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Cannes Lions and Creative Judgment

This week, we roll up on a second straight year of virtual Cannes Lions: none of the beachfront views or agency soirées, all of the awards for global creative work. 

Without the accompanying glitz of the Côte d'Azur, the focus will fall squarely on more than 1,000 candidates from scores of countries, in categories that range from Health to Impact to Craft to Entertainment. 

That mighty list of submissions — carefully selected by agencies hoping to convey the kind of gravitas that wins awards — begs a question that’s basic to our industry: 

How much of this work is about impressing each other, and how much is actually about creating breakthrough communications that move people?

When you turn from the limelight of Cannes to the crucible of client success, a creative concept has one prime directive: It must do useful work.

That is, it must help the brand achieve its marketing goals.

If the concept doesn’t help the brand achieve its goals, then the concept is nothing more than a vanity project that wastes money and doesn’t get anything done.

But how do you know whether a concept will do useful work for your brand? 

To answer that question, AG has devised a scorecard we call The Marketer’s Guide to Judging Creative Work. (Our deck is based on the renowned Business Model Canvas released under Creative Commons license by, and we’re sharing it on the same terms.)

Our scorecard poses questions to ask about any concept you’re evaluating — whether it’s an ad campaign, a content or event series, or a pop-up brand activation. 

If you’re working directly with creatives, use the scorecard to help set the brief. These criteria are what we use internally when we develop our work.

If you’re comparing concepts from multiple agencies, use the scorecard to present a common language for comparison, and to sell your preferred concepts within your org.

Awards are nice souvenirs, especially after a junket in Cannes. And they can even drive business. But to deliver excellent results for that business, you need a plan. Try out our guide, and tell us how it worked for you.

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Further Reading

Want to read more about the social and monetary value of creativity? Consider these sources.

  • The evolution of creativity. Biologist E.O. Wilson has courted controversy with theories about the biological underpinnings of social constructs. In The Origins of Creativity, he extends his line of inquiry to our dojo. Do you consider creativity the product of nature or nurture? Check out Dr. Wilson’s take here. 
  • To catch a thief. If you like fine art and true crime, the FBI’s National Stolen Art File is an engrossing journey through the Bureau’s database of stolen artwork and culturally significant property. Maybe you can help crack a cold case. Peruse the file here.
Article is a 100% organic, free-range, desktop-to-inbox newsletter devoted to helping you navigate uncertainty, seek the most interesting challenges, and make better creative decisions in marketing and beyond. We deliver Sundays at 6pm ET twice monthly. Article is published by Article Group, a delightful creative agency of talented problem-solvers. We're more fox than hedgehog. We are for hire.
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