The World: Scarpelli sets out manifesto for Cannes voting

Undaunted by the weight of entries, DDB's chief creative aims to be thorough, impartial and very patient.

In darkened rooms deprived of the French Riviera's blistering summer sun, Bob Scarpelli and an elite group of creatives from around the world will go prospecting for gold, certain in the knowledge that they will have to sift an awful lot of dross to find it.

It could hardly be otherwise with some 2,000 entries facing scrutiny by the Film and Press Cannes Lions juries that the DDB Worldwide chairman and chief creative officer will chair over a gruelling period at the beginning of this year's annual adfest in June.

It would delight Scarpelli no end to unearth the equivalent of Honda "cog", which mysteriously failed to secure the Grand Prix in 2003. Even better if the judges could find another nugget to match the iconic "whassup?" campaign for Budweiser from his own DDB, which carried off the top honour seven years ago.

After all - as Scarpelli admits - he's only human. He'd love the plaudits that would follow should the next mould-breaker emerge on his watch. But he's equally conscious of the inevitable brickbats should the choices of himself and his fellow jurors be greeted by a chorus of boos at the Palais des Festivals on awards night.

"The Cannes juries are populated by some of the world's best creative directors, so reputations will be on the line," he warns. "We have to be able to justify our decisions and take responsibility for them."

Little wonder, therefore, that he intends leaving little to chance. With Cannes remaining the only major creative awards where there is no preliminary judging, Scarpelli plans to split his juries into small teams. His aim: to ensure that no excellent work remains unnoticed at the bottom of the pile.

"We'll be seeing so many pieces but I'm going to ensure we talk about every one," he vows. "Not only do we all have to be sure that we are awarding true quality, but that no work worthy of consideration gets overlooked."

Scarpelli brings some formidable credentials to what he calls a "once- in-a-lifetime honour". Not only has DDB been a consistent global creative award winner under his command - including more Cannes Grand Prix than any other agency network - but he is a seasoned traveller in the creative cause. A week that recently saw him shuttling between his New York base, Buenos Aires and Amsterdam is far from atypical.

Nobody doubts that he will need all his creative worldliness to oversee juries whose reputation for partisan voting can sometimes even surpass the Eurovision Song Contest.

Scarpelli, who served as a Film juror at Cannes in 1997, says that although he was not aware of any politics at play back then, he accepts that it goes on. A far greater problem, he claims, is ensuring that judges from many different countries and cultures suppress the natural instinct to favour work from their own compatriots and that they are clear about what an ad is saying.

Neither of these things is always easy. Scarpelli recalls being a juror considering the merits of an ad from Japan. The Japanese judge pushed it strongly, claiming that it was one of his country's most popular campaigns. The other jurors agreed that the idea was good but not great.

On another occasion, Scarpelli found himself on a jury looking at a BBDO commercial set at the Kansas City Chiefs' gridiron football stadium. It featured a man drawing the team's name on the field and mis-spelling "Chiefs" as "Chefs". One bemused judge had to have the joke explained to him.

"These things happen all the time," Scarpelli sighs. "It just goes to show how important it is to just keep focused on the work."

Meanwhile, the ongoing problem of scam ads frustrates and angers him, not least because of way they debase the awards' currency.

Any hint that an entry is not all it seems and Scarpelli's juries will be scrutinising the entry form. "I hope we don't have do to that because it's embarrassing," he says. "The problem is that this stuff can be very difficult to spot because it looks real. What makes matters worse is that a few clients connive in it."

If there is an upside to anybody trying to cheat their way to a Cannes Film or Press award, it is that they are still perceived as worth having.

"Of course, there's D&AD, the Clios and the One Show," Scarpelli acknowledges. "But there's still something a bit special about a Cannes Lion."

How long this will remain the case is a moot point, given digital's relentless march. Scarpelli is sanguine about the drop in Film and Press entries while those in other categories rise.

Cannes organisers have been trying to mirror the new-media landscape with the introduction of the Titanium and Integrated Lions to honour campaigns using breakthrough ideas in three or more different media.

This initiative, however, has not been without its problems.

"Titanium awards are right in principle," Scarpelli says. "The trouble is they get redefined every year and nobody is quite sure what they are. In time to come, though, it may be that Titanium turns out to be the most precious Lion."

But while much about Cannes will change, just as much will remain constant. And that, Scarpelli smiles, includes the annual bitch about sky-high prices and the promises (invariably broken) never to return.

"It's the one week of the year when the most passionate and talented creative people in the world are gathered in one place," he adds. "Where else could you get such a learning experience?"

Topics