During last year's festival, Sorrell told The Guardian that he had heard rumours of jury members being pressured into block voting for "certain entries" and that "some quality pieces of work were unfairly dismissed from the judging process".
Omnicom was implicated in Sorrell's statement as the jury in question was chaired by Mainardo de Nardes, the chief executive of OMD Worldwide, and Manning Gottleib OMD won the Grand Prix award for a Google Campaign. In a response to Campaign UK, de Nardes denied any wrongdoing.
Sorrell's comments led to an inflamed response from DDB Worldwide CCO Amir Kassaei, who in turn accused WPP judges of being "briefed to kill Omnicom ideas". He called for the judging process in every category, not just film, to be reviewed and said he was thinking of having DDB drop out of Cannes altogether in 2013.
Following this, the system for media has been reviewed to improve the process, Terry Savage, chairman of Lions Festivals, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "This happens from time to time across all categories, and was done at the request of the leaders of the industry and in consultation with them."
The result of this revision is that the Media Lions category will now be judged in two stages. The first round of voting to determine the shortlist will be carried out by a jury made up of 40 media specialists from around the world. This stage will take three days, and the jury will work in eight sub-groups of five people each. One of the five members in each of the eight sub-groups will be part of the awarding jury. Jack Klues, Chairman of VivaKi, who has been named as the jury president, will spend time with each sub-group but will not vote during this first round.
At the second voting stage, the shortlist will be judged by the awarding jury, made up of the eight media industry leaders who led the subgroups (this year's are listed below) and the jury president. Over a further three days, this group will vote on the shortlist and award the Grand Prix, Gold, Silver and Bronze Media Lions. The awarding jury is comprised of the following members:
- Jack Klues, chairman, Vivaki (jury president)
- Cheuk Chiang, CEO of PHD Asia-Pacific, transitioning to CEO of OMG Asia-Pacific
- Doug Ray, global president, Carat
- Jim Elms, CEO, Initiative Worldwide
- Dominique Delport, chairman and CEO, Havas Media
- Melanie Varley, global chief strategy officer, MEC Global
- Richard Dunmall, global CEO, Naked Communications
- Jim Vail, president, RJ Palmer, USA
- Masaki Mikami, corporate officer, Hakuhodo-DY Media Partners, Japan
The Media Lions jury's voting will be based on three criteria: insight, strategy and the idea (35 per cent); media execution (30 per cent); and results and effectiveness (35 per cent).
At all marking stages, a judge’s vote will not be counted for any entry submitted by his or her own company(ies) in his or her own country. Votes from judges with a regional or global role will also be removed accordingly. Entries in the charities and public services categories are excluded from winning the Grand Prix, but are eligible to win the Grand Prix for Good.
Nick Waters, CEO of Aegis Asia-Pacific, approved of the changes, describing them as an improvement to the judging process. "They reduce the opportunity for groups to try and manipulate the outcome by acting in concert. It looks a fair process and will hopefully do more justice to the efforts of all those who enter," he said.
"I applaud anyone willing to listen to criticism and then develop and improve on an already strong process," commented Barry Cupples, outgoing CEO of OMG Asia-Pacific. "I don't think there was anything wrong to start with, but I compliment them on what they've done. They've tightened adn improved what was a very good process to start with. So I say, fair play to them."
Other senior members of the industry were not quite as positive.
Vishnu Mohan, CEO of Havas Asia-Pacific, said he believes the change "takes away much of the fatigue associated with the previous process and at the same time, in the final round, allows the jurors to see and judge work that they have not previously seen". However, he was saddened that this measure had to be taken at all.
"As a reactionary measure to a controversy that erupted in one year in a long history of the festival, it's sad to see that we are collectively endorsing our inability to be professionally impartial," he said. "I don't think this was needed. We should have entrusted future flag bearers to be ethically and morally upright in their decisions."
Another source said he believes that the judging process is still not fully optimised, as not all media agencies are represented in the awarding jury. For example, agencies such as Mindshare, ZenithOptimedia, UM, Mediacom, Dentsu, Maxus are absent.
"Media agencies not on the awarding jury could be unrepresented in the results," said the source. "Why not add a few clients to the elite awarding jury to increase the impartiality or at least have a representative from each of the 14 major media agency brands?"
Mediabrands could not be reached for comment at the time of this article's publication and GroupM Asia-Pacific declined to respond. Media agencies under the Publicis Groupe were also contacted but declined to comment.
Updated on 27 March at 4:40 pm to include a comment from OMG
The article first appeared on Campaign Asia