The jury president of this year’s Cannes Lions Film category on the imperative for advertising people to feel great about what they do
Despite the many challenges to getting work produced, film advertising has had its inspiring highlights in the last year and a half. The production industry has innovated and adapted to continue making the TV commercials and online film work that often takes centre stage at awards like Cannes Lions.
So this year’s Film category is as important this year as any other. Richard Brim, CCO at London’s adam&eveDDB knows great film work. He’s been involved in multiple Lion-winning campaigns, including John Lewis’ famous Christmas work and uniquely brilliant work for Marmite and Harvey Nichols. LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Richard to find out how judging has been going and why this year’s winners will be something special.
LBB> After a year and a half of Covid-19, why does the business and creative world need award shows?
Richard> They don’t. But they need a centre of gravity to come together, and as an industry we are at our best when we are being huggy. We need to focus on and feel great about what we do, and to showcase the best in class of that year. A really good awards show pushes people forward creatively. Do we need all the other stuff around it? Probably not.
LBB> You’ll be awarding 2020 and 2021 Lions – I know the years are being judged separately but it must be super illuminating to see the comparison between pre-Covid and Covid work. I know it’s still in the pre-judging phase, but have you noticed any trends or has it given you any new perspective on how the industry has changed?
Richard> The only thing that’s different is that we are seeing Covid work at all. An excellent idea is an excellent idea, and an excellent execution is an excellent execution. It makes you feel something, it drags you in and takes you along with it and leaves you thinking about it. These are the criteria that I’ve always used in judging great work. It’s just the same, except there are more stories about being at home, or away from loved ones.
LBB> The craft of filmmaking has clearly had to change a lot in the past year but ideas for film might have shifted more subtly. What will you be most interested to look out for in that regard?
Richard> Ingenuity in film making is prevalent, but that’s a good thing. Maybe we were all becoming too lazy, enjoying the fact that we had big projects with the best directors in glamorous locations. Anything that forces you to do things differently, to be more imaginative in how we produce our work will lead to more interesting work and help to keep us moving forward.
LBB> The Grand Prix in Film went to The New York Times 'The Truth Is Worth It' from Droga5 New York in 2019. What is it about that campaign that you'll be looking for in work in 2020 and 2021?
Richard> Its excellence. Its impeccable craft. Its thought-provoking nature. Exactly those three principles. ‘The Truth Is Worth It’ drags you in, keeps you with it, and when it spits you out, it keeps you thinking about it. It did that in spades in a really elegant way, and we will have that again this year. It’s the same every single year, because that’s what great work does.
LBB> This has been a year that has seen the industry chuck out all of the rule books, so in some ways, this year’s Cannes Lions is a launchpad for the future – how does that frame how you’ll be looking at the work? Does it give the juries an extra responsibility?
Richard> No. How the industry behaves is very different to what we award as the industry’s best work. The last year has given us a blank canvas, new ways to do things and make work happen, but we won’t award anything unless the work is excellent. Our job is to sift out the most excellent work. Maybe that will feel different in the way it’s put together, and I hope it does. I think the industry will push itself forward, and we just need to pick out and celebrate the real excellence.
LBB> You've been behind some of the most celebrated TVCs of all time. What's something key that you've learnt from working on those campaigns about making a good film campaign?
Richard> That’s very kind of you. I’m not sure how true it is, but I’ll take it. Again, you’ve just got to make people care and bring people with you. I think that as an industry we are at our best when we look outwards, bring people in and talk to people. We are at our worst when we are talking to ourselves. Talking to ourselves can get to great work, but there’s no real point in it. Just try and make the most compelling, interesting, emotionally engaging story you can possibly make. The best work engages the viewer through emotion in whatever form, whether that’s funny, thoughtful, sad or angry.
LBB> What advice will you be giving the jury?
Richard> Have fun. Be generous. Be fair and open-minded. Don’t feel the weight of Cannes above you, because you can feel the weight a little bit – it’s quite an honour, and you know the whole industry will be looking at our shortlist and going, ‘Whaaaaat???’ I don’t want that pressure to get in the way of what we perceive to be good work. The industry can be quite trend-led, and I want us not to feel the pressure to award something just because it’s won in other places. We’ve got a big job judging two years at once.
LBB> Cannes is also a time of celebration. What will you be celebrating this year?
Richard> One of the biggest things I’m gutted about is that I think the industry really needs to get together and have a bit of a cuddle and see each other and have a laugh and regale each other with stories about the last year and a half. It’s a shame we are not doing that.
In the past, even when I’ve not been there, I’ve got that out of Cannes. It’s an excitement around a group of people having fun around this industry. It’s a shame it’s not happening because we need a big industry hug every year, we need a celebration and that’s what Cannes should be moving forward. Our industry is getting harder and more complicated around the edges, but I love being a part of this huge and slightly dysfunctional family.
LBB> What do you hope to see at Cannes 2022?
Richard> I hope we don’t go back to old habits. I hope we continue to see work that has taken advantage of this unique situation and tears up the rule books around what is possible. I hope we don’t revert back to where we were. I hope we’ve used this situation to be a little bit more experimental.
After the Great Depression, Hollywood went absolutely crazy with more light-hearted films. I want to see more nonsense, more fun.