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Lynx lowdown

In Advertising, Communicate, Dubai, Published journalism, Q&A on November 23, 2010 at 11:48 am

Phil Thomas, CEO of the Cannes Lions advertising festival, was in town this month to talk about the upcoming Dubai Lynx advertising awards. Communicate caught up with him to find out what direction the event is taking

Originally published in Communicate, March 2008

When the Lynx started, was the plan always there to turn it into a festival?
Absolutely. What we wanted to do was test the waters and see if we were going to be supported by the region. Is this something the region really wants? Let’s have an award first and see how that goes. And we were blown away by the support we had, we were amazed by the entry levels and the attendance on the night last year, so we felt confident that we could create a three-day event that would also be supported by the region.

The MENA Cristals goes on for a week, Cannes goes on for a week. Do you think the Lynx could be extended in coming years, or is three days pretty much the optimum time?
There are a number of issues. What we are interested in is producing absolutely top quality. So rather than quantity it’s about quality. So if we can ensure that the quality could extend beyond three days, then we’d do it. We’re starting off with three days, we think we’ve got a very powerful program, very interesting speakers and very interesting exhibitions. And we think that works for about three days.

To ask people to be out of the office for three days is quite an ask anyway, and to ask them to be out for a week is hell of a long time, so three days feels about right to us.

You’re making a big deal about bringing in young people to the festival.
If you’re under 23, you can come in for just under half price. We expect most of those people to be students. Of course some of them may be in work already, but most of them will be students and that’s what we’re trying to drive is this element of come to learn, come to have a wonderful experience.

This fits in with the theme of this year’s festival.
The theme is “learn to win.” What we’re trying to do here is what we’re trying to do at Cannes, which is have three pillars: celebration, so celebrating the great work; inspiration, to see the work and see the winners of Cannes and the winners of Eurobest [European advertising awards] and be inspired and leave there with a spring in your step; and learning about the way the industry is going and the trends in the industry.

Who are some of the speakers?
There’s David Droga, who is the head of Droga5, which is one of the hottest agencies in the world. If you google Droga5, you’ll see they were recently appointed Creativity magazine’s agency of the year. He’s a multi-multi Cannes winner as well. Piyush Pandey is probably the number one creative in India, and Steve Harrison is the number one direct marketer [internationally], so hopefully that will be very interesting.

You said in a press conference that next year would be even bigger and better than this. Have you started planning for next year?
We’re definitely planning for next year. This year’s awards have been very strongly supported, more than last year, and there’s no reason that we wouldn’t imagine that the festival would also be very well attended next year as well. But we need to see how this year goes. We are very confident that it will be a fantastic event.

There have been regional awards in advertising and marketing recently where no prizes have been awarded because the entries haven’t been up to standard. Is there a danger of that happening? Is it a growing trend?
No, it’s not a growing trend. It does happen. It tends not to happen in the big categories like print, film, etcetera. It occasionally might happen, for example, in interactive, where there may be fewer entries and not high enough quality. We are not interested in awarding work that isn’t up to scratch.

However, it is totally up to the jury members. We never ever involve ourselves or anyone else in the jury process. The jury makes that decision. If they decide not to award, we respect that.

What sort of guidelines do the jury get on what makes gold, what makes silver, what makes bronze?

They have lots of guidelines in terms of the voting process, the judging process, it’s a very well established process. They have guidelines when it comes to that but when it comes to which is a good piece of work or not, they are the arbiters of that.

How come the deadline for entries was extended?
It’s something that we always do. Every awards does it, just to give people that extra bit of time because so many people are saying, “Look, we’re nearly ready, we need some more time.”

What do people need to do to get ready? Isn’t it just a case of sending in the entries with the details about them?

It sounds simple, but often there are full time people on this. Certainly at Cannes, there are offices at agencies that just have people doing entries full-time because it’s actually quite complicated, because there’s a lot of paperwork and you’ve got to get your entries right. So it takes time.

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