ll meet, but by the brilliant speakers at this year’s Cannes Lions event. The general immersion in creativity always leaves me feeling invigorated and refueled for the coming year.

And I won’t lie, a few days in sunny Cannes is always a welcome relief from the rain in London.

Sue’s design sensibility extends to the realm of digital experience—read her SXSW-inspired views on how technology is transforming language here.


Executive Creative Director
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