Staff Writer
Jul 3, 2023

Decoding APAC successes at Cannes Lions 2023 with Jane Lin-Baden

The Publicis Groupe Asia-Pacific CEO shares her thoughts on this year’s Titanium winners, the state of creativity in APAC, and what she hopes to see from future award entries.

Cannes Lions 2023 Titanium judges Susan Hoffman, global CCO of Wieden+Kennedy, and Jane Lin-Baden, Publicis Groupe APAC CEO
Cannes Lions 2023 Titanium judges Susan Hoffman, global CCO of Wieden+Kennedy, and Jane Lin-Baden, Publicis Groupe APAC CEO
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Another spectacular year of Cannes Lions has come to a close, and APAC agencies in particular made off with stunning wins at the 70th edition of the event, including two Titanium Lions.
 
We speak with Jane Lin-Baden — CEO of Publicis Groupe Asia-Pacific and member of the 2023 Dan Wieden Titanium Lions jury — about how judging for one of the most coveted creative awards in the world has evolved with the times, what sets APAC storytelling apart, and why sustainable ideas that solve real problems are the future of branded communication.
 
How did this year’s Titanium Lions entries meet the brief in being “provocative, boundary-busting, envy-inspiring work that marks a new direction for the industry”? 
 
I’m really happy about the creativity in the category this year: we saw a lot of high-quality, game-changing work that is trying to solve a real problem. 
 
Of the four Titaniums awarded, half were from APAC, with China winning its first-ever Titanium. The works that made it onto the shortlist represent a new direction and breakthrough. They were judged on their potential long-term value rather than just being a great idea for now — that’s a criterion that is very important, all the winners are provocative and also long-term. 
 
2023 marks 20 years since the Titanium Lions were introduced. Which winners from previous years stood out to you most? How do you think this year’s entries measured up to the most remarkable winners in the award’s history? 
 
One of the works I like most is “Dumb Ways to Die.” When it was awarded in 2013, it was phenomenal. Everyone loved it. At a time when integrated campaigns were still developing, it was great storytelling across every channel and really changed people’s behaviour. 
 
Ten years on, from my point of view, the work is sophisticated on a different level, particularly the Grand Prix [“The First Digital Nation”]. It addressed the business challenge — how to protect an economy through the ownership of a national digital territory — with a solid technology element used in a smart way. The work is not about the metaverse, but how to use digital assets to claim sovereignty. 
 
All the winners show that in order to create an impact, you have to crack the entire system; political systems, societal systems, supply chain systems, legal systems. It’s amazing to see the complexity of work our industry is making. In the past, you had a great idea, an integrated campaign, and a good platform narrative, but today, there are more requirements, logistics, and stakeholders, which all need to be aligned. The complexity required of a Titanium-winning idea is remarkable.
 
Being an award without categories, how did you approach the Titanium Lions judging process differently from other awards you’ve judged in the past? 
 
Some of the questions we asked are, “Is this real work that points the industry in a new direction?”, “How does it contribute to business results and brand building?”, and “Does this open up new territory that people have not explored before, or is it great but nothing new?” 
 
One controversial thing we saw lots of is technology. We did not put many of those on the shortlist, because what are we judging — the technology? If so, then we are not the right judges. But we should judge the use case of the technology and the role that the agency plays, as opposed to the technology itself.
 
We looked at cultural sensitivity in storytelling. One work we debated had an amazing purpose of solving a problem in Africa. The idea itself was great but the storytelling and engagement were done with a non-African narrative, and we wanted to select projects that represent a balanced and authentic point of view. 
 
We were cautious of giving Lions to purely purpose-driven work. For every single entry, we asked about the commercial value. How does that contribute to the business or tangible brand building rather than greenwashing or purpose-washing? We saw great ideas that are very emotive but have nothing to do with the brand. I think all the works that won Titanium Lions are on-brand and have a real sense of purpose — our jury wanted to see both. 
 
The 2023 Dan Wieden Titanium Lions jury. From left to right: Yang Yeo, creative officer, APAC, Hakuhodo International; Vicki Maguire, CCO, Havas London; Kate Rouch, CMO, Coinbase; Jane Lin-Baden, APAC CEO, Publicis Groupe; Susan Hoffman, global CCO, Wieden+Kennedy; Susan Credle, global chair & global CCO, FCB; Ukonwa Ojo, CEO, Zaia Ventures; David Droga, CEO & creative chairman, Accenture Song; Piyush Pandey, chairman of global creative & executive chairman, India, Ogilvy
 
In assembling a jury of accomplished and opinionated individuals, everyone inevitably brings different perspectives to the table. Was it a challenge to reach a consensus on which works to award?
 
I have to give credit to Cannes Lions for the well-balanced jury; we had six women and four men from different parts of the world with different perspectives and cultural backgrounds. We had three Lion of St. Mark winners, two CMOs, three creative leaders, and two business leaders. We weren’t there to get our agency to win but because we appreciate different points of view. It was a healthy discussion. Even though we had distinct opinions, we always came to a good consensus.
 
How have the APAC entries for the Titanium Lions shaped your opinion on the state of creativity and innovation in the region? 
 
In addition to the Grand Prix, we have one Lion from China [“Corona Extra Lime”] that was loved by the jury. What I’m proud of is the story and the presentation, which made all the difference because the CMO and his team really brought the details to life. It shows how our region is using problem-solving to deliver long-term projects with long-lasting business impact rather than just one-off disposable creative campaigns; that’s the work we want to see more of. It’s a great example of how to make an international brand locally relevant, when the brand’s distinct identity was not locally available. It’s also one of the few cases that lands in a “golden triangle” by my definition — brand relevancy, business value and ESG.
 
Asia is home to some of the most innovative economies and a large number of unicorns. Do you see their innovative, disruptive approach extending to marketing as well? 
 
I think the uniqueness of start-ups from APAC is often inspired by local constraints, and how to come up with a solution and make that part of the brand story. I would love to see more works from APAC at Cannes Lions. Our way of storytelling is different, we have diversified cultures, maturity and advancement of technology and data, but how can we solve a local problem? For example, the challenge of selling a bottle of beer in Indonesia, which houses thousands of islands, differs from one in China where logistics guarantees shipment in 24 hours. Selling a mobile phone in India, which is home to the majority of Gen Z in the region, translates to a very different brief in Japan. The region is rich in diversity and the story from APAC must reflect the unique business constraints and opportunities.
 
What advice do you have for entries going into Titanium next year?
 
Create lasting impact and real value. Package your craft very well. I believe juries are becoming more down-to-earth and intolerant of unproven works. In the past, we would want to see crazy conceptual work. Now, I’d say don’t waste money submitting things that aren’t real or don’t go beyond a prototype. Show us day-to-day content and impact, rather than something abstract, because this is how agencies will move forward in the future: by creating real impact for people and business.
Source:
Campaign Asia

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