Jose Papa: To Cannes and Be­yond…

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The Cannes Lions In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Creativ­ity re­mains the most im­por­tant ad­ver­tis­ing fes­ti­val in the world. Iain Ak­er­man caught up with Jose Papa, the new man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Lions Fes­ti­vals, to talk tech, cat­e­gories and scam. Be­cause the me­dia is chang­ing, we now have to un­der­stand how to nav­i­gate the many plat­forms that ex­ist.

Last Septem­ber, the Use­d­u­cated Brazil­ian Jose Papa took over as the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Lions Fes­ti­vals. In do­ing so he took on what is one of the big­gest and tough­est jobs in the world of ad­ver­tis­ing fes­ti­vals.

He re­placed Philip Thomas, who had been chief ex­ec­u­tive of Lions Fes­ti­vals for al­most 10 years, with a re­mit to dig deeper into the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s newer events and to re­main as im­por­tant and as sig­nif­i­cant as pos­si­ble in an age when tech, in­no­va­tion and dig­i­tal are be­com­ing fully em­bed­ded through­out the in­dus­try.

“My main fo­cus is to en­sure that we re­main rel­e­vant to the chang­ing in­dus­tries we serve, while al­ways re­tain­ing our core value of creativ­ity,” ad­mits Papa, who is plac­ing size­able em­pha­sis on diver­sity within the cre­ative in­dus­tries. “My aim for the fes­ti­val is to keep pro­vid­ing world-class con­tent with un­ri­valled net­work­ing and learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, while show­cas­ing and award­ing the best global cre­ative work. But our work won’t stop at the fes­ti­val. We’re fo­cussing on col­lat­ing trends and in­dus­try in­sights and de­vel­op­ing our ar­chive, where we home a col­lec­tion of cre­ative work that’s won awards over the years. We want to sup­port the in­dus­try year-round.”

His scope of re­spon­si­bil­ity cov­ers the Cannes Lions In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Creativ­ity and the three mini-fes­ti­vals within it – Lions Health, Lions In­no­va­tion and Lions En­ter­tain­ment – but also the Dubai Lynx, Spikes Asia and Eurobest.

The Mid­dle East, of course, has wit­nessed a surge in both in­ter­est and suc­cess at Cannes since the launch of the Lynx, with Papa thrilled by the stan­dard of work com­ing out of the re­gion. His pri­or­ity, how­ever, is Cannes, where Lions In­no­va­tion and Lions En­ter­tain­ment are un­der­go­ing an evo­lu­tion, with the for­mer launch­ing a ded­i­cated area for start-ups and the lat­ter en­ter­ing its sec­ond year with a new fo­cus on sto­ry­telling.

There are ar­gu­ments, how­ever, that Cannes Lions has be­come too techie, or too geeky, and has strayed too far from ad­ver­tis­ing. Jeff Goodby, the co-chair­man and part­ner at Goodby, Sil­ver­stein & Part­ners, called Cannes 2015 the equiv­a­lent of a roof tilers’ con­ven­tion be­cause he could not even de­scribe to a lay­man what he saw. Is this crit­i­cism jus­ti­fied?

“We’re not just about ad­ver­tis­ing,” re­sponds Papa. “We’re a fes­ti­val cel­e­brat­ing the breadth of creativ­ity and we rep­re­sent all those work­ing across branded com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The in­dus­try is chang­ing rapidly as tech­nol­ogy trans­forms how we work, live and com­mu­ni­cate and we want to re­main at the fore­front of tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion.”

He adds: “My role as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor is to meet the chal­lenges faced by the in­dus­try and en­sure we serve and rep­re­sent branded com­mu­ni­ca­tions as a whole. Be­cause the me­dia is chang­ing, we now have to un­der­stand how to nav­i­gate the many plat­forms that ex­ist. The mar­ket is in­ter­ested in how you com­mu­ni­cate through Snapchat, Twit­ter, Linkedin, Face­book and other new chan­nels, along­side tra­di­tional me­dia.”

How much of an in­creased em­pha­sis is be­ing placed on ef­fec­tive­ness?

“It’s been proven that cre­atively awarded work is more likely to be ef­fec­tive,” he replies. “So in terms of driv­ing busi­ness re­sults, a com­pany like Mcdonald’s, for ex­am­ple, has claimed that their re­turn on in­vest­ment was 54 per cent higher with cre­ative work that won Lions than cre­ative work that didn’t. Cre­ative ef­fec­tive­ness is one of our fastest grow­ing Lions and it’s the only global award to recog­nise the link be­tween award-win­ning creativ­ity and busi­ness re­sults.”

The num­ber of awards cat­e­gories has pro­lif­er­ated over the years, mean­ing the strain on agen­cies fi­nan­cially has in­creased. Have these cat­e­gories be­ing added be­cause they are jus­ti­fied, or be­cause they are a source of new rev­enue? Even though no new cat­e­gories are be­ing added this year, the fi­nan­cial bur­den re­mains high for agen­cies who wish to em­brace the awards merry-gor­ound.

“We al­ways in­tro­duce new Lions in re­sponse to in­dus­try de­mand – to cel­e­brate and hon­our a diver­sity of the very best work,” says Papa, who was chief ex­ec­u­tive at WGSN, As­cen­tial’s global fash­ion trend fore­cast­ing ser­vice, prior to his move. “This year, we’ve de­cided not to launch a new Lion. That’s not to say that the in­dus­try is stag­nant. On the con­trary, we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a pe­riod of mass dis­rup­tion and ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ment. But it’s about tim­ing; some Lions are in in­cu­ba­tion for up to three years be­fore we in­tro­duce them – in line with in­dus­try de­vel­op­ments. This year, we’ve de­lib­er­ately fo­cussed on our ex­ist­ing awards and have re­de­fined cat­e­gories across the fol­low­ing Lions – in­no­va­tion, me­dia, cre­ative ef­fec­tive­ness, promo & ac­ti­va­tion and cre­ative data.”

Scam ads con­tinue to be a big prob­lem, par­tic­u­larly in Asia and the MENA re­gion, and only lead to the in­dus­try be­ing held in dis­re­pute. How is the is­sue be­ing com­bat­ted?

“We work year-round with en­trants old and new to re­mind them of what con­sti­tutes ‘scam’ and the con­se­quences of sub­mit­ting work that is not le­git­i­mate,” Papa replies. “The vast ma­jor­ity of en­trants are as con­cerned as Cannes Lions is to keep scam work out of the fes­ti­val. All en­trants ac­tively ac­cept the Cannes Lions terms and con­di­tions of en­try be­fore their work is for­mally sub­mit­ted. This is a for­mal com­mit­ment – all en­trants agree to abide by the rules at the point of sub­mis­sion.

“The fes­ti­val’s rules dic­tate that a client must have ap­proved the work and paid for the ma­jor­ity of its im­ple­men­ta­tion (me­dia costs) in or­der to be el­i­gi­ble for en­try. Ev­ery en­try bears the name of the in­di­vid­ual in a client or­gan­i­sa­tion who com­mis­sioned the work and their con­tact de­tails. This is our first port of call for any work that is called out as sus­pi­cious, ei­ther at the fes­ti­val or be­fore­hand.”

Cre­ative ef­fec­tive­ness is one of our fastest grow­ing Lions and it’s the only global award to recog­nise the link be­tween award-win­ning creativ­ity and busi­ness re­sults.

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