Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Jun 29, 2015

Cannes 2015: Johnny Tan on judging for Design Lions

CANNES - Johnny Tan, chief creative officer of BBH China, was a member of the Design Lions jury (not to be confused with Product Design Lions) that looked over 2409 entries from 69 countries together. He shares his post-judging impressions with Campaign Asia-Pacific in this exclusive video chat.

wide player in 16:9 format. Used on article page for Campaign.

Key takeaways from Tan:

  • There were very few entries from China this year, and even fewer very good entries, which is surprising. In the past, China was typically known for its design craft, but now there are other channels that a lot of work is moving towards, so attention is on submissions for other "shinier and more spot-lit" categories, he asserted. In Design, originality is a very important pillar and China falls below the bar in this aspect. The general sense that Tan got was how entrants tried to replicate what was done before and what past winners have achieved, as opposed to inventing new things.
  • Asia-based agencies, marketers and students alike should have a mindshift: stop focusing on winning awards, he said. Focus on creating work that has an undeniable and genuine impact on culture. People may ask, aren't they one and the same? Not really, he said. When you want to win an award, you start referring to what wins an award, study past winners almost in an academic manner, and therefore start your replication process. It should not be "oh, last year they did a lot of 3D animation stuff, so that should be very desirable" way of thinking. 
  • If digital is the way to go, motion graphics (like title sequences, station channel idents) and spatial installations are "highly cool" mediums that should be in the show, but potential entrants in these fields are either unaware of this category in Cannes, or not submitting. Try to pioneer work, whether in channels or in thinking, he said.
  • Somehow, creatives in China (and Asia in general) exist in a little box, he said. Tan has noticed that global creative folks have "a lot more fun and excitement" coming up with ideas because they are not caught up with winning awards. If we start doing "pure creation" towards solving problems for brands instead of trying to follow a formula to win at Cannes, he suggested, we [the Chinese] can become a game-changer.


Hear words of wisdom from the other judges:

  • Jimmy Lam (video), vice chairman & chief creative officer at DDB China, on the Direct Lions
  • Kitty Lun (video), chairman and chief executive officer of Lowe China, on the Press Lions
  • Delia Liu (video), chief creative strategy officer at WizAd China, on the Mobile Lions
  • Graham Fink (video), chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather China, on the Titanium and Integrated Lions


Catch up on Campaign Asia-Pacific's Cannes coverage at and coverage by the entire Campaign global team at


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